Valparaiso University is set to make its first-ever appearance at the NCAA Women's Tennis Championships after the Crusaders defeated Southern Utah 4-1 on Saturday afternoon at Match Point Tennis and Fitness Club in Griffith, Ind. to win the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament Championship.
The Crusaders, the Mid-Con regular season champions, earn the league's automatic bid with the victory, their 12th straight.
Valpo, the tournament's top seed, won all three doubles contests to open the match. Rachel Janssen (Fort Wayne, Ind./Dwenger H.S.) and Jill Dierberg (Saint Louis, Mo./Lutheran South H.S.) picked up the first win at second doubles by an 8-4 score over Cristina Garcia and Crystal Holt. The senior duo of Monika Danko (Northfield, Ill./New Trier H.S.) and Christina Scala (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South H.S.) clinched the first point with their 8-3 win over Kim Beynon and Veronica Cortes at the top spot. Seconds later, Whitney Chada (Downers Grove, Ill./South H.S.) and Kate Evangelist (Glen Ellyn, Ill./Glenbard West H.S.) completed the doubles sweep with their 8-5 win against Lisseth Hoyos and Casie Brooks in the third position.
In singles play, it appeared early that Valpo was in control. Janssen posted a 6-0, 6-0 win over Beynon at the top spot and Evangelist wasted little time with her 6-0, 6-2 triumph over Brooks at sixth singles to put the Brown and Gold within a point of clinching the title. Southern Utah (12-6) fought back. Holt earned a 6-2, 6-4 win over Chada at fifth singles while the third and fourth matches moved into three sets. Scala finally gave Valpo a reason to celebrate after notching a 6-1, 2-6, 6-0 win over Cortes in the fourth spot to give Valpo its first conference tournament title. Valpo has won the last two regular season titles as well.
Once the team title was determined, the other two matches were halted in progress. Danko won the first set in a tie-break 7-6 (2) and led 3-1 against Garcia in the second set at second singles. Dierberg won her first set 6-1 at third singles against Hoyos but dropped a second-set tie-break 7-6 (4). The Thunderbird led 5-1 in the third set with the match was stopped.
Valparaiso (15-4) will learn its first round opponent in the NCAA Tournament on Wednesday, May 4 at approximately 3:30 p.m. CDT when the pairings announcement is made. The First and Second Rounds are held on campus sites May 13-14.