Women’s tennis nail biting NWC Championships


Elsa Harris and Michelle Uyeda shaking Whitman’s Mary Hill and Andrea Gu’s hands.

Linfield’s women’s tennis team swept the conference all the way through to the tournament. After finishing the regular season with an 8-0 conference record, the Wildcat’s continued their dominance over the weekend in the NWC Tournament defeating the Puget Sound Loggers 5-0 and the Whitman Blues 5-4. It was Linfield’s third year in a row hosting the tournament.

This is the first Northwest Conference Championship the women’s tennis team has earned. And the team’s first NCAA berth since 2011.

The Wildcats and Blues players were biting their nails on Sunday during the championship round. As who was going to win NWC Championship title came down to a singles match by Linfield’s junior Riley Clayeux and Whitman’s Lori Sheng.

“Watching Ri [Riley Clayeux] was very intense; we were completely in the moment with her, cheering as loud as we could so she knew we were there for her,” senior Elsa Harris said. “The moment she won, the whole team rushed out to hug her after such an incredible fight. It was a beautiful, emotional moment of pure joy.”

Whitman is Linfield’s biggest rival, and this was the third year in a row the two have faced each other in the finals.

“Our team had to show up with our best game and lay it all out there,” Clayeux said.

The Build Up

Entering the singles round Linfield lead 2-1 with a win from doubles pairs Haley Fujimori and Michelle Ly, and, Clayeux and freshman Tessa Kern. Harris and sophomore Michelle Uyeda were bested by Whitman’s Andrea Gu and Mary Hill 8-6.

In singles play, Linfield’s Alysse Nakasato nailed the first match out defeating her opponent Audrey Grigore 6-1, 6-1. Linfield stood 3-1 over Whitman.

But the Blues came back and slammed the Wildcats three singles matches in a row. Whitman’s

power player Hill ousted Harris 6-1, 6-1. Then Whitman’s Anastasiya Redkina overtook Kern 6-2, 6-4. And Uyeda fell to Gu 6-4, 6-4.

Whitman then stood 5-4 waiting for two more singles matches to finish.

But Linfield’s Haley Fujimori beat Kattie Pak 6-3, 6-4, bringing the match standings to 5-5.

The Deciding Round

All eyes fell to the two players still playing Clayeux and Sheng. Whitman took the first set 7-6. But Clayeux answered back and took the second set 6-4 leading to a third tie-breaking set.

A year prior on the same home courts the ‘Cats watched Whitman take the conference championship title away with them.

With the power of determination behind her, Clayeux snagged the tie-breaking set 6-4. This year the ‘Cats claim the NWC Championship titles from the Blues.

“It was one of the tightest final matches and we fought to the bitter end to pull out the win,” Clayeux said. “Our team showed grit, determination, and fight – we weren’t just out there playing for ourselves, but bringing home wins for our teammates and coaches.”

“The energy during the final clinching match was evidence of a saying out coach always reminds us: ‘pressure is a privilege,’” Clayeux said.

The team continues their strides into the NCAA Regional Tournament. The pairings will be announced on May 6. The first round of NCAA Regional play is set for May 10 in a to be determined location.

“I feel so blessed in us. I feel so blessed to have such loving teammates and coaches, and for the opportunity to represent Linfield College at regionals,” Fujimori said.