NSU outlasts rival UCO to advance to NCAA Round of 16

NSU Sports
Don Vieth, Director of Athletics Communications

TAHLEQUAH – No.16 Northeastern State outlasted a pesky Central Oklahoma squad, 5-2 to win the NCAA Central Region No. 1 Championship, and will advance to the Round of 16 for the fifth year in a row on Tuesday.

The RiverHawks (19-5) now have a showdown with No. 5 Armstrong State, last year’s NCAA Division II Champion on Wednesday, May 10 at 11 a.m. in Altamonte Spring, Fla., the site for this year’s National Championship.  Armstrong State is the champion from Southeast Region No. 2 and beat No. 8 Flagler in Savannah, Ga. The Pirates have won ten National Championships, but are entering their final season as a program with ASU being consolidated with Georgia Southern.

Rewinding back to Tuesday’s showdown with the Bronchos, NSU won two of three doubles matches from UCO (14-8), with Caitlin McCullough and Easton Parker picking up a convincing 8-2 win in No. 2 doubles.   Central Oklahoma picked up an 8-4 win in the top-double spot before Karla Tomaic and Betka Gombarova won 8-5 on court-3.

In singles play, Northeastern State looked good out of the gates with three set-1 wins.  On court-5, Tomaic had a 5-4 lead but dropped three straight games to drop the set.   The Bronchos tied the match with a 6-0, 6-2 win on court-1, before Valeriia Efimenko won on the neighboring court 6-0, 6-4.

McCullough battled back late on set three to pick up NSU’s fourth point in No. 3 singles (6-3, 4-6, 6-4).  Gombarova looked to be nearing the overall match point with a 5-2 lead in set three but Parker who battled from a 6-3 set one loss, flew past and evened her match in No. 4 singles with a 6-1 win in the second set.   Parker would end up being the clinching point for NSU with a 6-4 win for the decisive set to advance the RiverHawks.

This is the eighth time that NSU has advanced to the Round of 16 and the third time that they will meet Armstrong State in the tournament.

No. 16 Northeastern State 5, No. 43 Central Oklahoma 2
May 2, 2017 at Tahlequah, Okla. (NSU Tennis Complex)

Singles competition
1. No. 38 Alli Hodges (UCO) def. No. 32 Molly Worden (NSU) 6-0, 6-2
2. Valeriia Efimenko (NSU) def. Kirtana Bhat (UCO) 6-0, 6-4
3. Caitlin McCullough (NSU) def. Alix Williams (UCO) 6-3, 4-6, 6-4
4. Easton Parker (NSU) def. Shali Schoepflin (UCO) 3-6, 6-1, 6-4
5. Karla Tomaic (NSU) vs. Emilie Semo (UCO) 5-7, 6-4, unfinished
6. Betka Gombarova (NSU) vs. Jenny Bond (UCO) 6-2, 3-6, 5-2, unfinished

Doubles competition
1. Alix Williams/Alli Hodges (UCO) def. No. 15 Molly Worden/Valeriia Efimenko (NSU) 8-4
2. Caitlin McCullough/Easton Parker (NSU) def. Shali Schoepflin/Kirtana Bhat (UCO) 8-2
3. Karla Tomaic/Betka Gombarova (NSU) def. Jenny Bond/Emilie Semo (UCO) 8-5

Match Notes
Central Oklahoma 14-8; National ranking No. 43; Regional ranking No. 4
Northeastern State 19-5; National ranking No. 16; Regional ranking No. 1
Order of finish: Doubles (2,1,3); Singles (1,2,3,4)
NCAA Central Region 1 Championship