No. 5-seeded Saint Mary's got its revenge against No. 4-seeded BYU in the first round of the West Coast Conference Championship on Thursday with a tightly-contested 4-3 victory to advance to Friday's second-round play.
"Tough match today," BYU head coach Lauren Jones-Spencer said. "We got off to a great start winning the doubles point like we wanted. The No. 3 doubles team really showed up and gave us a quick win followed by No. 1 doubles. Singles was a battle, back and forth. We fought hard and had our opportunities, but just came up short. It’s a tough one to end on this season, but we will learn from it and keep our heads up moving forward."
Junior Taylah Beckman and sophomore Samantha Smith got BYU off to a good start as they competed against Saint Mary's Clementine Clement and Abuane Ville, earning a 6-2 victory to begin doubles play. In No. 2 doubles, the Gaels' Emma Critser and Kareen Manji beat sophomores Kate Cusick and Polina Malykh, 6-2, to leave the doubles point up to the No. 1 position
BYU's No. 41-ranked doubles duo, senior Mayci Jones and freshman Anastasia Abramyan, faced off against No. 37-ranked Hind Abdelouahid and Mariia Kozyreva of Saint Mary's. The Cougars prevailed and upset the higher-ranked Gaels, 6-3, to win the doubles point.
The Gaels' Manji in No. 4 singles responded well to open singles, defeating Cusick, 6-0, 6-0, to tie things back up again. In No. 1 singles, Jones and Kozyreva battled to give their team the lead in a tight match. Jones gave a fight, but Kozyreva prevailed to win 6-4, 6-3 and put ahead Saint Mary's 2-1.
Freshman Madeline Almeida answered right back for the Cougars in No. 5 singles against Critser. The match was close from start to finish, and after Almeida took the first, Critser narrowed the gap in the second set to tie it up 5-5. However, Almeida prevailed the comeback to win the match, 6-4, 7-5, and tie the score once more at 2-2.
In No. 3 singles, Saint Mary's took the lead once again. Malykh competed against Clement, and after dropping the first set, she fought back to win the second before ultimately losing the third set narrowly, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, and giving the Gaels a 3-2 lead.
Down a point once more, Abramyan gave BYU life again in No. 1 singles versus Abdelouahid in one of the tightest matches of the day. After losing the first set and starting the second down 3-0, the freshman battled all the way back to win the last two sets and win the match, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, to even the match at 3-3.
Just as the year before, when Smith faced Saint Mary's in the decisive match of the first round, the sophomore again played with the match on the line in a tough matchup against Vanessa Nommensen in No. 6 singles. The match was back and forth throughout its entirety, as both players traded shots. Smith won the first set, but Nommensen came back to win a tiebreaker in the second and force a third set. In the final set of the day, Nommensen completed the comeback and earned a 5-7, 7-6 (8), 6-0 and a 4-3 win to advance the Gaels to the second round.
Saint Mary's will compete against No. 2 seeded Gonzaga on Friday at 2 p.m PST.