BLOOMINGTON, Minn. -- Thursday the top four seeds in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) Women's Tennis Playoffs squared off with two spots in Saturday's championship match on the line and, in the end, the home teams held serve to set up a No. 1 vs. 2 showdown in the conference tournament final.
No. 1 Carleton (15-4) hosted cross-town rival and fourth-seeded St. Olaf (10-5) in one semifinal, with the Knights asserting themselves in an impressive 6-2 semifinal victory. The other semifinal featured No. 3 St. Thomas (16-3) at No. 2 Gustavus (20-7), both of which shared the MIAC's regular-season title with Carleton, and the Gusties pulled out their second win over the Tommies this season, this time a 5-2 semifinal victory that ended UST's hopes of repeating at tournament champ.
Wins by the Knights and Gustavus sets up a fitting final Saturday between the MIAC's two most successful women's tennis programs. The two have combined to win eight of the nine MIAC Playoff titles, and 34-of-37 regular-season crowns. Gustavus won the first five MIAC Playoff championships before Carleton won the next three, and the Gusties have 28 regular-season titles to the Knights' six.
NO. 1 CARLETON 6, NO. 4 ST. OLAF 2 | Box Score |
Northfield was a fitting stage for one of Thursday's semifinals, as cross-town rivals Carleton and St. Olaf collided for a spot in the championship match. St. Olaf pulled off an impressive 5-4 win over Bethel in the quarterfinals, but couldn't ride that momentum any further as the tournament's top seed was just too tough. Carleton took two of three doubles matches and four singles points to earn the 6-2 win.
The Oles' top doubles team tried to give the team hope for pulling off the upset, as Alisa Hall and Margaret Zimmerman teamed up for a hard-fought 9-7 win over the Knights' top tandem of Mikayla Becich and Joyce Yu. However, Carleton took the other two doubles points, as Danielle Vasiliev and Caitlin Shea were 8-2 winners at No. 2 and Grace Davis and Alana Danieu gave the Knights an 8-5 win at No. 3 doubles.
Then, Carleton really seized control in singles play. Vasiliev (6-3, 6-3) cruised at No. 1, Becich won two narrow sets (6-4, 7-5) to prevail at No. 2 and Yu pulled out a thrilling 6-1, 3-6, 10-6, win over Maya MacGibbon at No. 3. Davis added a 6-0, 6-2 win for Carleton at No. 6 singles. Bailey Kent gave the Oles their lone singles point with a straight-sets win (6-2, 6-2) at No. 5, and Erin McDonald won the first set 7-6 at No. 4, but that match was not completed.
NO. 2 GUSTAVUS 5, NO. 3 ST. THOMAS 2 | Box Score |
One of the most entertaining regular seasons in MIAC women's tennis history ended with Gustavus, St. Thomas and Carleton all splitting their round-robin to result in a three-way tie for the conference title. The MIAC Playoffs offered those three a chance to settle the score on the court, with the first big rematch held Thursday in St. Peter, Minn. Gustavus rode stellar doubles play and outstanding showings by the top of its singles lineup to a 5-2 win over the Tommies in the semifinals.
The Gusties got off to a good start by sweeping all three doubles matches. The home team's No. 1 tandem of Michaela Schulz and Lizzy Stanczyk were 8-3 winners and Ally Baker and Briana Hartmann won the No. 2 match 8-5. The No. 3 doubles match was the closest of the three, with Sid Dirks and Katie Aney pulling out an exciting 8-6 win over UST's Paige Becher and Audra Hoffman.
Schulz and Dirks carried their momentum over into singles play, as they each won their match to give Gustavus' its fourth and fifth points to decide the match. Schulz was a 6-2, 6-4, winner at No. 1, and Dirks rallied from a one-set deficit for a 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, win at No. 3 to clinch the semifinal win. St. Thomas got its two points from the outstanding singles play of Jenna Zimmermann, who won 6-3, 6-2, at No. 4, and Becher, who pulled out a 6-0, 6-1, win at No. 5. The No. 2 and No. 6 matches were not completed.
'CHAMPIONSHIP SATURDAY' IS SET
The Carleton and Gustavus wins certainly sets the stage for a big finish to the MIAC Playoffs. Now that one of the league's regular-season tri-champions (St. Thomas) has been eliminated, the other two will square off to settle the score once and for all. The Knights will host the championship match Saturday at 1 p.m., exactly one week after Carleton beat the Gusties 7-2 to create the three-way tie at the top.
There won't be a repeat champion this year, as St. Thomas was the defending MIAC Women's Tennis Playoff Champion, but whichever team wins Saturday's showdown won't be a stranger to the conference's postseason winner's circle, as the Tommies' title in 2015 ended a three-year run atop the tournament by Carleton. The Knights' three-peat was preceded by Gustavus winning each of the first five tournament titles.
The tournament champ will receive the MIAC Playoff championship plaque, and the conference's automatic bid to the 2016 NCAA Division III Women's Tennis Tournament.
The MIAC has a home page dedicated to the 2016 MIAC Women's Tennis Playoffs, containing schedules, links and information on each of the six teams in the field. There is also an interactive bracket to help fans track the tournament's progress. Throughout the tournament, the page will be updated with scores, stats, updated schedules and more. Fans can also follow the action on the MIAC Scoreboard or on the free MIAC mobile app. Connect throughout the Playoffs on social media through the MIAC's Facebook, Instagram or Twitter accounts, using the hashtag #MIACWT.
2016 MIAC Women's Tennis Playoffs
Quarterfinals: Tuesday, May 3 - 3:30 p.m.
No. 3 St. Thomas 7, No. 6 St. Kate's 2 | Box Score | Recap |
No. 4 St. Olaf 5, No. 5 Bethel 4 | Box Score | Recap |
Semifinals: Thursday, May 5 - 3:30 p.m.
No. 1 Carleton 6, No. 4 St. Olaf 2 | Box Score |
No. 2 Gustavus 5, No. 3 St. Thomas 2 | Box Score |
Championship: Saturday, May 7 - 1 p.m.
No. 2 Gustavus at No. 1 Carleton | Northfield, Minn. |