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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Lady Vikings punch ticket to nationals

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Valley women's tennis team qualified for the NAIA Championships for the second time in four years, while the men's squad finished second at the HAAC/AMC/MCC Tournament: (bottom row, from left) Virginia Hutcherson, Vanessa Urbschat, Elanqua Griffin, Juliana Doyle, Courtney Henley, Tershelle Burrows, Katelyn Barr, (top row) coach Ryan Carney, Gilberto "Tito" Machado, Jason Rolle, Juan Giminez, Wesley Ng, Brock Hughes, Luiz Felipe Moura, Demetrius Ewing and Nathan Garrett.
(Photo contributed)
ST. LOUIS -- When the calypso girls helped the Missouri Valley College women's tennis team advance to the NAIA Championships for the first time ever during their freshman season in 2009, they may have anticipated a quick return.

It didn't quite happen that way, but three years later seniors Elanqua Griffin and Tershelle Burrows of Nassau, The Bahamas, are going back to nationals following the Lady Vikings' title Saturday in the combined Heart of America, American Midwest and Midlands Collegiate Conference Tournament at St. Louis.

Valley blew through two preliminary rounds without a loss Friday to set up a final the next day against Evangel, which had won an earlier meeting, 6-3. Although Griffin and Burrows lost at No. 1 doubles for the only time in the meet, the Lady Vikings took four singles contests for a 5-3 decision.

Griffin and Burrows opened the tourney with an 8-5 win as Valley swept St. Ambrose (Iowa), 5-0. Senior Juliana Doyle and junior Courtney Henley at No. 2 and the No. 3 duo of sophomore Virginia Hutcherson and freshman Katelyn Barr both cruised to 8-2 victories.

The Lady Vikings were beating the Fighting Bees (4-16) in all singles matches before Henley (6-0, 6-2) and Hutcherson (6-0, 6-1), both Marshall products, dispatched their opponents handily.

Griffin-Burrows and Hutcherson-Barr enjoyed 8-4 doubles wins during Valley's 5-0 semifinal win over Baker, but Doyle-Henley had to work hard to subdue freshman Peyton Edmonds and senior Brie Lowery at No. 2 with a 9-8 (7-5) tiebreaker decision.

Once again, it took only two singles wins -- by Henley and Barr -- for Valley to eliminate the Lady Wildcats (7-10).

That set up Valley's showdown with the Lady Crusaders, and it required a comeback after dropping two of three doubles matches. Evangel won at No. 1 behind freshman Amy Grossklag and senior Maria Josť Martinez, 8-5 over Griffin and Burrows.

The Lady Crusaders also won at No. 3, senior Kelly Bush and sophomore Lyvia Gomes getting by Hutcherson-Barr, 8-3. The Lady Vikings' victory was by Doyle-Henley at No. 2, 8-4.

However, Valley rolled in singles, starting with Griffin's 6-3, 6-4 victory over Grossklag.

"Elanqua is definitely the best player I have ever had on the women's side, and she showed it," remarked MVC coach Ryan Carney. "She played an amazing match."

That avenged an earlier loss by Griffin to the No. 1 from Evangel (13-5). Also winning a rematch after being defeated in the previous meeting was Barr, who came from behind to beat sophomore Anna Claire Hoover, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, at No. 6.

Doyle won in straight sets, 7-6, 6-0, and Henley got the clincher at No. 4, also rallying from first-set loss to defeat Bush, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 6-4.

"I couldn't have asked for more in the finals in terms of our attitudes and how we played," Carney said. "Our top four players, our seniors and our experience really showed."

The Lady Vikings (12-4), who entered the meet as the No. 2 seed, received an automatic berth to the NAIA tourney -- starting May 15 at Mobile, Ala.

The top-seeded Valley men got to the finals with a first-round bye and 5-0 semifinal win over Ashford (Iowa), but were beaten by Graceland, 5-3, to end their season.

The Vikings took all three doubles matches against Ashford with the pairs of senior Jason Rolle and sophomore Luiz Felipe Moura at No. 1, freshmen Brock Hughes and Wesley Ng at No. 2, and sophomore Nathan Garrett and freshman Gilberto "Tito" Machado at No. 3.

Singles win by Ng and Hughes eliminated the Saints (9-8-1).

Valley got off to a good start in the finals against the Yellowjackets, getting doubles wins from the Rolle-Moura (9-7) and Ng-Hughes (8-0). Even the lone loss was tight, Garrett-Machado falling to freshmen Felipe Suarez-Parra and Matt Waite, 8-6.

Graceland (9-6) only lost once in singles, Hughes beating sophomore Eugene O'Connell, 6-1, 6-2. With their No. 1 player still on the court battling with Rolle, the 'Jackets got straight-set wins from junior Manuel Lindekeit (6-4, 6-1) and Suarez-Parra (6-4, 6-4).

Freshman Esteban Chacon recovered from a first-set loss to beat Machado at No. 5, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3, and Waite -- a former state doubles champion -- out-lasted Garrett at No. 6, 6-1, 2-6, 6-4.

"This was definitely a disappointing loss, but I felt like we played pretty well," Carney said. The addition of Waite, who had not played during Valley's 5-4 win a week earlier, "made them a much stronger team."

The Vikings (10-6), who lose only Rolle from their top six, should remain stout -- and motivated.

"Coming into the tournament we really felt like we could win it, but I was proud of the guys," Carney declared. "We had a lot of intensity and gave it our best."

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