Women’s tennis triumphs 9-0 over Whitman

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Kendall Harrison

Sophomore Lexie Matsunaga swept Saturday’s singles match 6-3, 6-2.

Kendall Harrison, Staff Writer

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Linfield Wildcats women’s tennis team secured a 9-0 win over the Whitman College Blues Saturday at the Linfield Tennis Center clenching 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 because of last year’s cancellations due to the pandemic. The Wildcats have an all-time winning record of 62% out of 50 games total played against the Blues.

Saturday’s win, however, was pre-claimed since five of nine games were forfeited by the Blues. 

The Blues announced on Thursday that they were only bringing three of their five players. Those who didn’t come had concerns about COVID-19 and travelling. The Wildcats had no idea who was coming until Saturday morning, but they treated it like any other game day.

Kendall Harrison

“It was a different set of nerves,” said sophomore Lexie Matsunaga. “It wasn’t like, ‘Oh well, if we don’t win we’re gonna lose the match.’ It was more like, ‘Ok, even though we already won, we wanna go 9-0, we don’t wanna go 5-4 .’ It’s a different sort of pressure.”  

The chemistry between Matsunaga and doubles partner junior Tessa Kern was unmatched to start the day. They won 8-2 against the Blues’ Irene Tsai and Anastasiya Redkina, pushing the duo’s winning streak to four. 

Matsunaga and Kern knew their opponents were good ball strikers and moved quickly at the net, so they focused on a consistent and strong return game which led the Blues to crumble under pressure. 

The Wildcats used this win to propel into three singles matches. Kern won 7-6 against Redkina, Matsunaga won 6-2 against Tsai and Linfield sophomore Taryn Fujimori won 6-1 against the Blues’ Grace Carter.

Although the Wildcats had wins across the board, they had to put in work, not just physically but mentally as well, according to Kern. The pandemic has changed 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 were standing court side the whole match exclaiming cheers for the entire match. 

“Our team really stepped up today because we obviously knew they were only bringing three [players],” said Kern, who was honored as NWC Tennis Athlete of the Week last week. “The team’s support and them being there lifted up our energy and it was something that kind of gave us an edge over our opponents because we had them always cheering for us and backing us up and we knew we had a lot of support there.”

Even though the atmosphere is different this season, it doesn’t change the Wildcats’ goals to be the top seed in conference and maintain their winning streak. 

“It really shows what the rest of our season is gonna be because we’re not stopping here, we’re gonna keep going upwards and we’re gonna go past conference,” said Matsunaga. “It was only four matches being played today, so I think that just shows this team is all in it for the long run.”

The Wildcats continue their season against Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash. on Saturday, April 3.