Despite the loss of four impact players from last season, the Webster University women’s tennis program earned its third consecutive double-digit win season and went all the way to the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship game at Dwight Davis Tennis Center on Saturday, April 20.
The Gorloks faced conference foe Principia College (Ill.) for the second time this season. The Panthers gave Webster its first loss of the season earlier in the month with a clean sweep of the Gorloks, 9-0, on April 11.
The championship match proved much of the same as the Gorloks fell 5-0 to the Panthers. But sophomore Mackenzie Wilder thinks the team did really well this season in spite of the loss.
“I would say overall (the season) was really good,” Wilder said. “We all did better than we honestly expected, and we all just played with a lot of heart and determination. I’d rate it as a very positive experience for all of us.”
Webster got off to a rough start in the match, as it failed to win any of the three doubles matches. Coach Michael Siener said the team that wins two or three of the doubles matches has a huge advantage going into singles.
While the No. 1 and 2 doubles matches were not close, the final doubles match was. Wilder and sophomore Isabella Espinoza went toe-to-toe with their opponents, but ultimately lost 8-6.
“It was really, really close and we fought really hard,” Wilder said. “We wanted to know that if we lost, at least we made them work for it, and work hard for it. We were OK because we probably played some of the best tennis that we had played all year, and so that was OK because even though we had lost, we had gained something from it.”
Principia only needed two singles match wins to come away with the championship. The Panthers won the first two singles matches before the other players could finish their matchups.
The lone senior on the team — Lindsey Hays — finished her career as a Gorlok second in both singles wins and doubles wins in school history. She accumulated 54 singles wins and 48 doubles wins in her time at Webster. Hays was also atop the SLIAC leader board in No.1 singles matches this season with a record of 10-3.
“Obviously Lindsey (Hays) has been a great player for us for four years,” Siener said. “Any time you lose somebody that’s done very good for you, it always takes a little bit of a hit. It just means everybody is going to have to step up and play a higher spot.”
The Gorloks began the SLIAC tournament by hosting Fontbonne University on Friday, April 19. Webster swept its doubles matches to go up 3-0. In singles, Hays won her match 6-1, 6-1, and freshman Tia Hewuse won by default — automatically giving the Gorloks a 5-0 win.
Later on in the day, Webster faced Greenville College (Ill.). The game proved to be a much bigger challenge for the Gorloks. Webster was ahead 4-3 with two matches to go and was able to pull out a 6-3 victory.
“We were getting a little nervous,” Wilder said. “(Greenville) came out swinging, and swinging hard. They really wanted it and they put up a really hard fight. So that one was a little bit of a battle for us, but we ended up winning so that was really nice.”
The Gorloks ended their season with a final record of 14-2 and were 5-1 in SLIAC play. The .875 winning percentage is the highest in Webster women’s tennis history.