Friday, April 23 at 6 p.m., William and Mary (7-9, CAA 1-2) began its Colonial Athletic Association championship bid. The Tribe was seated No. 13 in the league, giving it a by-round for the first match-up on Thursday. They faced the No. 6 UNC-W team (9-8, CAA 1-3) on Friday and swept the points with a 4-0 victory.
In doubles, the Tribe came out strong. Between the first two finishing doubles’ teams, the Seahawks won only one game.
The top-line powerhouse pairing of graduate student Jill van den Dungen and senior Vitoria Okuyama finished first, with a complete 6-0 set sweep. The pairing extends their now three-match win streak.
On the third line, the much younger pairing of sophomores Elisa van Meerteren and Rafaela Alhach clinched the doubles point for the Tribe.
In singles, it was a race to finish. The Tribe needed only three wins to move on to the next stage of CAA competition, and they swept the game by winning the first three matches to finish, ending up with a sweep on the scoreboard.
The Tribe won its first set in all six singles match-ups.
On the top line, junior Mila Saric faced Seahawk graduate student Charlotte Madson. Madson graduated from William and Mary last year but continued her tennis career at UNC-W. Saric’s familiarity with Madson’s playstyle was evidenced by the match’s quick finish. Saric took the first set 6-3 and capitalized on the momentum to win 6-2. Her record from the season improved to 9-2 in singles.
Alhach was the second Tribe player to finish singles, propelling the Tribe to one point shy of victory. Again, her set scores show a negative split: she won the first 6-2 and finished off Seahawk Zoe Huffman with a 6-1 performance.
Van Meerteren clinched the win for the Tribe with a pair of 6-4 wins. The Alhach/van Meerteren pair combined for more than half of the Tribe’s total points against the Seahawks.
The next day, Saturday, April 24 at 1 p.m., the Tribe faced No. 2-ranked Elon (17-5, CAA 4-1). The Phoenix were a thorn in the Tribe’s side in the regular season. Their last match-up, on April 3, Elon beat the Tribe with a narrow 4-3 victory. However, during the CAA semi-final match-up, the Tribe reversed that score with a 4-0 finish.
Van den Dungen and Okuyama finished first in doubles again with a 6-4 win. The pair was undefeated at the No. 1 position this season after the semis.
Alhach and van Meerteren, on the third line, were not able to capitalize on yesterday’s momentum, and they dropped their doubles match-up 2-6. They fought hard — many of their games were lost narrowly — but it was not enough. The doubles’ point came down to the second pairing.
Saric and sophomore Alisia Manolescu only played and finished two matches as a pairing with a record of 2-0 going into the Phoenix match. They traded points and games with the Phoenix, but their offense eventually paid off. They clinched the doubles’ point for the Tribe with a 6-4 victory.
Saric carried over her performance from doubles into singles, where she won on the top line with set scores of 6-2, 6-1. This was Saric’s seventh win in a row.
In singles, Alhach finished second again, putting the Tribe into a comfortable position with a 3-0 lead against the Phoenix. She put up matching 6-1 sets to win her fifth in a row. At the No. 5 position, she is undefeated.
Okuyama sealed the Phoenix’s fate with a 6-3, 6-2 win.
Every line contributed against the match with Elon. In singles, the Tribe won five out of six for the first sets. After van den Dungen lost her first set 1-6, she powered back to force a third with a 6-2 win. In addition, members from all three of the doubles’ pairing contributed to the Tribe’s points as they rallied together to defeat their long-time CAA foe in Elon, and they were headed to the championships.
The Tribe faced No. 1 JMU (14-3, CAA 5-0) at 1 p.m. on Sunday. The last season with championships (2018/2019), the Dukes won the CAA championships. Their 4-2 victory over the Tribe marks their second-straight CAA win.
The last time the teams faced each other, the Dukes swept the Tribe with a neat 7-0 score. Though the games were all hard-fought, with forced third sets or tiebreaks, only the top Tribe doubles pair ended up winning their match. But the Tribe was determined to fight hard for a chance to win the banner.
In doubles, the Tribe’s top line fought hard, reaching a 5-4 score before the Dukes clinched the point with wins on the other courts.
Manolescu and Saric dropped first. They won only one game in the set, losing 1-6. Van Meerteren and Alhach held on a bit longer, but also fell with a final score of 2-6.
The Tribe would now have to battle for four victories in singles. It was a long shot, but they hoped to capitalize on the momentum of their last two matches in the CAA tournament.
Though Okuyama’s doubles match didn’t finish, she was determined to get on the board. She finished her singles match in the No. 4 position with a 6-2, 6-3 split.
Van Meerteren’s subsequent defeat in the No. 3 spot increased the intensity of the last four matches. The Tribe needed to win three out of the final four. Monolescu’s defeat at No. 6 brought the Dukes within one point of CAA victory.
But Saric, at the top spot, was not going to give up easily. Her singles’ opponent, Daria Afanasyeva, beat her narrowly earlier in the month. Their last set went to a 7-6 (7) tiebreaker, where Saric ultimately lost. But Saric came prepared for their second match up. She gave the Tribe their second point of the night with a 6-1, 6-3 win. Saric finished the season with an 11-2 record in singles.
The points came down to the No. 2 and No. 5 courts.
Van den Dungen, on the second line, forced her singles match into a third set. She had won the first 6-1, dropped the second 5-7, and was fighting back and leading the third 3-1.
Alhach was fighting for time as well. The Tribe’s comeback came just moments too late. Though she lost her first set 6-2, she didn’t make the second set an easy win. Her defense allowed her to stay tight in the second set, but culminated in a 5-7 loss. Van den Dungen’s final set was unfinished.
The Tribe’s final record for the season was 7-9 but received the designation of CAA runner-up.