With a youthful roster that included only one senior, the University of Redlands women's tennis team endured a challenging slate of competition that inspired incredible individual growth and further established the program's strong foundation for future success. Highlighting this positive development, sophomore Elizabeth Johnson (Portland, OR) and freshman Sarah Ikioka (Wailuku, HI) shined during their inaugural appearance at the NCAA Individual Championships by advancing to the semifinal round of doubles for All-America honors.
As a team, the Bulldogs clawed their way to a 10-11 overall record en route to a solid 7-3 mark in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) action for a third-place finish. Redlands extended its unwavering inclusion in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) final national rankings with another top-35 showing that dates back to 1994.
After a solid outing at the ITA Regional Fall Championships, the Bulldogs jumped into the spring season with an early test against NCAA Division II opponents from UC San Diego and Concordia University Irvine. Against the Tritons, Ikioka and Johnson made their season debut a memorable one by eking out a 9-8 (7) decision at the No. 1 slot. Freshman Jackie Lacy (Palm Desert, CA) impressed in her Redlands debut by securing a 6-1, 6-0 victory at No. 6 singles against the Eagles.
Unfortunately, Redlands continued to struggle with four-consecutive losses, including a heartbreaker against No. 28 Brandies University (MA) in a 4-5 showing.
In mid-March, the Bulldogs turned that tight score around for an exciting and much-needed victory against No. 25 Denison University (OH). After storming out to a 4-1 lead, Redlands saw its lead dwindle to a 4-4 tie before Lacy clinched the positive outcome at the No. 5 spot. She was all business in securing the 6-4, 6-4 decision to clinch the Maroon and Gray's first win of the season.
The Bulldogs fell to a pair of top-15 opponents in Amherst College (MA) and Sewanee (TN) before rebounding with another 5-4 triumph. This hard-fought result came against Carleton College (MN), with Lacy securing the deciding point once again. In addition, The No. 3 doubles tandem of sophomore Kate Dolan (St. Louis, MO) and junior Claire Bohoskey (Yakima, WA) came out firing to register an 8-1 win. Sophomore Madison Ross (San Diego, CA) added a 7-5, 6-3 result at the No. 6 singles slot.
In late March, Redlands made it three in a row with back-to-back, sweeping wins against Whittier College and Principia College (IL). Senior Emily Murnin (Salt Lake City, UT) provided a flawless performance against these opponents with wins in all four of her matches. She teamed up with Lacy for shutout results at the No. 2 slot in doubles while also downing both of her singles foes in impressive fashion.
The Bulldogs put together a 4-2 showing through the end of April to finish the dual-match portion of the season on a high note. Beyond a forfeit win over Cal Lutheran University, Redlands blanked Chapman University and Occidental College during SCIAC competition. Against the Panthers, junior Tyler Garant (Anaheim Hills, CA) recorded a straight-set win at No. 6 singles, 6-0, 6-3. Ross' dominating performance at the No. 6 slot officially sealed the deal in the team's impressive outing against the Tigers.
After recognizing Murnin for her hard work and dedication to the women's tennis program, the team captured a 6-3 win over Caltech. Ikioka and Johnson initiated the Maroon and Gray's success with an 8-5 showing at the top slot in doubles, while Dolan and Bohoskey battled for a 9-7 victory at No. 3. In addition to singles wins by Ikioka, Ross, and Dolan, it was only appropriate that Murnin contributed to the Senior Day success with a positive result at the No. 2 slot.
Redlands carried this late-season momentum into the SCIAC Championship Tournament on Verdieck Courts by cranking out a 5-0 win over Occidental in the first round. Following the doubles sweep, the Bulldogs gained efficient results from Ross and Lacy.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Pomona-Pitzer Colleges handed them a 1-5 loss in the semifinal match. However, Redlands' only point came in impressive fashion when Ikioka and Johnson knocked off the top doubles duo by a score of 8-4. This result would prove to be a precursor of great things to come for the Maroon and Gray's talented tandem.
Redlands faced a stingy Caltech crew in the third-place match that went in favor of the home team by a deceiving score of 5-1. With the actual competition much tighter than the score, the Bulldogs persevered under the high-pressure scenario during the second outing of a long day on Verdieck Courts. The team stepped up to sweep the doubles, with Murnin and Lacy setting the tone with an 8-0 blanking at No. 2. Ikioka and Johnson rallied back from a 1-5 deficit to secure the 8-6 win at No. 1 before Dolan and Bohoskey completed the team's quality start by capturing a 9-7 triumph. With momentum on its side, Redlands looked to Ikioka to push past her No. 1 counterpart in a 6-3, 7-5 display while Ross closed out her match at No. 6 in a 6-1, 6-1 decision.
Although the Bulldogs missed out on the NCAA Championships as a team, Ikioka and Johnson qualified for the individual tournament in doubles as an at-large selection from the West, due in part to the critical win over the Sagehens' top team. With incredible grit and determination, Redlands' dynamic duo reached the semifinals with a pair of comeback, three-set victories to earn All-America honors for the first time in their short careers. It was also their inaugural appearance at the NCAA tournament with their only loss coming against the eventual national champions. Ikioka also gained experience as a singles qualifier but battled nerves in her first-round loss.
Following the conclusion of the regular season, the SCIAC announced that Ikioka and Murnin each received All-Conference honors due to their stellar contributions to the 2017 campaign. With a 5-2 SCIAC record, Ikioka landed on the First Team as a freshman, and Murnin collected a Second-Team nod in her final season with a 4-2 singles mark. They each played a critical role in the Bulldogs' doubles success by teaming up with Johnson and Lacy, respectively.
Furthermore, Redlands women's tennis was honored for the fifth-consecutive year as an ITA All-Academic Team for owning a team GPA of 3.20 or above. Individually, the Bulldogs gained four ITA Scholar-Athletes, with Murnin headlining the group as a four-time recipient. Bohoskey earned her third such distinction, while Johnson repeated as an ITA Scholar-Athlete and Ikioka received her first academic honor.
Finally, these four were joined by Dolan and Lacy as members of the SCIAC All-Academic Team.
Overall, the Bulldogs showed great tenacity, heart, and desire in a season full of memorable matches and incredible growth. Although the loss of Murnin's leadership and consistency in the lineup are significant, the future is bright for Redlands women's tennis, with the return of an eager and now experienced crew of competitors. Under the direction of Head Coach Geoff Roche, the Maroon and Gray looks forward to building upon this season's momentum as another chapter in the decorated history of the program becomes enhanced once again.