TOPEKA— After finishing runner-up in the KCAC during the regular season, the McPherson College men's and women's tennis teams righted the ship, coming out on top when it mattered. Both Bulldog teams won the KCAC Conference Tournament and will represent the conference at the NAIA National Championships in Mobile, Alabama.
The Bulldog women took on the Southwestern College Moundbuilders in the Finals on Saturday at Kossover Tennis Center in Topeka. The Builders were the only blemish, on what otherwise was an outstanding season. The Bulldogs lost to Southwestern 6-3 in the first conference dual of the season back in March, but in the tournament finals, when it mattered most, the Mac ladies came through in a big way.
The Bulldogs surrendered just three points to the Builders, two of them were forfeits because they didn't have a No. 3 doubles team or a No. 6 singles player. They started out by taking a 2-1 lead, winning both doubles matches. Besa Bwalya and Zoe Bouwemeester got things started by dismantling the Southwestern No. 2 team, 8-3. Shortly thereafter, Brittany Zipf and Erica Paradise won their match at No. 1, 8-4, to give the Bulldogs the advantage heading into the singles portion of the dual.
Zipf, the KCAC Women's Tennis Player of the Year, stayed perfect in the conference, winning a hard fought match at No. 1, 6-3, 6-4, to put her team up 3-2. Bwalya made it 4-2, coming off the court next after winning her match at No. 2 6-4, 6-1. The Builders got back to within one of the Bulldogs by virtue of winning at the No. 5 spot 7-6, 6-1 over the Bulldogs' Sydney Hicks. The Bulldogs needed just one more point, and had two matches still left on court. They were up a set in both matches, and in control, and it was just a matter of who would finish first, Paradise or Bouwmeester.
yesterday, it was Paradise who clinched the semifinal win over Ottawa, sending the Bulldogs to the Championship, and in the finals, she did it again. She won a grueling match at No. 2, 6-3, 6-4 solidifying the Bulldogs as the KCAC champs and avenging two losses in a row to the Builders.
The men took the court against the Ottawa Braves, who a day earlier had upset the KCAC regular season champs, following the women's match. Due to windy conditions outside, the coaches of both teams decided to move the match indoors at Genesis Health Clubs (formerly Wood Valley Racquet Club). The Bulldogs were locked in from the start, and they swept all three doubles matches. Juan Jimenez and Jakob Komel got the first point for Mac, winning at No. 3, 8-2. Next it was the No. 2 team of Nicolas Wahl and Rick Sakamoto putting the Bulldogs up 2-0 with an 8-6 win.
The match at No. 1 was a slugfest with a least six breaks of serve in the eight game pro-set. Jacob Turley and Julien Bodien played some of their best tennis of the season and outlasted the Braves 9-7, avenging a loss from earlier in the year.
Needing just two points in singles to clinch, the Bulldogs were in a great position. The Braves are strong at the top, with two of the best singles players in the conference, but not a strong in the lower half of the lineup. The Bulldogs' fourth point came from Bodien at No. 3, who won his match 6-2, 6-4. The Braves then got on the board with a 7-6, 6-4 win at No. 2, but that would be their only point of the match. The Bulldogs closed things out with a win at No. 6 from Komel, who won easily 6-0, 6-0.
Bulldog's first year Head Coach, Rafael Bulnes summed up his first KCAC championship as a coach saying, "What an amazing day to be a bulldog. We have been talking about playing our best tennis when it matters and we absolutely did. I cannot describe how proud I am of both teams. We are champions once again."
For the Bulldog women, this will be their fifth trip to nationals in the past six years, and for the men it is their fifth in a row. The NAIA National Championships will be held at the Mobile Tennis Center May 14-18.