Led by head coach Jay Sterling in 2014, the Portland State Vikings Women’s Tennis Team qualified for the Big Sky Conference Championship for the first time in school history.
They made their presence known by entering the tournament as the fourth seed with a winning record both overall and in conference (10–7, 6–3 BSC). In the quarterfinals they beat fifth-seeded Montana State University, taking out the Bobcats 4–2 and advancing to the semi-finals. They would face the first-seeded University of Montana, who went undefeated at 9–0 in Big Sky Conference play to clinch the regular season title. The Grizzlies would end up defeating the Vikings 4–1 to set up a final against third-seeded Sacramento State for the tournament title, where Montana lost 3–4 to the Hornets to set up an intriguing 2015 season.
This season the PSU Women’s Tennis Team believed that they would return to the postseason for the second consecutive year. With defending regular season titleholders Montana and Big Sky Tournament Champions Sacramento State already in the mix, Idaho was also added to the Big Sky Conference this year.
The Vikings added new faces in freshman Siena Peri and Alana Chaplin as well as a University of Missouri transfer, sophomore Tracy Dong, to bolster their roster. Kelsey Frey also returned to the lineup after redshirting the 2013–14 season due to injury. Rounding out the roster were Dane Vorster, Sabina-Elena Preda, Ayaka Terakawa and seniors Megan Govi and Alexa McDonald.
In the Vikings’ Big Sky Conference opener at home against Montana State, they overcame a doubles point loss to come back in five of the next singles matches to win 5–2. They would add tough road wins at Idaho State, Northern Colorado and Southern Utah 4–3. A clean win over Eastern Washington 7–0 at home gave PSU five Big Sky Conference wins. The PSU Women’s Tennis Team would go on to advance to the postseason for a second straight season.
The Vikings (9–10, 5–6 BSC) record gave them the sixth seed heading into the Big Sky Conference Championship. Sophomore Sabina-Elena Preda shared her thoughts on the team’s second consecutive tournament appearance.
“Making it to the Big Sky Conference Championship was one of our goals for this season,” Preda said. “I am very happy and proud of the team that we achieved this goal. We worked really hard to get to where we are right now, and everything was worth it.”
The defending tournament champions Sacramento State clinched the regular season title and the first seed with an unblemished conference record at 11–0. Newcomers the Idaho Vandals finished as the second seed with a 10–1 conference record. Defending regular season champions, the Montana Grizzlies finished at 9–2 for the third seed. Northern Arizona, the 2014 second seed, finished at 8–3 this season to finish as the fourth seed. Weber State went 7–4 in conference play to earn the fifth seed. The Vikings finished with close losses to Weber State 3–4, Montana 2–5 and Sacramento State 2–5.
In the quarter-finals, the PSU Vikings would have to get through the team that knocked them out of the semi-finals last year, the third-seeded Montana Grizzlies. The defending Big Sky regular-season titleholders and PSU played at Club Green Meadows earlier in the year on Feb. 15 in a tightly contested dual.
After dropping the doubles point, PSU attempted a comeback in singles. Preda finished her match at line four in straight sets, 6–2 6–1 to tie the dual at 1–1. The Vikings would mount a charge after Precious Gbadomosi and Cam Kincaid gave the road team the 3–1 lead. Peri would win the second set at line two to force a third set. Dong would win her line three match in two tightly contested sets 7–5 7–5 to keep the come back alive with Megan Govi still to come at line six. Montana would take the Big Sky encounter 5–2, but this matchup would be repeated again in the postseason.
In California, at the Gold River Racquet Club on April 24, the two schools squared off with a spot in the semi-finals up for grabs. Montana kept their lineup identical to the first encounter with Precious Gbadomosi, Sasha Carter, Laurence Pelchat, Hannah Sulz, Cam Kincaid and Cat Orfanos at line 1–6 singles, respectively. The Vikings would keep their lines 1–4 the same with Vorster, Peri, Dong and Preda, respectively. They moved up Govi from line six to five to face off against Kincaid. McDonald would be at line six to complete the PSU lineup. To start off the postseason duel would be the crucial first point awarded in doubles.
Gbadomosi with Pelchat would face off against the PSU duo of Vorster and Peri. The Montana line-one doubles pair won the regular season doubles match against Vorster and Govi 6–2. Carter with Orfanos squared off in a rematch against Dong and Preda.
The result was in favor of Montana 6–4 in the regular season. Kincaid with Sulz in line three did not get a chance to finish their doubles match against Frey and Peri because the doubles point was secured by their line two. PSU would go with their star duo of Govi and Frey with 14 wins together.
In three of the closest doubles matches you will ever see, each line would have to settle it in a tiebreak. Gbadomosi and Pelchat went the extra distance in the tiebreak to take the match 8–7 (8–6), capturing one of the two needed wins to secure the pivotal first point. Govi and Frey became the winningest tandem in PSU history with their 15th victory together 8–7 (7–3) to even the doubles at 1 apiece.
Carter and Orfanos won their tiebreaker 7–4 to give the third seed the doubles point and a 1–0 lead. Orfanos finished her day undefeated with a line six win over McDonald. Sulz evened her record at 1–1 with a 6–2 6–3 win over Preda after dropping their first encounter earlier in the year. Kincaid closed out the dual at line five over Govi to advance Montana into the semi-finals against Idaho. The Vikings were mounting their comeback with Vorster in a third set against Gbadomosi at line one, Peri up a set with a 5–5 score in the second, and Dong up a set and 4–1 in the second.
“We were really close to winning,” Preda said. “We knew that we have a great shot against Montana because we were really close to winning in regular season too. The doubles point was very close, but we unfortunately lost it. If we would have won the doubles point, we would have won the duel. We came out strong in singles and we were winning at lines one, two and three, but the duel stopped when the winner has been decided and those matches stopped as well.”
Head Coach Jay Sterling has led the Vikings to two consecutive Big Sky Tournament appearances. He will go for three next year without two seniors—the winningest player in PSU tennis history in Megan Govi, with 40 singles and 31 doubles wins, and Alexa McDonald, who is fourth all-time in singles wins with 25.
Preda sh ared her thoughts on the loss of Govi and McDonald as well as team goals for next year.
“Our seniors, Alexa and Megan, were a big part of the team and the lineup, and they will be for sure missed,” Preda said. “But I think this team has the power to overcome any adversity and I know that we will work twice as hard next year to replace our seniors and to make it to conference championship again. We will be focusing on that. We will practice and participate in the fall tournaments with that thought in our mind. I know that we will work hard to achieve this goal, just like we did this year, and I am excited to compete again.”
The team returns seven of their nine players for next season. Preda and the PSU Women’s Tennis Team will return for their 2015–16 season in the fall with the tournament season.