Brigham Young University won its sixth straight High Country Athletic Conference tennis title Saturday. Despite appearances, though, this one wan't easy. There were matches that were only points apart at the end. On the short side was Utah for the fifth-straight time.
Overall, the Cougars won and the Utes were runners-up. And those matches that the Cougars didn't win, the Utes did, with the Cougars as runners-up.Despite the fact that seven teams entered, it was an all BYU-Utah final. BYU placed six in the singles finals and three in doubles, and so did Utah. BYU won four of the singles and Utah two, and BYU all three of the doubles. Final score: 7-2.
Probably the highlight of the Utes' day came at No. 1 singles. Michelle Mras had never beaten Susanna Lee, a childhood friend and practice partner, in a college meet. Saturday she did, to win the conference's top prize. Down a game in the first set, she posted a must-win break, then elevated her game to beat Lee, 7-5, 6-2.
The difference, said Mras, "Was I didn't get down in the first set. Before, she always killed me, then I've had to come back. Today I was determined to stay close."
Lee broke in the third game of the first set, then held on and was serving for the first set at 5-4. Mras pressed with her slicing forehand and deep backhands to break and even the score at 5-all. At this point, Mras' game got stronger and Lee's started to fade. Mras broke for the set at love.
In the second set, Lee was unable to regain her consistency. Mras, in contrast, never faltered. She broke in the sixth and again in the eighth for the match.
"There was more pressure on her to win," admitted Mras. "I had nothing to lose so I could play loose. She did some things today that I've never seen her do before. I don't know if I caused it or she was just nervous."
At No. 2, BYU's Mary Beth Young capped what was her best year in three seasons by stopping rallies by Utah's freshman, Ruth Ann Stevens. Young was up 4-1 in the first set and Stevens came back to 4-4. In the second Young was up 4-0 and Stevens came back to 4-3. Young finished with a 6-4, 6-3 win.
At No. 3, Michelle Taylor won easily over Utah's Julie Kempin, 6-0, 6-2; at No. 4, Kristin Seigmund of Utah was patient, even on the longest points, and beat Maddy Diekmann, 7-5, 6-1; and at No. 6, Patti Urban of BYU, beat Susy Westfall, 6-2, 7-5.
Anna Funderburk of BYU, playing No. 5, split sets with Utah's Susie Costa. In the third she was serving for the match at 5-3, but Costa broke. Funderburk came back with a break of her own to win, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.
In doubles, Taylor and Young beat Mras and Costa, 7-5, 3-6, 6-2; Lee and Urban beat Stevens and Kempin, 6-3, 0-6, 6-1; and Sheri Yardle and Funderburk beat Liz Fox and Westfall, 6-1, 6-4.
The all-conference team and top coach were announced after the event. BYU's Ann Valentine was named Coach of the Year. Players recognized were Young, Mras, Lee, Taylor, Chris Hoffee of New Mexico and Judi Kurk of New Mexico State in singles. In doubles it was Young and Taylor, Mras and Costa and Hoffee and Rachel Wilson.