With the Ladies and Tigers knotted up at four points apiece, and the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) title on the line, all eyes turned to Maggie Sweeney ’19, the number two singles player for the Ladies. In a hard-fought match, Sweeney had victory just a mere point away for herself — and the Ladies team — in the third set with a 6-5 advantage over her opponent.
But Sweeney rose to the occasion, culminating in a short rally where her Depauw foe’s forehand failed to clear the net, clinching the match for Sweeney and the first NCAC championship for the Ladies since 2001.
Leading up to the finals, the Ladies had to fight through The College of Wooster and Denison University.
The Ladies dominated against Wooster; they did not give up a single point en route to a 5-0 dismantling of their opponent. This began with the doubles pair of Sweeney and Grace Winslow ’18 earning the Ladies’ first point with an 8-1 win. The pairings in doubles of Diana Aboubakare ’17 and Jenna Murray ’17, as well as Mara Kaspers ’20 and Alyssa Moreau ’17, added two more points to Kenyon’s lead.
In singles play, Moreau gave up only one game to her opponent in a two-set, 6-0, 6-1 victory. Winslow added the clinching point to the Ladies’ tally with another 6-0, 6-1 win.
In the next round against rival Denison, the Ladies avenged their 5-4 finals loss to the Big Red in the NCAC finals last season with a 5-3 victory in the semifinals.
The Ladies started fast with the pairings of Murray/Aboubakare and Sweeney/Winslow winning their respective matches, giving the Ladies a 2-1 lead heading into singles play.
The ladies doubled their lead with wins from Sweeney and Murray, but found that Denison would not go down without a fight as the Big Red matched the Ladies with two wins of their own, cutting the Ladies lead to one.
Annie Reiner ’19 had her sight set on the finals for the Ladies, as she rattled off a two-set, semi-final clinching win for the Ladies, 6-2, 6-4.
In the finals, the Ladies started quickly against Depauw with doubles wins from Winslow/Sweeney and Aboubakare/Murray. However, the Tigers fought back, winning three straight singles matches. Down 4-2, Kenyon found itself on the brink of a second-straight finals loss.
“Our mindset was to go out and leave everything on the court, especially when we were down 2-4,” Aboubakare said. “It forced us to buckle down and fight for every point.”
Aboubakare began their fierce comeback with a straight set win over her opponent. Reiner followed up with another hard-fought win, fighting to force a third-set tiebreaker. Reiner then dominated the tiebreaker, winning 7-0 to tie the championship match at four matches each. Sweeney finished off the Tigers, and the Ladies were crowned champions of the NCAC tournament.
“Being able to bring this championship back to Kenyon after such a long time is such an accomplishment for all of us and we are excited to continue our post-season into the NCAA tournament,” Aboubakare said.
With six straight wins behind them, the Ladies head into the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament looking to ride this momentum and make a deep run into the postseason. “We have to take the same mental toughness and fighting attitude that led us to win the conference tournament this past weekend,” Moreau said.
The Ladies now look forward to May 12, the start of the NCAA tournament.