After capturing the regular season title, Coach Mark Tichenor's Boise State team still had to go into hostile territory and prove themselves worthy against the eight-time defending WAC Champion Bulldogs of Fresno State.
Fresno State prevailed in the important doubles point, meaning all they had to do was split the singles match to win their ninth consecutive crown. The Lady Bulldogs took two of the first three singles matches to be decided. Down 3-1, Boise State had to win all three remaining singles matches.
The fate of that beautiful WAC trophy was in the hands of Pichittra Thongdach, Bianca Jochimsen and Marlena Pietzuch. Jochimsen, who lost the first set 7-5, faced the monumental task of not only coming back to win the second set but a third as well. Pietzuch won the first set 7-5 and needed just one more set. Thongdach too won her first set (6-4) but lost the second by a count of 6-2. She too would have to win a third set to bring the championship back to Boise.
Thongdach, who was recently named the top women's player in the WAC, provided the leadership. She scored an early service break to go up 3-1 on Renata Kucerkova of Fresno State. Jochimsen, meanwhile, was battling Laura Pola and the two were even at three games apiece in the second set. Not long after Thongdach's break, Pietzuch earned one of her own at #6 singles.
Despite going 8-19 in the regular season, the perennial champion Bulldogs had obviously improved. They had just upset #2 seed Nevada to earn a berth in the finals. Plus, Anastasia Petukhova, the #14 player in the nation, was being saved especially for this match. Injured for much of the year, Petukhova played brilliantly in beating Boise State's Lauren Megale in straight sets 6-4, 6-3. The Fresno Bee reported that Petukhova was serving underhanded due to her injury.
Boise State's Elyse Edwards was able to win 6-2, 6-2 over Bianca Modoc at #5 singles, but Melissa McQueen responded at #4 singles with a 6-0, 6-2 win over Boise State's Stephanie Jasper to give Fresno the 3-1 lead.
The match continued to play out in dramatic fashion.
Jochimsen broke Pola late in the second set and won service to take the set 6-4 and force a third set. Pietzuch was playing phenomenal tennis and gave Boise State their second point with a 7-5, 6-1 win. The Broncos still needed both remaining singles players to win.
Thongdach was able to get another break. It was looking more and more like the third set between Jochimsen and Pola would decide the match. Thongdach led 5-1 and brought it home on her serve with a 6-4, 2-6, 6-1 victory. Thongdach's thrilling win tied the match at three and indeed the third set at #3 singles would decide the WAC title and the automatic berth in the NCAA Championships.
With the partial Fresno crowd converged above the #3 court, Jochimsen struggled to win her first two serves but was nevertheless successful. She earned a break to go ahead 3-1 but that was short-lived as Pola broke back and soon tied the set at three apiece.
It soon became tied at four. It was a very tense moment for Bianca and Boise State. If Pola could break her serve, she would then be serving for the match and a ninth straight title for the Lady Bulldogs.
But against all odds, Jochimsen prevailed. She not only won her serve but then subsequently broke serve on the next game to an amazing 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 win.
Boise State had won its first WAC title!
The Broncos are the league's automatic entry into the NCAA Championships. Boise State will learn their seed and first round opponent early next week.
Congratulations to WAC Coach of the Year Mark Tichenor and the entire 2010 WAC Champion Lady Bronco tennis team!