Boise State's women's tennis team gave it everything they had but came up short. #16 Fresno State came from way back to beat the Broncos and win their eighth consecutive Western Athletic Conference title this afternoon in Honolulu.
Tennis matches feature ebb and flow and momentum changes. This one had all that and more. Boise State jumped to the early lead in doubles play as Pichittra Thongdach and Lauren Megale had the nation's #1 duo of Renata Kucerkova and Anastasia Petukhova down 3-1. Laura Baum and Bianca Jochimsen led their match with Fresno State's Laura Pola and Danon Beatty the entire way.
If Thongdach and Megale could hold on, the Broncos would steal the doubles point. But just like that, the momentum turned on a dime. The powerful Bulldogs rallied. Kucerkova and Petukhova won the next 7 games to take the match 8-3. Melanie Gloria and Tinesta Rowe of Fresno State downed Vivien Silfany and Klaudia Wlodarczyk 8-5 and the point slipped away from the Broncos.
But they didn't quit. The Lady Broncos stormed back to win the first sets in five of the six singles matches. Thongdach shocked the #16 player in the country, Gloria, with a barrage that ended in a 6-1 first-set win. Lauren Megale downed #25 Petukhova 6-4. Jochimsen defeated Rowe 6-3. Wlodarczyk crushed Pola 6-2. Baum made short work of Bruna Paes. The path to victory was clear.
It's difficult to win a tennis match when a team loses the doubles point, but Boise State was on the verge. Only four Broncos would have to prevail in second sets for Coach Mark Tichenor's team to score the upset and get their first WAC title, and five were ahead. Silfany was the only one to lose the first set (6-4 to Petukhova).
Then Baum took the second set from Paes 6-1 and the match was even at one apiece. Lo and behold, three Broncos who had won their first sets earned service breaks from their opponents. Thongdach led 4-2. Megale led 4-2. And Jochimsen led 3-1. The Broncos were so close. All the three had to do was hold serve twice and Boise State was the WAC champion.
Jochimsen held on at #4 singles, winning a 7-3 tiebreaker in the second set and the Broncos were two wins away. If Thongback and Megale could duplicate her feat, the Broncos had it.. Kucerkova put away Silfany though 6-1 and the match was even at 2-2 as these two heavyweights in WAC women's tennis slugged it out.
Thongdach scored a huge upset when she took down Gloria 7-5 in the second set. 3-2 Boise State. Frustratingly close. Fresno had to pull magic out of the hat and win both singles matches to get their eighth straight title. And both Bulldogs were battling from behind. Pola got revenge on Wlodarczyk 6-1 to knot the match at one set apiece. Megale battled hard but fell to #25 Petukhova 6-4.
The Boise State-Fresno State dual was going to three sets in both remaining singles matches.
Wlodarczyk shot out to a 3-2 lead. Three more wins by Klaudia and Boise State would hoist the trophy. Megale wasn't so lucky. The freshman didn't play near as well in the third set as she did in the first two and lost 6-2. All tied at three matches apiece. And all attention turned to #5 singles where Pola and Wlodarczyk fought it out.
Pola came from behind, getting a late service break from Klaudia and pulled out a thrilling 7-5 win.
One game of one set of one match is what it came down to. Excruciatingly close. A heartbreak, pure and simple for Boise State. They played so well and had the #16 team in the nation down, but it was not to be.
The Bulldogs win the WAC and the automatic berth in the NCAA National Tournament. Boise State will wait to see their fate--it would be a shame to deny the Broncos an at-large berth after this.
Congratulations to both WAC rivals on their incredible match!
Tennis Match Results
Boise State vs. Fresno State
Apr 25, 2009 at Honolulu, HI
(UH Tennis Complex)
#16 Fresno State 4, #36 Boise State 3
1. #80 Pichittra Thongdach (Boise State) def. #16 Melanie Gloria (Fresno State) 6-1, 7-5
2. #25 Anastasia Petukhova (Fresno State) def. Lauren Megale (Boise State) 4-6, 6-4, 6-2
3. #66 Renata Kucerkova (Fresno State) def. Vivien Silfany (Boise State) 6-4, 6-1
4. Bianca Jochimsen (Boise State) def. Tinesta Rowe (Fresno State) 6-3, 7-6 (7-3)
5. Laura Pola (Fresno State) def. Klaudia Wlodarczyk (Boise State) 2-6, 6-1, 7-5
6. Laura Baum (Boise State) def. Bruna Paes (Fresno State) 6-1, 6-1
1. #1 Renata Kucerkova/Anastasia Petukhova (Fresno State) def. Pichittra Thongdach/Lauren Megale (Boise State) 8-3
2. #13 Melanie Gloria/Tinesta Rowe (Fresno State) def. Vivien Silfany/Klaudia Wlodarczyk (Boise State) 8-5
3. Laura Pola/Danon Beatty (Fresno State) vs. Laura Baum/Bianca Jochimsen (Boise State) 6-7, unfinished
Boise State 23-4; National ranking #36
Fresno State 22-5; National ranking #16
Order of finish: Doubles (1,2); Singles (6,3,4,1,2,5)
2009 WAC Tournament Championship Match
No. 1 seed Fresno State vs. No. 2 seed Boise State