The Linfield Wildcats women’s tennis team took a 9-0 victory over the Whitman College Blues Saturday at the Linfield Tennis Center, clamping down on the No. 1 spot in the NWC next to George Fox University.
This was the Wildcats’ first meeting against the Blues since the 2018-2019 season due to last year’s cancellations due to the pandemic. The Wildcats have a record 62% of the total of 50 games played against the Blues.
However, Saturday’s win was pre-claimed as five of the nine games were forfeited by the Blues.
The Blues announced on Thursday that they were only bringing three of their five players. Those who did not show up were concerned about COVID-19 and travel. The Wildcats had no idea who was coming until Saturday morning, but they treated it like any other game day.
It was other nerves, sophomore Lexie Matsunaga said. It wasn’t like, well, if we didn’t win, we would lose the match. It was more like, okay, even though we’ve already won, we want to go 9-0, we don’t want 5-4. It’s a different kind of pressure.
The chemistry between Matsunaga and junior double partner Tessa Kern was unmatched to start the day. They won 8-2 against the Blues Irene Tsai and Anastasiya Redkina, pushing the duos’ winning streak to four.
Matsunaga and Kern knew their opponents were good ball attackers and moved quickly to the net, so they focused on a consistent and strong return, causing the Blues to collapse under pressure.
The Wildcats used this win to play three singles. Kern won 7-6 against Redkina, Matsunaga won 6-2 against Tsai and Linfield, second-year Taryn Fujimori, won 6-1 against the Blues Grace Carter.
While the Wildcats had victories across the board, they had to do not just physical but mental work, according to Kern. The pandemic has turned all aspects of the game from no fans to unpredictable schedules, but one aspect that remains constant is the team’s encouragement and unity, especially from the sidelines. The four other players stood next to the field for the entire game and cheered for the entire game.
Our team really started today as we clearly knew they were only bringing three [players], said Kern, who was honored last week as NWC Tennis Athlete of the Week. The support of the teams and the fact that they were there lifted our energy and it was something that gave us an edge over our opponents as they always encouraged and supported us and we knew we had a lot of support there.
Even though the vibe is different this season, it doesn’t change the Wildcats’ goals of being the conference’s best seed and maintaining their winning streak.
It really shows what the rest of our season will be like, as we didn’t stop here, went up and passed the conference, Matsunaga said. Only four games were played today, so I think this just shows that this team is all in it for the long haul.
The Wildcats continue their season against Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. On Saturday, April 3.
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