The Hillsdale College women’s tennis team captured the regular season G-MAC championship on Sunday, finishing off a perfect season with two 8 – 1 victories this weekend.
“Finishing in first was our goal this season, and the girls did a great job,” head coach Nikki Walbright said. “I’m really proud of them.”
It’s the Chargers’ second conference championship, and it puts them in the No. 1 seed for this weekend’s G-MAC championship tournament. The Intercollegiate Tennis Association ranked the seniorless team No. 6 in the Midwest and No. 47 nationally in the NCAA Division II. Beating Walsh University on Saturday and the University of Findlay on Sunday in the Biermann Athletic Center, the team has set a 10-match win streak, going 7 – 0 in the G-MAC and 12 – 4 overall.
“We have an extremely talented team this year, but we have also worked very hard day in and day out to get to where we are,” junior Madeline Bissett said. “There’s no better feeling than seeing that work pay off.”
The G-MAC office gave Hillsdale College even more to celebrate on Monday when it honored sophomore Katie Bell, who went undefeated this weekend and has won her past seven doubles and singles matches, with Player of the Week. It’s the second time Bell has won the award this year.
“She had a great weekend, and was very confident in her play,” Walbright said.
Although breaking their five-match 9 – 0 winning streak, the Chargers took sole possession of first place in the G-MAC on Saturday when they beat the undefeated Walsh Cavaliers (10 – 9, 6 – 1 G-MAC).
Hillsdale came in hot in doubles, sweeping all three courts. No. 1 duo freshman Hannah Cimpeanu and junior Halle Hyman won 8 – 4, while Bell and junior Corinne Prost were victorious 8 – 5 at No. 2.
Junior Madeline Bissett continued the best season of her tennis career, going 6 – 0, 6 – 0 at No. 6 singles, after she teamed with sophomore Kamryn Matthews for an 8 – 2 doubles win on court three.
“Going into this season, we knew that we were going to be one of the front-runners,” Matthews said. “As the season has gone on, we’ve continued to work hard every day to keep improving and to stay dominant. Going into every match we know what we need to accomplish and do our best to just get our jobs done.”
Hyman held onto her winning streak at No. 1 singles, defeating Walsh sophomore Mercedes Fernandez 6 – 2, 6 – 0. Cimpeanu won 6 – 2, 6 – 1 at No. 2, and Bell took court three 6 – 3, 6 – 0. At No. 5, Matthews won 6 – 0, 6 – 3.
In a long, tough match, Prost lost her match on court four. Going into a tiebreaker in the first set, Prost pushed freshman Katarina Razum into a third set for a final score of 7 – 6 (8 – 6), 4 – 6, 10 – 7. Prost made her comeback on Sunday, though.
On court two, Prost and Bell won 8 – 1 in doubles against Findlay, matching Bissett and Matthew’s score on court three.
At No. 1 doubles, Cimpeanu and Hyman fell to the Oilers 8 – 4, but that did not hold the Chargers down, as they swept singles play.
Matthews at No. 5 and Bissett at No. 6 finished singles with double bagels — a score of 6 – 0, 6 – 0, giving Bissett a perfect weekend for singles play.
At No. 1, Hyman won in a tie-breaking set, defeating freshman Samantha Sweet 2 – 6, 6 – 1, 10 – 4. On court two, Cimpeanu was victorious 6 – 1, 6 – 1, and Bell won 6 – 0, 6 – 4. Prost went 6 – 2, 6 – 2 against her opponent on court four.
The win earned the Chargers 62 match victories with only two losses for their first year in the G-MAC conference. Five players have earned 20 or more match victories this season: Bell, Bissett, Cimpeanu, Hymnan, and Matthews. This year’s championship victory is the team’s first since the 1983 GLIAC championship.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my teammates,” Cimpeanu said. “We were able to come out victorious because of our hard work, encouragement, and God’s blessings. It feels good to start the G-MAC the way we did.”
The pressure, however, is on for this weekend, as the team heads to Kentucky for the G-MAC tournament. The competition for the Chargers starts at 10:30 a.m. on Friday at the Owensboro Tennis Complex, when they again face fourth-seed Findlay in the semifinals.
“We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves and presume,” Walbright said. “That’s the thing with tennis, you play one match and the next time it can be a completely different match. We’re just going to go do our job.”
Should Hillsdale win, it will then compete in the finals at 11 a.m. on Saturday. A tournament championship would be a program first.
“We’re going to go in focused on our own game and with confidence,” Walbright said. “It’s a new day.”