NASHVILLE, Tenn. – SIUE women's tennis earned its first-ever Ohio Valley Conference Tournament championship and NCAA Division I tournament berth with a 4-1 victory over UT Martin.
The win was the Cougars' 11th straight victory. Their last loss came March 18 against UT Martin in the first OVC match of the sesaon.
SIUE lost the doubles point to fall behind 1-0 in three matches that were at one point each tied 5-5. It was just the third time all season that the Cougars gave up the doubles point. Lexi Aranda and Morgan Steffes earned a win at No. 3 to give the Cougars an early edge, but the victory wasn't enough to secure the doubles point for the Cougars. SIUE lost the deciding point on a 7-3 tiebreaker at No. 2 doubles.
"Both teams were very good in doubles today, and it happened to go their way," said SIUE Head Coach Nick Mueller. "I told the team it was only one point. Their focus was the key. The senior group was the motivating factor that helped lead the team."
SIUE quickly regained the lead in singles play, jumping out to a quick start in all six matches. The four Cougars who earned singles wins won in straight sets.
Monique Krutak tied the score 1-1 when she defeated Jermima Potter 6-0, 6-1 at the No. 4 spot. Steffes pulled the Cougars ahead with her victory from the No. 5 spot against Elina Guet, ending Geut's eight-match winning streak.
Mia Frogner defeated Asel Jumamukhambetova at No. 2 6-2, 6-1. Madeline Hill added a win at No. 3 over Burcu Tari 6-2, 6-0 to seal the win for the Cougars and send them to their first-ever NCAA tournament.
"This is a proud moment for our team and our program," said Mueller. "Our seniors have gone through a lot and to end on a high note is exciting. This was a full team effort. We got contributions from everyone this whole season, and that's what has helped us be successful this season. Today was the pinnacle of that."
"It's been a long time coming for our program," added senior captain McKenzie Thomas. "It's an amazing feeling for us and for the school. We've worked very hard this year, and everything has paid off. We've talked about this from the very beginning because we knew we had the talent and we definitely did that today."
"Everyone played for each other today," said junior captain and second team All-OVC selection Frogner. "This just shows what a great school SIUE is. Coach Mueller was always reminding us during the season of the end goal and what it will feel like when we could hold that trophy. He always made us stay focused on this goal."
The Cougars will enter the 64-team NCAA tournament with opening rounds beginning May 13-15. The Cougars will discover their first round destination Tuesday, May 3 at 4 p.m. during the NCAA selection show on ncaa.com.