The Cougars defeated the Hope International Royals last Saturday with a smashing 9-0 win in an away game at the Cal State Fullerton tennis courts. The Cougars’ record increased to 3-0 for the season after the win against the Royals.
Hope International’s women’s tennis team is currently ranked seventh out of nine schools in GSAC standings, while Azusa Pacific is ranked second, right after Fresno Pacific.
“It wasn’t surprising,” sophomore business administration major KIM KOETTERHEINRICH said. “We expected to win.”
The scores reflected the confidence of the team in the match against Hope International. NATALIE MCNALL defeated her opponent 6-2, 6-1 at No. 1 singles. LEAH HOFFEE and EMILY HARRIS both dominated with scores of 6-0, 6-0 at No. 2 and No. 3 singles, respectively. NAKIETA HEIN and DANAE INGWALDSON both won with 6-1, 6-0 at No. 4 and No. 5 singles, while Koetterheinrich won No. 6 singles by default due to an ineligible player on the other team.
The doubles team had sweeping scores as well. Hein and Harris finished No. 1 with a perfect 8-0 score, while McNall and MOLLY RUBY scored 8-1 at No. 2 and Ingwaldon and Bethany Duval won No. 3 by default.
“Getting a match in, getting confidence for the players and being able to work on some things in their game before they play bigger matches is good for us,” assistant coach DAVID GOODMAN said.
These bigger matches were right after the Hope International match, as the Cougars prepared to dive into a much tougher week with four scheduled matches. The team won the first match of the week against the Concordia Eagles on Monday in an away game.
Concordia is ranked No. 5 on the NAIA Preseason Coaches’ Poll, two spots ahead of Azusa Pacific. The Cougars finished with a final score of 6-3 and pulled their record to 4-0 for the season.
“The game [against Concordia] was really solid,” senior communication studies and team captain Natalie McNall said. “Every single person fought hard and played very consistently. There’s a lot of spirit with all the girls on our team, and everyone was pumping each other up.”
The scores were close due to the Eagles’ challenging and competitive skill level. McNall and Ingwaldson lost their singles matches at No. 1 and No. 4, with scores of 6-1, 6-2 and 6-2, 6-2, respectively. Hoffee and Koeterheinrich won their games relatively easily with scores of 6-2, 6-3 and 6-2, 6-0 at No. 2 and No. 6, while Harris worked to win a 7-5, 6-3 victory at No. 3 and Hein finished with a 6-4, 7-5 win at No. 5.
The doubles matches were also close, with Hein and Harris losing 8-4 at No. 1, Ingwaldson and Hoffee winning with 8-6 at No 2, and Ruby and McNall scoring 8-4 at No. 3.
“When you beat somebody ranked ahead of you, it definitely helps in the rankings and it gives your team confidence,” Goodman said. “I wasn’t surprised though, because I think our womens team is as strong as it’s ever been. They work extremely hard, so when they win I’m not surprised because I know the effort they put in and I know how good they are.”
After the win against Concordia, the Cougars prepared themselves for a tough away match against Fresno Pacific on Tuesday, the following day.
Fresno Pacific is ranked No. 2 on the NAIA list, and has never lost to Azusa Pacific in the past six seasons that the teams have competed against each other. The Fresno Pacific Sunbirds were up to play the Cougars last week, but the match was postponed due to the rain.
(The results of the Fresno Pacific match can be seen online at www.apu.edu/athletics/tennis/womens/schedule.)
The Cougars are still in the middle of a packed week. They will play two more opponents this weekend: Grand Canyon University on Friday, Feb. 24th in a home game and Vanguard University on Saturday, Feb. 25th in an away game. Grand Canyon is a No. 14-ranked NCAA Division II team, and Vanguard is ranked No. 9 on the NAIA Preseason Coaches’ Poll, only two spots away from the Cougars’ ranking of No. 7.
“We’ve been working hard, practicing a lot, and doing all the stuff right,” head coach MARK BOHREN said. “We’ll probably have some good moments this week and some things that we will be able to learn from and work on. This week will be a little more telling of our level.”