After a big day one of the 2014 Region VI Tournament, the Seward County Lady Saints are knocking on the door for a return trip to the NJCAA National Tournament next week. Seward’s top two singles players and their top doubles team will play for a Region Championship Saturday while the Lady Saints need just one win in nine matches to punch their ticket to the big dance.
The top seeded player in the tournament, Seward’s Paula Lopez had just about as easy of a trip to the tournament final that any player could have. As the #1 seed in the #1 singles bracket, Lopez was set to face the winner of Friday’s play-in match, but after winning the play in match, Johnson County’s Jasmine El Gahzi decided that she would forfeit the match to Lopez while trying to save her energy for what the Cavaliers thought would be a more winnable match in doubles action. With that, 4th ranked Lopez marched onto the #1 singles finals without ever even taking off her warmup suit. In Saturday’s final Lopez will do battle with Cowley’s returning All-American Ana Ruzir who is ranked 5th in the latest ITA rankings.
Nearly the identical thing happened for Paula Coyos in the #2 singles draw. Johnson County’s Jessi Holman won the play-in match for the right to take on top seeded Coyos, but again the Cavs forfeited the next match and just like that Coyos reached the final, like Lopez, without breaking a sweat. In Saturday’s final, 16th ranked Coyos will collide with 34th ranked Sarah Giraldo of Cowley.
Seward’s Kathryn Roohan drew the #2 seed in the #3 singles bracket. Roohan dropped her first set of the tournament 6-3 to Omelia Thomas of Barton, but bounced back to even things at 1 with a 6-4 win in the second to force a deciding third set. In the third set it was all Thomas, who buried Roohan 6-2 to take the match and advance to the final. Roohan falls to the third place match where Saturday she will take on Johnson County’s Kara Hoegerl at 10:30 AM.
It was a rough go of things at #4 singles for Seward where Jackie Arnold fell flat against Sydney Shields of Johnson County in her first round matchup. Shields dominated and Arnold was unable to even squeeze out a game in a 6-0, 6-0 loss to drop her to the third place match. Saturday, Arnold will take on Barton’s Kelly Brauer in that third place match at 10:30.
Seward might have gotten its biggest win of the day in #5 singles where Naomie Bukassa knocked out Barton’s Courtney Irwin 6-1, 6-2 in the first round to advance to the semifinals. In the semi’s Bukassa faced a tough task, where she squared off with top seeded Erianne Adams of Johnson County and fell there 6-1, 6-0 to drop to the third place match. In her third place match Saturday, Bukassa will take on Narumi Hayano of Hesston, looking for another key ½ point for the Lady Saints.
In #6 singles, Seward’s Grace Golden had a tough time getting anything going as she dropped her first match of the tournament 6-2, 6-2 to Sarah Ong of Johnson County to miss the finals round. Golden will play in the third place match on Saturday where she will battle Barton’s Brittanie Eskut.
Even after resting through singles action and forfeiting their matches to Lopez and Coyos, Johnson County’s top duo couldn’t get past their first round matchup and therefore Seward’s top pair battled Hesston in their first test of the tournament in #1 doubles. It was a walk in the park for 6th ranked Lopez and Coyos as they breezed by the Larks 6-0, 6-1 in the match to reach yet another final. In the final, they will be opposite of Cowley who grinded out a three set win over Barton in the other semi.
Seward sent Roohan and Arnold to the courts in #2 doubles and the pair struggled against Johnson County’s #2 duo, as they were blanked in the opening set 6-0 before battling to a 6-4 defeat in the second set to drop to the third place match. In their third place match they will square off with Barton in another match between the Lady Saints and the Lady Cougars.
The best match of the day in the #3 doubles bracket came between Seward’s Bukassa and Golden against a pair from Johnson County. Johnson won the first set 6-2, but Bukassa and Golden stormed back to win the second 6-1 to send the match to a deciding third set. In the third set it was Johnson County getting the best of the Lady Saints with a 6-3 score to win the match 2-1. In the third place match Bukassa and Golden will take on Hesston at 1:00 PM Saturday.
The Lady Saints are in good shape after day one of the tournament as they sit comfortably in third place. Cowley leads all teams and will have players in the championship matches in all nine spots. The Tigers have 18 points while Johnson County checks in second with 13 and the Lady Saints close behind them with 12. Barton has 8 points and are fourth while Hesston rounds out the pack with 3 points after a day.
