The University of Redlands women's tennis team fired off one of its better seasons in program history while recording the most number of wins since the 2009 campaign. In addition, the squad remained ranked among the best in NCAA Division III, as it revealed the grit and depth necessary to compete at a high level.
Equipped with a preseason ranking of No. 28, the Maroon and Gray jumped into action with consecutive wins over NAIA opponent, Vanguard University, and cross-country foe, Bates College (ME). During these matches, junior Julia Galbraith (Tacoma, WA) and sophomore Paige Press (La Jolla, CA) each supplied a flawless record with respective wins in singles and doubles.
Following a pair of tough losses, including a 4-5 heartbreaker to Brandeis University (MS), the Bulldogs answered with an exciting 5-4 win over the University of Texas – Tyler on March 10. Redlands scraped together its only doubles victory with an intense 9-8(5) showing at the No. 2 spot, as freshman Maddie Morton (Henderson, NV) and junior Shannon Cassidy (Yuba City, CA) clawed their way into a tiebreaker to eventually win the critical point for the Maroon and Gray. During the singles competition, the Bulldogs faced a 2-4 deficit and relied on the middle of the lineup to find a way to win. Morton, Galbraith and Press all stepped up at their respective slots to secure the hard-fought triumph.
This comeback effort inspired a 4-1 showing through additional non-conference action, with the Maroon and Gray notching another thrilling 5-4 win in the process. Capping off this run, Redlands upset the 27th-ranked Banana Slugs of UC Santa Cruz, recording a 5-4 decision over the regional foe at Verdieck Courts. The Bulldogs gained a pivotal point at No. 2 doubles before firing off three wins in singles, which gave up a combined four games in the process. The rookie tandem of Ceara Sumida (Hilo, HI) and Julia Pollak (Holland, MI) stepped up with an 8-6 victory, which proved to be the difference in an otherwise very tight match. Press and Cassidy kept the Bulldogs in contention but it was Pollak who sealed the deciding point with her 6-0, 6-1 performance at the No. 6 spot.
With momentum on its side, Redlands faced the bulk of its Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) schedule in late March and early April, as the team vied for a run at the top.
The Bulldogs easily dismissed Occidental College in the opening conference match by a score of 8-1. After sweeping the doubles, Redlands' depth shined through while winning at Nos. 2-6 in singles. Among the victors, senior Katherine Guimapang (Norwalk, CA) contributed with her 6-4, 6-1 showing at the No. 6 position.
Once again, the Maroon and Gray rattled off consecutive victories, this time during the all-important conference schedule. Four of these triumphs came by an 8-1 decision, revealing Redlands' talent and depth throughout its lineup. During this stretch, the team took down visiting Caltech with a few new faces on the courts. After Cassidy notched a shutout victory at the No. 2 slot, the Bulldogs also looked to junior Amanda Alvarez (West Covina, CA) and junior Claudia Llanes (Miami Beach, CA) to provide straight-set triumphs at No. 5 and No. 6, respectively.
With an undefeated SCIAC record, the Bulldogs took on a pair of nationally ranked foes in Pomona-Pitzer Colleges and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges to close out the first round of competition. Unfortunately, the squad came up short in both outings. Against the No. 15 Sagehens, Redlands battled until the very end, suffering a tough 3-6 decision after tying the score at three apiece. The highlight of the match came at the hands of the No. 1 doubles team, as sophomore Jessica Ly (Torrance, CA) and Cassidy impressed against the 10th-ranked tandem in NCAA Division III, winning by a score of 8-1 for the early momentum. When competing against the ninth-ranked Athenas, Redlands missed out on the upset by a score of 2-7. However, the Maroon and Gray gained a significant bright spot in the effort, as Pollak notched her 14th consecutive singles win of the season when she took down her No. 6 counterpart by scores of 6-3, 6-2.
The team enjoyed a break from dual-match competition by traveling to the 112th Annual Ojai Tournament to face top players from NAIA and NCAA Division II and III schools. Highlighting the Bulldogs' success, Press advanced to the quarterfinals of the singles draw, and the duo of Cassidy and Ly made it to the Round of 16 in doubles.
Redlands returned to SCIAC action on May 4 when it faced Whittier College in the first round of the tournament. Seeded No. 3, the Bulldogs made quick work of their opponents in a 5-0 performance at the off-site location of Cal State Northridge. With dominating doubles, the Maroon and Gray held an early 3-0 lead. Redlands' authority continued in singles with Morton and Pollak wrapping up the team's win with straight-set efforts at No. 4 and No. 5, respectively. They dropped only one game between the two of them in their four total sets.
This victory propelled the squad into the semifinal match against the 14th-ranked Pomona-Pitzer Colleges. With hopes of avenging their recent loss to the Sagehens, the Bulldogs gave it their all in a highly competitive and emotional contest. After suffering an uncharacteristic doubles sweep, the Maroon and Gray faced an uphill battle. Nonetheless, Redlands clawed and fought its way back, with Pollak initiating the effort with an impressive 6-0, 6-1 showing at No. 5. After the Sagehens answered to take a 4-1 lead, the Bulldogs looked to Morton to put together a solid 6-4, 6-2 win at No. 4. Press and Cassidy also took care of their respective counterparts in straight sets, resulting in an amazing rally to tie it up. With the match coming down to the No. 1 slot, the players provided plenty of drama by forcing a third set to decide it all. Unfortunately, the storybook ending was not meant to be, resulting in the difficult 4-5 loss for the Maroon and Gray.
With pride on the line, the Bulldogs left no doubt in the third-place match, as the squad captured an impressive 9-0 win over Cal Lutheran the following day. Redlands swept the doubles with solid performances at every slot and then continued to cruise in singles while recording five two-set victories.
Despite a national ranking and a solid season, the Bulldogs just missed out on an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships, ending their season with a 14-7 record and 7-3 showing in SCIAC.
The final poll recognized the Maroon and Gray as the No. 24 team in NCAA Division III, adding to the program's near-20-year history of national acclaim.
Redlands celebrated its All-SCIAC performers, as Ly landed on the First Team and Sumida collected Second-Team honors. Furthermore, Llanes and Morton represented the Maroon and Gray on the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's list of Scholar-Athletes.
Although the Guimapang's spunky attitude and leadership will be missed, the Redlands women's tennis team looks forward to building upon its recent momentum with a large returning class of competitors. Under Head Coach Geoff Roche's guidance, the Bulldogs anticipate nothing but excitement, dedication, and determination for another memorable season.