Linfield cannot overcome doubles deficit, drops home opener
McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Senior Tina Aarsvold earned a match-clinching victory at No. 4 singles to help Pacific Lutheran snap a 27-match conference losing streak with a stunning 5-4 win over host Linfield Friday afternoon at the Linfield Tennis Courts.
The joy of playing outside on an unseasonably warm and sunny February afternoon quickly turned to a feeling of desperation as the Wildcats found themselves facing a three-point hole after doubles action concluded.
Samantha Lund and Payton McGriff opened things up by taking care of Linfield’s top tandem, Lexi Thomas (Sr., Redding, Calif.) and Caroline Brigham (Jr., Eagle, Idaho), by a score of 8-4. Aarsvold and Leah Newell defeated their Wildcat counterparts by an identical score, defeating Kelly Watanabe (Soph., Kirkland, Wash.) and Kwynn Ecton (Fr., Fort Collins, Colo.) at No. 2 doubles.
In the afternoon’s most tightly contested doubles matchup, Allison McClure and Katherine Patton edged Gretchen Jernstedt (Soph., Wilsonville, Ore.) and Emily Erbin (Fr., West Linn, Ore.) 9-8 (4) to give the Lutes a comfortable 3-0 lead heading into singles.
The Wildcats rallied, winning four of the first five singles flights to knot the score at 4-4. Brigham dominated Newell from start to finish at No. 2 singles, winning by a convincing 6-0, 6-0 margin. In the third flight, Ecton picked up her first career singles victory with her 6-4, 6-2 victory over McGriff, while Jernstedt topped Catherine Miolla 6-3, 6-2 in the fifth spot and Thomas downed Lund 6-5, 6-3 in the afternoon’s top match.
McClure’s triumph over Erbin by a 6-1, 6-1 score at No. 2 singles kept Pacific Lutheran even with Linfield heading into the final match.
In the decisive fourth flight, Aarsvold squeaked by Watanabe in the first set 7-6 (6) before cruising, relatively speaking, to the 6-3 second-set victory to give the Lutes their first conference win since April of 2010.
It was the first victory in as many tries this season for PLU, while Linfield fell to 0-4 on the year, including 0-2 in Northwest Conference competition. Though about half the team was playing at less than 100 percent due to illness and the ‘Cats were completely without No. 3 singles player Kaila Nip (Soph., Lahaina, Hawaii), head coach Amy Dames Smith pointed to the team’s performance in doubles as the reason for the team’s letdown against the Lutes.
COMING UP: Linfield has a week to get healthy before playing host to back-to-back Northwest Conference opponents George Fox and Whitworth. Saturday, Wildcats take on the Bruins at noon before turning around and battling the Pirates Sunday beginning at 11 a.m.