Falcons Down New Mexico, 5-2, For First MWC Win of Season
April 16, 2011
Behind the play of seniors Christen Monreal and Sarah Cassman, the Air Force women's tennis team captured its first Mountain West Conference victory of the season, defeating New Mexico 5-2 Saturday at the Academy. With the victory, the Falcons improved to 15-8 overall and 1-4 in the MWC, while the Lobos fell to 8-14 overall and 1-7 in league play.
The Falcons took a 1-0 lead with wins at No. 1 and 3 doubles. Cassman and sophomore Hannah Dake were off the court first with an 8-4 victory over Michaela Bezdickova and Kristin Eggleston at No. 3. UNM's No. 2 team of Nikolina Grbac and Michaela Oldani topped Monreal and freshman Anastasia Hueffner at the No. 2 spot, but junior Tahlia Smoke and sophomore Melissa Cecil clinched the point for Air Force with a thrilling 9-8 decision at the No. 1 spot over Anya Villanueva and Ashley Bonner. The Falcon duo rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the tiebreaker to win 7-3.
"It was a great way to win the doubles point," said Air Force head coach Kim Gidley. "Down 2-0 in the tiebreak, Tahlia (Smoke) came up with a huge overhead winner to turn the tide. We have won the doubles point 15 times this season and that has made a huge difference for us."
In singles play, four of the six contests went three sets, with Air Force winning three of them. After UNM tied the score at 1-all with a straight-set win at No. 6, Hueffner posted her first career MWC win with a 6-4, 6-4 triumph over Bonner at the No. 5 spot.
The final four matches went the distance. Grbac evened the match by downing Smoke, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 at the No. 3 spot, but Cecil took the No. 2 match, 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 over Villanueva for a 3-2 Falcon lead.
Cassman not only clinched the team match for Air Force with a come from behind 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over Eggleston at No. 4, history was made with the victory as well. She won her 20th match of the 2010-11 season Saturday, becoming the first Air Force women's tennis player to win at least 20 overall singles matches in each of her four years since the program moved to Division I in 1996.
Monreal then won her first conference match of the campaign and put an exclamation point on the team match with an exciting 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 victory over Bezdickova at the No. 1 spot.
"It was only fitting that the last two matches left were our seniors and each came through," said Gidley. "They have been the backbone of the team and very deserving of their victories for themselves and the team. Our fans were also a big difference today. It's always great to have that extra support."
The Falcons wrap up their home schedule on Sunday, April 17 when they host TCU beginning at 10 a.m. Monreal and Cassman will be honored in a pre-match ceremony.
Air Force 5, New Mexico 2