Don Vieth, Director of Athletics Communications
LINCOLN, Neb. – No. 20 Northeastern State won their first MIAA Women’s Tennis Tournament Title on Thursday morning with a 5-3 win over No. 16 Southwest Baptist after five straight years of reaching the finals.
The RiverHawks have been a dominate force in the MIAA regular season winning 38 matches in a row and claiming the last three regular season titles outright. But despite their success, NSU was unable to get past the Bearcats in the championship.
Northeastern State’s tide turned on Thursday.
Much like their meeting in Tahlequah in March, the RiverHawks swept SBU in doubles but by a larger margin of victory. Caitlin McCullough and Easton Parker were off the court first with an 8-1 win, then Betka Gombarova and Karla Tomaic followed on court-3 with the same score. Molly Worden and Valeriia Efimenko gave NSU their third point on an 8-5 victory; the last time the pair faced SBU, it was a 9-8 tiebreaker win for the RiverHawks.
The Bearcats (18-3) didn’t go down without a fight and they won the first set in all but court-6 to open the door to a comeback attempt. Southwest Baptist claimed wins at four and five singles to make the score 3-2. Gombarova, who was NSU’s lone player to win set one, grabbed the team’s fourth point, 6-4, 6-2 on court-6. SBU followed up with a 6-4, 6-2 win out court-1 but the momentum shifted on the two remaining courts.
Both Efimenko and McCullough drove past a set one loss and were leading big in the final set, it would be just the question of who would clinch NSU’s first tournament championship.
McCullough would be the one to do it, with a 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 win on court-3 where she has won 16 times in 20 matches this season to stop SBU’s MIAA Tournament run. Efimenko, was leading 4-1 in the third set when the match was stopped.
Thursday’s win was NSU’s 13th in a row and sends them to 18-5 overall this season. The tournament championship also gave the RiverHawks an automatic qualifier into the NCAA Tournament, even though they were already the top-ranked team in the Central Region.
Odds a fairly certain that NSU will be the top-seed and a host site for the Central Region Tournament which will be announced on April 25 at 7 p.m. on NCAA.com; this will be the RiverHawks 17th NCAA appearance where they are 27-16 overall.
No. 20 Northeastern State 5, No. 16 Southwest Baptist 3
Apr 20, 2017 at Lincoln, Neb. (Dillon Tennis Center)
1. Lara Soares (SBU) def. Molly Worden (NSU) 6-4, 6-2
2. Valeriia Efimenko (NSU) vs. Lani Tuemmers (SBU) 3-6, 6-4, 4-1, unfinished
3. Caitlin McCullough (NSU) def. Lucia Diaz (SBU) 2-6, 6-2, 6-2
4. Klara Vickov (SBU) def. Karla Tomaic (NSU) 6-0, 6-3
5. Brown,Sarah (SBU) def. Easton Parker (NSU) 6-0, 6-3
6. Betka Gombarova (NSU) def. Zorana Jovanovic (SBU) 6-4, 6-2
1. Molly Worden/Valeriia Efimenko (NSU) def. Lara Soares/Lani Tuemmers (SBU) 8-5
2. Caitlin McCullough/Easton Parker (NSU) def. Lucia Diaz/Klara Vickov (SBU) 8-1
3. Betka Gombarova/Karla Tomaic (NSU) def. Brown,Sarah/Beatrix Federer (SBU) 8-1
Southwest Baptist 18-3; National ranking #16; Regional ranking #3
Northeastern State 18-5; National ranking #20; Regional ranking #1
Order of finish: Doubles (2,3,1); Singles (4,5,6,1,3)