The women’s tennis team fell short of defending its title when the Owls lost to Richmond in the final round of the Atlantic Ten Conference Championship on Sunday.
Last year, Temple narrowly defeated Richmond to win the A-10 title, but this year, the Spiders returned the favor with a 4-0 win to capture their fifth title in six seasons.
“It was actually a very close match,” coach Steve Mauro said. “It really could have gone either way.”
From the start of the match, Richmond quickly got the first point in doubles by winning the second flight. In the doubles first flight, Richmond rallied from a 4-3 deficit to come back and beat Temple, 8-5, to secure another point. Temple then gave up another point with a 6-1 and 6-2 loss in the singles first flight.
The Owls’ hopes for defending their title came to a close in dramatic fashion with Richmond freshman Helen Cunningham’s overhead slam on junior Anastasiia Rukavyshnykova that clinched a 6-3 and 6-1 victory and the title for the Spiders. The victory sparked an on-court celebration by Richmond.
“We really wanted to win it, and we thought we were going to [win it],” junior Elyse Steiner said.
Richmond and Temple have established themselves as the top teams in the A-10. Temple had last year’s A-10 Player of the Year in Dina Senkina, and Richmond acquired some standout freshmen who contributed to this year’s title.
“It has always been Temple and Richmond as the two biggest competitors,” Steiner said. “We are like the rivals of the A-10.”
Before Sunday’s loss to Richmond, Temple entered the final round with confidence and a nine-match win streak.
“We have always had a winning record,” Steiner said. “We have been playing very well lately.”
The A-10 Championship was held in Monroeville, Pa., where Temple was the No. 2 seed, earning the Owls a first-round bye in the tournament.
“To make it to the finals, we had to beat two very good teams in Duquesne and Xavier,” Mauro said. “We beat both teams pretty easily, so we had a successful tournament.”
After the bye, the Owls faced No. 7 Duquesne and won, 4-0. Temple took the doubles point with Steiner and sophomore Lucie Pazderova winning 8-4 in flight one and juniors Rukavyshnykova and Christine Clermont winning 8-1 in flight three. Steiner, Pazderova and Clermont each won their singles matches to seal the win.
In the second round against Xavier, Temple got three straight-set victories from Steiner, Pazderova and sophomore Theresa Stangl. Clermont punched the Owls’ ticket to the finals by winning the fifth flight with a score of 6-2 and 6-4.
While it may have been easy for Temple to reach the finals, Richmond made things tough when it got there.
“All of the matches were pretty close,” Steiner said. “They just came out a little stronger today.”
The loss snapped the Owls’ win streak that began in March. Their season ends with an overall record of 17-6 and a 4-1 record inside the A-10.
Other season highlights include four individual players going undefeated in the singles events at the Dartmouth Big Green Invitational in November and Pazderova and sophomore Josephine Bergman winning the Flight B doubles title at the Cornell Invitational. Steiner, Rukavyshnykova and Pazderova also earned A-10 Performer of the Week honors over the course of the spring season.
Next season, the Owls will return eight letter winners and six starters. From there, they look to make another run at the A-10 title.
“[The season] was really good and really fun,” Steiner said. “We definitely gave everything we had.”
Brian Dzenis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.