Postseason play began for the UW-Eau Claire women’s tennis team during April break, as it competed in the Madison Midwest Regional Tournament. The Blugolds entered the 10-team tournament seeded third, and they played their way to a second-place finish, allowing them to move on to the NCAA Regional Team Championships.
After getting a first-round bye, the Blugolds took on Denison University (Ohio) in the quarterfinals on April 13. Eau Claire escaped that match with a 5-4 victory, even though the match was a little more difficult than coach Tracy Saloka expected.
“Denison was really tough,” he said. “They have a really good team. We had to play very well to beat them.”
Eau Claire got victories from senior Molly Cope, sophomore Alison Hover and senior Suzie Hickman in singles, and from the doubles teams of Hickman and freshman Jenny Stafford, and Hover and sophomore Megan Tauer.
The semifinal match for Eau Claire was against WIAC rival UW-La Crosse, which Eau Claire beat 5-4 on Sept. 15. This time, the Blugolds were ready, as they swept the Eagles, 9-0.
Saloka said the team did an outstanding job against La Crosse.
“We beat La Crosse before,” he said. “We knew their players and knew what we needed to do to win.”
After beating La Crosse, the Blugolds advanced to the championship match, where they took on Gustavus Adolphus College (Minn.). This match was also a rematch for Eau Claire, as the Gusties topped the Blugolds 5-4 on March 11.
In the rematch, Eau Claire faced a Gustavus team that had changed its lineup from the previous meeting. The revamped Gusties defeated Eau Claire 8-1 to take the championship.
Saloka said the Blugolds played well, despite what the score indicated.
“It would’ve been nice to win a few more against them,” Saloka said. “When the chips were down, they really knew how to come through.”
The doubles team of Cope and senior Andrea Muellner provided the only win for Eau Claire against Gustavus on Saturday.
With their second-place finish, the Blugolds advanced to the NCAA Regional Team Championships, which will take place May 12 and 13. Saloka said he doesn’t think that the month off between matches will have a negative effect on the team.
“How it affects us will depend on how we approach it,” he said. “It will be a good time to get healthy and work through our ailments.”
“Hopefully, they’ll come out of the break focused and rejuvenated.” he said.
The NCAA Regional Team Championship will occur at two different sites in May, and it is the final qualifying tournament for the NCAA Finals Team Championship in San Antonio, Texas. He said he hopes the Blugolds will be one of the hosts for the regional championship, which would help make the road to San Antonio a little smoother.
“We’re putting in a bid to have (the regional) here,” he said. “It’s up to the committee whether we get it.”