WINCHESTER, Mass.- The No. 2 seed Eastern Nazarene College women's tennis team edged top-seeded Johnson & Wales 5-4 Sunday afternoon at the Winchester Indoor Tennis Center to capture the program's first-ever Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) championship.
The Lions finish the fall slate with a 12-2 overall record and earn an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament in the spring for the first time in program history. The Wildcats fall to 13-2 on the year with the loss.
Junior Emily Ruttkowski (Castrop-Rauxel, Germany) was named the GNAC Tournament Most Valuable Player while seniors Sharon Biondi (Barquisimeto, Venezuela) and Veronica Jimenez (Lynn, Mass.) joined her on the GNAC All-Tournament team.
Eastern Nazarene trailed 2-1 after the doubles matches.
Biondi and Jimenez cruised to an 8-0 victory at the No. 2 position over Emily Hill and Kourtney Moore.
Magdalena Hubel (Berlin, Germany) and Ruttkowski absorbed an 8-3 setback at the top doubles spot to Claire Parry and Drew Bobey.
The Lions chalked up four wins in singles action to lock up their first-ever title.
Grantham fell to Katie Mason 6-0, 6-0 at the No. 6 singles position as Johnson & Wales extended its lead to 3-1.
Jimenez trimmed Eastern Nazarene's deficit to 3-2 with a 6-1, 6-2 victory at the No. 4 slot over Bobey.
Hubel endured a 6-2, 7-5 loss at the No. 3 spot to Moore moments before Busila earned a 6-1, 6-2 victory at the No. 5 position over Ledesma to narrow the gap to 4-3.
The Lions leveled the match at 4-4 as Biondi downed Parry in a three-set clash at the top slot. Biondi rolled to a 6-0 win in the first set before Parry posted a 7-5 decision the second frame. Biondi secured her 11th singles victory of the season as she prevailed 6-2 in the third.
Ruttkowski battled back from a one-set deficit to defeat Hill in three sets to clinch the match and remain undefeated in singles action on the season. Hill grabbed a 1-0 lead with a 6-4 decision in the opening frame. Ruttkowski clawed back to claim the second set 6-4 before triumphing 6-2 in the third set.
"We knew today's match was going to be a tough battle between two evenly-matched teams. I'm proud of the way our team played today and how we clawed back in singles play," commented head coach Cristian Popa. "These six ladies have worked hard all season and I'm extremely proud to see their efforts pay off."
Looking ahead, Eastern Nazarene will return to the courts in the spring to prepare for the program's first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament in May.