St. Olaf 5, College of Saint Benedict 4 (box)

Top of lineup leads women's tennis to 5-4 win over St. Ben's

Michael Abdella
March 31, 2012

OWATONNA, Minn.- In their first match in 20 days, match wins from first doubles and the top four singles spots saw the St. Olaf women's tennis team defeat the College of St. Benedict 5-4 on Friday evening at Owatonna Indoor Tennis Center.

St. Olaf got wins from Caitlin Harper and Christine Muller in doubles and Harper, Muller, Julia Ellis, and Kristi Kroker in singles. For the second year in a row, the match between the two schools came down to the last singles match on court. St. Olaf defeated St. Ben's 5-4 last year, getting wins at the same positions as Friday evening.

With the Blazers and Oles knotted at 4-4, the match came down to the third singles match between Julia Ellis and Sarah Rossman. The two played last fall, with Ellis winning 6-2, 6-3, but on Friday the match was much closer. Ellis lost the first set 6-3, before coming back strong to claim the second set 6-1. The match was then decided by a tight match tie-breaker. Ellis got out to a 2-0 lead before Rossman rattled off five straight points. Down 5-2, Ellis came back by winning several lengthy rallies and took a 9-7 lead after a well-struck backhand down the line. Rossman saved the first match point before netting a ground stroke, as the Oles won by the slimmest of margins. Ellis has won each of her four MIAC matches so far.

The match started out with doubles play and it was the Blazers who got off to a strong start. Saint Benedict got wins at second and third doubles to jump out to a 2-0 lead after wins by Lauren Jones and Megan Seipel, and Jamie Hoffman and Alicia Vargas. At first doubles, the Oles claimed a vital point with a win from Harper and Muller over Aly Brandell and Rossman. The two seniors broke their Blazer opponents four straight times as they built a 6-1 lead. However, Brandell and Rossman came back to trail just 7-6 before Harper served out the match.

Trailing 2-1 heading into singles play, St. Olaf needed to win four of the six matches to earn the win. Kristi Kroker leveled the team score at 2-2 with a commanding 6-2, 6-0 win over Hoffman at fourth singles. Muller put the Oles ahead with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Jones at second singles. Like Ellis, Muller is now 4-0 in MIAC singles play. With St. Olaf leading 3-2, three matches ended in quick succession. Harper defeated Brandell in straight sets at first singles for her sixth straight singles win. Lizzie Carlson was defeated by Vargas at sixth singles, leaving the Oles with a 4-3 lead with two matches left. Carlson trailed 6-3, 4-1 before leveling the second set at 4-4 but Vargas won the final two games of the match. Erin Hynes fell in straight sets to Seipel in a match full of long rallies at fifth singles, meaning the match came down to the Ellis-Rossman battle.

The win extends the Oles perfect start to the spring, as they sit at 7-0, 4-0 in MIAC play. The Blazers fall to 6-4, 2-1 in the conference. St. Olaf travels to St. Paul on Monday for a 4 p.m. match against Hamline. The Pipers are 0-10, 0-3 in the MIAC so far this spring.

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