The Lady Vikings were beaten Tuesday by favored Southern Nazarene (Okla.), 7-2.
"Matches between the 10th-ranked team and their first-round opponent are usually not very competitive, but this match was definitely an exception," noted MVC coach Ryan Carney. "We had a great group of seniors this year and, even though we lost, their experience really showed."
The Crimson Storm swept the three doubles matches, although none of them came easily. Valley's No. 2 duo of senior Juliana Doyle and junior Courtney Henley of Marshall led 4-1 before sophomore Marina Shiplova and freshman Marina Adrianova rallied to remain unbeaten on the season with an 8-6 decision.
The Lady Vikings' No. 3 combo of sophomore Virginia Hutcherson of Marshall and freshman Katelyn Barr were up 5-4, but senior Hilary Galbraith and junior Kimberly Wiedemann came back for another 8-6 victory. Nazarene won the No. 1 tilt behind junior Deisi Bolivar and freshman Katina Kotova, 8-2 over seniors Elanqua Griffin and Tershelle Burrows.
The top four singles matches also went the Crimson Storm's way: Adrianova over Griffin, 6-1, 6-0; Bolivar beat Burrows, 6-2, 6-1; Shiplova taking Doyle, 6-3, 6-4; and Kotova winning a first-set tiebreak to down Henley, 7-6 (7-2), 6-1.
The Lady Vikings salvaged a pair of wins at the tail end of singles when Hutcherson pulled out a 3-6, 6-3 (10-5) victory over Wiedemann and Barr swept senior Allison White, 6-1, 6-2.
"Even though we lost, I couldn't be more proud of the girls," Carney declared. "We had great intensity, and we definitely we put a scare in them."
Nazarene (13-5) was beaten in the next round by No. 7 Brenau (Ga.), 5-0.
Valley (12-5) will lose three seniors who were part of its first national-qualifying team in 2009: Griffin, Burrows and Doyle.
Meanwhile, two Vikings were honored with the Central Region's Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship Award at the championships banquet: Griffin and senior Jason Rolle, both from Nassau, The Bahamas.
"Those are huge awards to win," Carney said about the honor accorded to four men and four women from across the country. "Jason and Elanqua are great players, but those awards say a lot about how they handle themselves on and off the court."
Both Griffin and Burrows received all-Heart of America Conference women's first-team selection, while Henley and Doyle were named to the second team. On the men's side, Rolle and sophomore Luiz Felipe Moura were first-teamers, freshmen Brock Hughes and Wesley Ng were chosen for the second team and freshman Tito Machado received third-team recognition.