Wheeler leads Panthers to come-from-behind win
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – For the second time this season the fate of the Plymouth State University women's tennis team fell on the shoulders of senior Megan Wheeler (Manchester, N.H.), and for the second time she delivered in a big way.
Playing at No. 6 singles in the final match of the day with a trip to the Little East Conference (LEC) Women's Tennis Championship on the line, Wheeler posted a straight sets win to lead the second-seeded Panthers to a 5-4, come-from-behind win over third-seeded Salem State University at the RIC Tennis Center on Friday morning.
PSU fell behind 2-1 after the completion of doubles play and the Vikings got off to quick starts with first set wins at No. 1 and No. 2 singles. Plymouth State showed off its depth once again, however, as the Panthers rallied for wins at No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 to set up Wheeler's heroics.
Winners of ten straight, the Panthers improve to 12-2 and advance to tomorrow's championship match for the second time since the tournament moved to a team format in 2008. The loss ends Salem State's season with a 9-6 mark.
Plymouth State will face the winner of top-seeded Rhode Island College and fourth-seeded University of Massachusetts Dartmouth for a chance to compete in the NCAA Tournament this spring. The championship match will take place tomorrow (Oct. 20) at 11:00 a.m. at the RIC Tennis Center.
No. 2 Plymouth State 5, No. 3 Salem State 4
No. 2 Plymouth State 12-2
No. 3 Salem State 9-6
How it Happened:
* Vikings' senior Maddie Allaire (Columbus, Ohio) and junior Meredith Macdonald (Lynn, Mass.) evened the match at 1-1 after holding off seniors Irene Kigugu (Concord, N.H.) and Megan Wheeler (Manchester, N.H.) at No. 2, 8-4.
* Sophomores Sage Winter (New Castle, N.H.) and Maggie McCarthy (Marion, Mass.) battled back from a 7-4 deficit to even the match at 7-7, before junior Anastasia Startseva (Volgograd, Russia) and sophomore Caroline Robitalle (South Hadley, Mass.) took the final two games for a 9-7 win at No. 1.
* Sundquist pulled the Panthers even with a quick, 6-3, 6-2 win at No. 4, and Venincasa gave PSU a 3-2 lead after topping her opponent 6-2, 6-2 at No. 5.
* Kigugu extended the Plymouth State lead to 4-2 with a 6-2, 6-3 win at No. 3, but the Vikings evened the match soon after with wins at No. 1 and No. 2.
* Wheeler closed out the team's victory with a 6-3, 6-2 win at No. 6 to send the Panthers to the championship match.
Inside the Numbers:
* Sundquist and Venincasa won their eighth straight doubles match to improve to 10-2 as a team.
* Venincasa and Wheeler both extended their hot streaks in singles play. Venincasa picked up a ninth-straight win to improve to 11-2 on the year, while Wheeler has won eight in a row to go to 10-2.
* The Panthers held on for a 5-4 win over Salem State when the teams met during the regular season. That contest also came down to the final match, where Wheeler stormed back from a 4-1, second set deficit to secure a 6-2, 7-5 win.
* Plymouth State has gone 23-8 against the Vikings dating back to the 1987 season, and have won each of the last eight meetings.
Straight from the Coach's Mouth:
"We lost to two great doubles teams and started the match down 2-1," said head coach Barbara Rawlsky-Willett. "We showed a lot of confidence and perseverance to take four of the six singles matches. Megan showed great composure under tremendous pressure as the decisive last match on the court."
* Plymouth State advances to the championship match and will face the winner of top-seeded Rhode Island College and fourth-seeded UMass Dartmouth. The Panthers fell to RIC by a 7-2 score when the met in early September, and PSU topped the Corsairs, 5-4, in the season opener.
– 30 –