It took a little luck and a whole lot of hard work, but West Chester University’s men’s tennis team has clinched its first postseason berth since the PSAC (Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference) changed to its current team format back in 2004.
The playoff appearance was the capstone on a two week span which saw the men fight through several tough losses only to win one of the best victories in the team’s recent history.
When we last left the Golden Rams they were coming off a 9-0 pounding of Bloomfield back on March 29, on their way to two conference matchups against Kutztown and Bloomsburg.
WCU started their match against the Golden Bears on the right foot, coming out of the doubles competition with a 2-1 advantage. The advantage was short lived as Kutztown quickly took five of the six singles matches, with WCU’s lone win coming from senior Steve Hlava at fourth singles. Although the match finished in a 6-3 defeat, the team was able to take away some positives, since it was the first time the Golden Rams had earned more than one point in the match since 2000-01.
They didn’t have much time to rest after the hard-fought match versus Kutztown, as they were scheduled to face conference rival Bloomsburg the very next day. Unfortunately for the Golden Rams, they fell 8-1 against the Huskies, with sophomore Cody Leimback earning the team’s only point at sixth singles. The loss dropped WCU to 6-9 overall and 1-3 in the PSAC, making their next set of matches the most important of the season.
The men stormed back on April 4 with a 9-0 non-league victory over Lincoln University. WCU dominated the doubles competition, with an 8-4 and 8-1 victory at first and second doubles respectively, before taking the third match by forfeit. They also started off the singles competition with a point thanks to a victory at sixth singles due to forfeit. The next four matches saw the Golden Rams drop only a total of five games. However, the most exciting match of the day was the last, as Andrew Peterson defeated Adedotun Osho of LU in three sets. Peterson took the first set 7-6 after an 8-6 tiebreak win and then dropped the second set 2-6. The match was finally decided in a third set tiebreak, with Peterson coming away with a 10-7 win.
West Chester’s next match was by far its most important, a PSAC match against Millersville, a team they had not beaten since 1994. A win would not only set up the team up for a shot at their first playoff appearance since before 2004, but would also be an affirmation of the sweeping change that has followed since head coach Tina Tharp’s arrival.
The match started off on the right foot, with WCU taking two of the three doubles matches. The Marauders then went on to take three straight singles matches, giving them the 4-2 lead, and placing them just one point away from a 17th straight victory over WCU.
At a time when they could have easily packed it up and lived to fight another day, the team dug deep, and created the stuff of collegiate legend.
Cody Leimback took the win at sixth singles 6-1, 6-2. That was then followed up by junior Luan Kichen’s 7-5, 6-1.
The stage was set with the match tied 4-4 for the final singles match of the day, the fourth singles matchup between Millersville’s Corey Garnier and WCU junior captain David Goldenberg. With a win, the Golden Rams would take the match, and all but assure themselves a spot in the playoffs. Goldenberg made quick work of Garnier with a 6-1 win in the first game. Garnier fought back valiantly in the second game, pushing it to a deciding tiebreak, which Goldenberg took 10-7, giving WCU the win.
The win also helped Goldenberg win the PSAC Men’s Tennis Athlete of the Week for the week of April 1-7.
A winning season for West Chester University’s women’s tennis team ended in bittersweet fashion this week after being eliminated from PSAC playoff contention.
WCU started conference play with a 6-3 win over East Stroudsburg University on March 27, but were quickly thrown off the pace in their next two matches against Kutztown and Bloomsburg.
Whereas the men’s team fought back for a close 5-4 conference win over Millersville this month, the women dropped a heartbreaking 5-4 match against Kutztown on April 1. The Golden Rams were down 4-1, at one point until they pulled out three straight singles victories to tie the score.
The match came down to freshman Rebecca Thiel’s match against Jennifer Stow. Thiel fell in straight sets, giving the Huskies their third PSAC East win, and dropping WCU to 1-2 in the conference.
Unfortunately, they were not able to transfer their energy into the next day’s match against Bloomsburg, where they fell 7-2 and 1-3 in the PSAC East. WCU was in a hole from the beginning, after being swept in the doubles competition and dropping the first two singles matches, sealing the win for the Huskies. The Golden Rams eventually got on the board with wins from Nicole Paller and Haley Wissinger at fourth and fifth singles respectively, with Wissinger digging out a tough three set win.
The WCU ladies regained a glimmer of hope in their 8-1 conference win over rival Shippensburg on April 3, their third match in three days. They stormed out of the gates, winning each of the doubles matchups 8-1, and never looked back. Alex Santoro, Nicole Paller, and Haley Wissinger all won their singles matches 6-0, 6-0, putting an exclamation point on the dominating performance.
The Golden Rams cruised to a 6-3 victory in a non-league matchup against Holy Family University while looking ahead to a pivotal matchup against Millersville, a match which would play a huge role in determining whether or not they earned a spot in the PSAC playoffs.
As with their match against Bloomsburg, the contest was over before it even started. The Marauders swept the doubles and took four of the six singles matches. Nicole Paller and Haley Wissinger were again the only Golden Rams to get on the board, yet again after the outcome had been determined.
The women roared back with a suffocating 9-0 victory over PSAC opponent Cheyney University, a match in which WCU did not surrender a single game to their opponents. The win gave them a 3-3 PSAC East record and a 9-9 record overall.
They followed up the match against Cheyney with a 9-0 victory on April 13, this time in a non-league match against New Jersey’s Gregorian Court University. The win finished off their season and left them with a 10-9 record, and just short of making the postseason.
“This was a very disappointing season,” head coach Tina Tharp admitted. “It’s hard to predict next year; the line-up will most likely be different with incoming freshman and transfers. Curren
t players need to work hard to improve on certain things in their game to raise their level of play in preparation for next year.”
Brian Johnson is a fourth-year student majoring in English. He can be reached at BJ669485@wcupa.edu.