The Athenas and the Eagles were destined for the ITA Division III National Women’s Team Indoor Championship Presented by Oracle from the beginning. Emory coming in as the two-seed and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps coming in as the one-seed made for an interesting match.
This marked the fourth consecutive season that Emory was bound for the Championship, a rematch of last year’s title match with CMS.
Doubles brought excitement for the Athenas as they entered singles leading 2-1.
Catherine Allen won a thrilling three-setter at No. 2 singles (7-5, 3-6, 7-5) to provide the decisive point as the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps took down the Emory Eagles.
With the win, CMS improves to 10-0 on the year and avenges a 5-3 defeat to Emory in the ITA Indoor Championship last season. The two teams also played for the 2018 Division III National Championship in Claremont, when CMS prevailed 5-4 to win the program’s first-ever national title.
Allen and Caroline Cox also provided a point at No. 1 doubles with an 8-6 win, which was the same score on all three doubles courts. Justine Leong and Crystal Juan also won 8-6 at No. 2 doubles, while Nicole Tan and Sarah Bahsoun were edged 8-6 at No. 3.
The match featured a unique matchup at No. 1 singles, between Leong, who comes in ranked No. 1 in the nation after winning the ITA Cup in the fall, and Ysabel Gonzalez-Rico of Emory, who won the Division III National Singles Championship last spring but studied abroad in the fall and didn’t compete in the ITA Cup.
Emory earned the first singles win before Cox gave CMS back the lead at 3-2 with a 6-3, 6-1 win at No. 6 singles. Emory again was able to tie the score, before Leong came through with a statement win at No. 1 singles, defeating defending national champion Ysabel Gonzalez Rico 6-3, 6-3 to put the Athenas back in front. With the showcase victory, Leong improves her singles record to 18-1 on the year, with the only loss coming to Jada Hart of UCLA in the second round of the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships in Newport Beach, California.
Leong’s win gave CMS a 4-3 lead, leaving No. 2 and No. 3 singles as the last two courts to determine the match. Rebecca Berger, who won a second-set tiebreaker to earn a split, trailed 5-2 at No. 3 singles in the third set, before earning a big break and a hold to pull back within 5-4. Alexa Goetz, though, got the hold she needed for Emory to earn a 6-2, 6-7, 6-4 win and once again tie the match score up at 4-4.
That left Allen and Defne Olcay as the last two players on the court, and Olcay had a chance to serve the match leading 5-4 in the third. Allen dug down for the crucial break, though, and promptly held serve to take a 6-5 lead. After the changeover, Olcay tried to hold to get the match into a tiebreaker, but Allen came up big and earned the win as Olcay’s final shot attempt on breakpoint sailed wide of the right sideline, giving Allen and the Athenas the dramatic win.
CMS came into the match without having dropped a single point in any of its first five Division III matches, winning all five of them 9-0, but the Athenas were pushed by an Emory team that is one of the strongest contenders for the national title, along with CMS and defending national champion Wesleyan Allen, who has won in singles in each of the last two Division III national championship matches (a 5-4 win over Emory in 2018 and a 5-4 defeat to Wesleyan last year), drew on her experience in pressure situations to come through for CMS for the ITA National Team Indoor Championship.