APU’s women’s tennis team made school history after defeating Hawaii Pacific in their closest and most important match of the season
It was an absolute nail-biter at the Munson and Bavougian Tennis Complex in Azusa, Calif., where the No. 1-ranked Hawaii Pacific Sharks took on the No. 13-ranked Azusa Pacific Cougars. After APU tied the matchup at four points a piece, it all came down to one final singles match and one final set, where the Cougars were able to pull out the 5-4 comeback victory.
“We were behind the whole match and we just kept coming back,” head coach Mark Bohren said. “They got up 4-2 and we needed to win all three matches left, which in my career here, we’ve never come back like that; we’ve always ended up losing 5-4 and it has been that way for a long time. To finally get one, it feels super good. Everyone contributed and we are super excited about it.”
The Cougars made history in their winning efforts, as it was their first ever victory in program history against the Sharks and was the first time any APU team has knocked off a No. 1 team since transitioning from NAIA to NCAA for the 2014-15 season.
The hero of the day was senior Toby Miclat, the last Cougars player standing, who defeated HPU’s Lena Lutzeier, the nation’s No. 1-ranked player in women’s Division II tennis. Lutzeier was undefeated on the year entering today’s match and had a career singles record of 49-2 prior to today.
Down goes No. 1!!!
WTEN (final) Toby Miclat completes the @APUtennis comeback vs. No. 1 @HPUSharks | The Cougars win the team match 5-4 by winning the last three matches on the court @ITA_Tennis pic.twitter.com/2MyXWNgwXj
— APUCougars (@APUCougars) March 30, 2018
Bohren explained that if the team would have lost a match prior to Miclat’s victory, it would have changed everything today.
“It was interesting, being down as a team and barely getting that doubles point was pretty amazing in itself,” Bohren said. “We had a match a couple weeks ago where we tried to get it to [Miclat] to make it 4-4 and we came up a little short and she was really disappointed, then today she’s playing the number one player in the country. I think if we would have lost as a team, she wouldn’t have won that match, but as soon as she knew that she had an opportunity to do it, she was just going for it.”
The Cougars found themselves down early in the match after going 1-2 in their doubles matchups that could have easily have gone in favor of either teams. The doubles team of Miclat and freshman Petra Ivankovic fell short against the duo of Lutzeier and Barbora Kijasova, losing 8-6. Freshman Courtney Page and sophomore Mikayla Rinker also came close but fell short, losing 8-6 against Lara Meccico and Oceane Adam.
The Cougars got a spark of life through their only doubles victory which was set up by junior Kara Hinton and freshman Diana Baumgartnere, who narrowly defeated HPU’s Leticia dos Santos and Debora Echeverria, 8-7.
However, the Cougars knew that their day was far from over and that they would have to play near-perfectly in singles to take out the nation’s top team.
Senior Jackie Resler was the first Cougar to win her singles match on the day, winning her sets 6-4, 6-1 in the sixth slot over Heloise Le Normand and tying the match at two.
“Normally, I’m one of the longer matches, but this one just worked out in my way and I was able to get in [my opponent’s] head,” Resler said. “Taking advantage of that, I knew that could put us back to being tied at two all and give us a chance to win.”
After Resler’s victory, both Hinton and Ivankovic lost their singles matchups, and the Cougars found themselves with their backs against the wall, down 4-2. Hawaii Pacific only needed one more point to win, while APU would be forced to win their last three singles matchups.
Baumgartnere had a strong showing against the Sharks, defeating Echeverria 6-1, 7-6 in the third slot, while freshman April Wong went 6-1, 2-6, 6-3 in her three frames against Kijasova in the fifth slot, helping tie the match once again, at four.
The final matchup left was between Miclat and Lutzeier in the first slot, who fought back-and-fourth with each other on the court for over three hours. With her entire team behind her, Miclat, who is ranked as the nation’s 11th best D-II player, took out the nation’s No. 1 D-II player in Lutzeier, winning 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 and giving her team the 5-4 victory.
Miclat admitted that after losing her first frame to Lutzeier, she had actually thought that she didn’t stand a chance.
“That was just so sick to get the win. [Lutzeier] is definitely one of the best players that I’ve ever played and won over. She was so good,” Miclat said. “There was a time in the first set where I said to myself, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to get rolled,’ but then I looked over and saw that [Baumgartnere] was winning, and I knew that I just had to stick this out and play as hard as I can, and it obviously went my way so it was good.”
Miclat also explained how crucial every match and every performance was against HPU, as every victory gave the Cougars a fighting chance in an overall team win.
“It was so crucial. It’s easy to get looked over after a big match; when you take time to look at [this match], Kara and Diana were down match points and they saved them to get us to 1-2, which is exactly what we needed. Jackie put us on the board really quick, which is so helpful when someone comes out and is like, ‘I am your rock here, we’re on the board, we’re good and we have a fighting chance,’” Miclat said. “Then April just has so much grit and [Baumgartnere] comes out and this was the best I’ve ever seen her play – she was just spanking balls and it was awesome. Everything definitely contributed to this overall win.”
After the thrilling win, the Cougars improve to 13-6 on the season, while HPU falls to 11-2.
This gives the Cougars a good amount of momentum as they head into the final two weeks of the regular season, especially after the Cougars suffered a four-game losing skid earlier in the month after beginning the season with a program best 10-2 start.
“Even with those rough matches, I think we all learned from them and learned what we need to improve on as a team and as individuals. Those losses really did help us out here, where if we only had a bunch of wins, I feel that we wouldn’t be in this position,” Resler said.
As for the men’s tennis team, the Cougars dropped their first match of the season to No. 5-ranked Hawaii Hilo on Tuesday, but rebounded with a victory in their final home match of the season against Concordia on Wednesday to improve to 18-1 on the season. The next three matches for the men’s team will be against ranked opponents, including the No. 1-seeded Barry University on April 4.
“We’ve been having a great season. We obviously lost to Hawaii Hilo a few days ago, but we got great leadership and a great group. I’m not sure where we’ll be but we got a tough road ahead and we’re going to be on the road for the rest of the season, so it should be exciting. It’s such a special group of guys, especially those [five] seniors.
Both of the APU men’s and women’s tennis teams will be looking to continue their success as they head out to Flordia next week to take on Embry-Riddle on April 2 and Flagler on April 3.