Cowley needs just two wins in nine matches Saturday to win the Region Championship and the Tigers have already clinched their spot at next week’s NJCAA National Tournament. Johnson County has also qualified for the National Tournament while Seward can punch their ticket to the big dance with a single win tomorrow in one of their nine matches.
REGION VI TOURNAMENT RESULTS<http://www.sewardsaints.com/sports/wten/2013-14/releases/20140424v94nyn>
Three Saints to Play For Titles Saturday
Despite the fact that three of the four Saints tennis players on the roster for the Region VI Tournament in Wichita this weekend will be playing for championships on Saturday at the event, Seward’s hopes for their 7th straight team bid to the NJCAA National Tournament are about as slim as the Cubs chances to break their historical streak in 2014.
The Saints first player to play for a Region Championship on Saturday will be Ronzai Saurombe at #1 singles where he came away Friday 2-0 with two vastly different victories. In his opening match of the draw he blew away Eric Cender of Hesston without dropping a game in a swift 6-0, 6-0 decision. In his second match it would be anything but easy as he took on top seeded and 8th ranked Spartak Rahachou from Johnson County. The first set was a sneak peak at what the match would be as Rahachou grinded out a 7-6 (3) win over Saurombe to take a 1-0 lead. Saurombe stormed back to win the second set 6-2 to force a deciding third set with the Cavaliers star. The third set again went right down to the wire as Saurombe led late before Rahachou came back to tie it at 6 and send it to a tiebreak. In the tiebreak Saurombe broke through, winning 8-6 to take the marathon match to advance to the finals. In Saturday’s final Saurombe will square off against Cowley’s Harry Busby, a former Seward recruit, with a trip to the NJCAA National Tournament in the balance.
Seward suffered a big blow in #2 singles where 20th ranked Alejandro Gonzalez dropped a three set battle to Cowley’s 18th ranked Erik Eldagsen 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 to push Gonzalez to the third place match on Saturday where he will take on Johnson County’s Kevin Kochersperger at 10:30 AM.
The Saints second individual playing for a title on Saturday will be #3 singles player Trevor Kipping. Kipping continued his big 2014 campaign as he came from behind in his first match of the tournament to win 2-6, 7-6, 6-2 over Johnson County’s Taylor Smith to move on to the finals. In the final Kipping will take on the #3 singles favorite in Cowley’s 26th ranked Josh Coleman who played at #2 singles when Seward took on the Tigers in the regular season.
The only contested bracket in which the Saints will not pick up a point in is at #4 singles where Colin Glassman suffered an injury in his first round matchup against Dominic Murray of Hesston and was forced to retire to finish 5th out of 5 competitors in the draw.
Despite winning an ITA National Championship in the fall, Saurombe and Gonzalez had a rough regular season in 2014 and had to go into the Region VI Tournament as the #4 seed out of 5 in the #1 doubles draw. The pair picked up an easy win over Hesston in the first round, blowing by the Larks 6-3, 6-0 to reach the point round. In their second match of the day they went up against a duo from Barton which sent them on their bumpy regular season road. Saurombe and Gonzalez took the first set easily 6-2, but the favor was returned on them in the second set where Barton won 6-2 to even the match at 1. In the third set it was again all Seward County as Saurombe and Gonzalez breezed to a 6-1 win to clinch the match and their place in the Saturday final. In the finals the 5th ranked Saints top pair will go up against the 8th ranked duo from Cowley, once again with a trip to the National Tournament on the line.
With Glassman’s injury, the Saints were forced to give up their first round match in the #2 doubles bracket and it is yet to be determined if Glassman and Kipping will compete in the third place match on Saturday against Barton. A Seward forfeit at the spot would eliminate them from National Tournament contention and would punch the Cougars ticket to the dance.
The team scores look like this after day one of the tournament. Cowley leads the way with 18 points and will play in all nine championship matches Saturday. Johnson County has 13 points and is trailed surprisingly closely by Barton who checks in with 11. The Saints are in fourth with 8 points and Hesston brings up the rear with 3.
Cowley and Johnson County have officially clinched their spots at the NJCAA National Tournament after day one. Three wins in their nine matches would automatically give the Tigers the Region VI title as well on Saturday. Battling for the third and final National bid is Barton and Seward. The Saints will literally need to play perfect on the final day of the tournament to qualify as a team while Barton needs just one win to eliminate the Saints from contention.
REGION VI TOURNAMENT RESULTS<http://www.sewardsaints.com/sports/mten/2013-14/releases/20140424jkruxd>