No. 10-seeded Utah State women's tennis (14-11, 3-2 MW) came out victorious in the opening round of the Mountain West Championship in Boise, Idaho, on Thursday after defeating seventh-seeded Air Force (14-7, 1-4 MW). The win marks the fourth-consecutive season the Aggies have won in the first round of the tournament and ties the program record for most wins in a season with 14.
"Hats off to a very good Air Force team," head coach Sean McInerney said. "We have had some classics with them over the past four years, and this was a five-hour war. I am so proud of this team. To win 14 matches this season, which ties for the most in school history, says something about this group of young women. We are so excited to play a solid Fresno State team tomorrow. What an effort today."
In doubles, Air Force freshmen Meredith Jones and Ashleigh Harvey won, 6-1, at the No. 2 spot against sophomore Hannah Jones and freshman Sasha Pisareva. Senior Sabrina Demerath and junior Jenna Kanethen won, 6-4, at the No. 3 spot against the Falcons’ pair of junior Meredith Laskey and senior Carley Hatcliff. The No. 1 spot entered into a tiebreaker, with Air Force sophomore TJ Fumagalli and junior Elizabeth Barnickel, who earned all-Mountain West in doubles, coming away with a 7-6 (10-8) win to clinch the doubles point over senior Maggie O'Meara and redshirt freshman Alexandra Taylor.
In singles, sophomore Sophia Haleas dropped just two games to record the 6-2, 6-0 win at the No. 6 spot over Hatcliff. Hannah Jones followed suit with a straight-set victory of her own, 6-3, 6-3, at the No. 5 spot against Harvey. O'Meara lost, 6-3, 2-6, 2-6, at the No. 3 spot to Meredith Jones, and sophomore Rhoda Tanui lost, 2-6, 6-1, 2-6, at the No. 4 spot to Laskey. Demerath evened the team score back up, 3-3, with a 6-2, 7-6 (3) win at the No. 2 spot over Barnickel, who also earned all-Mountain West in singles.
It all came down to the No. 1 court where Pisareva and Fumagalli were entering the match-deciding third set. Both players were named all-Mountain West in singles yesterday. The first two sets had each gone into a tiebreak, with Pisareva winning the first, 7-6 (6), and Fumagalli winning the second, 7-6 (2). Pisareva dropped two games in the final set to take the 6-2 win and clinch the victory for USU.
Utah State takes on No. 2-seeded Fresno State (9-12, 3-1 MW) in the quarterfinals on Friday, April 27, at 3 p.m. MT. The Aggies and Bulldogs have not met since the 2016 quarterfinals where USU lost, 4-0. Fresno State had three players earn all-Mountain West singles honors in junior Emma Wilson, sophomore Juliane Triebe and sophomore Katerina Stloukalova. Wilson and sophomore Georgia Lawson, currently ranked No. 44 in doubles in the nation, earned all-Mountain West as a doubles tandem.
Ashley Springer is a student at Utah State University studying journalism and communication. Springer is an intern with the USU athletic department's media relations.