Panthers to face Salem State in semifinal round Friday
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Second-seeded Plymouth State University will face third-seeded Salem State University in the semifinal round of the Little East Conference (LEC) Women's Tennis Championship at 11:00 a.m. Friday at Rhode Island College.
The Panthers are seeking their third tournament title, most recently advancing to the NCAA Tournament during the 2014 season. Plymouth State wrapped up the regular season with an 11-2 mark, the second most wins in program history, to post consecutive 10-win seasons for the first time. PSU enters the semifinals winners of its last nine matches.
Salem State advanced to the semifinals following a 5-0 win over sixth-seeded University of Southern Maine in first round playoff action on Wednesday. The Vikings swept the doubles matches before locking up the win with victories at No. 1 and No. 4 singles.
"Salem was a close match the last time," said head coach Barbara Rawlsky-Willett, "so we are not taking them lightly."
The two teams met Sept. 15, when the Panthers earned a 5-4 win in Salem, Mass. to start their current winning streak. With the score tied at 4-4, senior Megan Wheeler (Manchester, N.H.) stormed back from a 4-1 second set deficit to earn a 6-2, 7-5 victory at No. 6 singles to secure the final point.
"We look forward to another exciting and competitive match," Rawlsky-Willett added.
Plymouth State has gone 22-8 against the Vikings dating back to the 1987 season, including wins in each of the last seven meetings. The pair have met in the LEC Tournament just once, in the 2011 semifinal round, when Salem State earned a 5-1 win.
The Panthers have gone 5-7 in the LEC Tournament since the team format began in 2008. PSU is 1-3 in the semifinal round, with the one win coming in 2014, the last time the team earned a first round bye.
PSU's depth has been a major factor in the Panthers' success this fall, as the team has gotten contributions up and down the lineup all season. Sophomores Maggie McCarthy (Marion, Mass.) and Sage Winter (New Castle, N.H.) cruised to a 10-2 record at No. 1 doubles, while classmates Jenna Sundquist (Monument Beach, Mass.) and Kerstin Venincasa (Sutton, Mass.) have won seven straight as a team to finish 8-2 at No. 3 pairs. Wheeler and senior Irene Kigugu (Concord, N.H.) will likely play at No. 2 doubles after the duo went 5-5 there during the regular season.
Venincasa and Wheeler led the way in singles play. Venincasa has won eight consecutive matches and ended the regular season with a 10-2 mark, while Wheeler, winner of seven in a row, went 9-2 playing primarily at No. 6. Sundquist, who split time between No. 3 and No. 4, went 8-5.
The winner of Friday's semifinal will advance to the championship game on Saturday, where they will face the winner of top-seeded Rhode Island College and fourth-seeded University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. The championship match is scheduled to begin at 11:00 a.m.
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