After three and a half hours and running over 9.8 miles, according to her Fitbit, Lewis & Clark’s Women’s tennis number one, Wiktoria Plawska ’17, dug deep to hold off Whitman’s number one, Andrea Gu, 7-5 5-7 7-5. Unfortunately, Plawska’s epic effort and that of her teammates would not be enough, as the 27th ranked Pio’s eventually fell 5-4 to their Walla Walla-based rivals in the match of the season. The pivotal loss dropped their overall record to 3-2, all but ending their hopes of repeating as conference champions.
“The season overall has been up and down,” said Kacey Incerpi ’18. “We have struggled for consistency throughout the team this year.”
Having won both the conference tournament and regular season titles last year, the Pio’s entered the 2017 season ranked 13th nationally among DIII schools. After getting out to a hot start with wins over Willamette, Pacific and Whitworth, they had their 18-match Northwest Conference win streak snapped in a surprising loss to Linfield 6-3. The Pio’s would rebound by winning three straight contests again, including a 5-4 revenge match against the Wildcats. However, their loss to Whitman halted their momentum, forcing them to reprioritize their goals.
The Pio’s always knew defending their title was going to be difficult, having lost three of their top six performers from last season. However, positives still remain for the young Pio’s.
In doubles, the lineups have changed a lot throughout the season with Incerpi and Josie Lagarza ’20 being the team’s most consistent partnership. The Pio’s undisputed number one, Incerpi and Lagarza have accumulated an impressive 5-2 record. Highlighted by a victory over the nation’s 21st ranked doubles team from Whitman. Christine Eliazo ’18 has also been impressive, boasting a combined record of 7-0 between three different partnerships. Most notably a strong early season 5-0 record alongside Plawska as L&C’s number two team.
In singles: The return of Natalie Kelly ’18 following the end of the basketball season, cannot be overstated. With the two-sport standout, having gone 3-0 since her return. The most notable victory being a dual-clinching triumph over Michelle Ly of Linfield. Other impressive performances include Incerpi ’18 who has put together an impressive 5-1 record while rotating between the 3rd and 4th spot in the lineup. It also appears that Plawska’s ’17 three-set victory over Whitman could be a turning point in her season, following a difficult midseason stretch.
“Coming back from a few losses and winning a really intense match is huge,” Plawska explained. “My coaches were really helpful, strategizing every point and encouraging me.”
The Pio’s followed up their loss to Whitman with a dominant 9-0 thrashing of Willamette. A much-needed victory as they get ready for the most important part of the season.
“Even though we can’t win the conference title, we can still win the tournament,” Incerpi explained. “That is our new goal.”
A conference tournament win would give LC their second consecutive trip to nationals. The all-important tournament will begin April 22 at Whitman College.