WILLIAMSBURG, V.A. – For the fifth consecutive postseason, William & Mary ended the Elon University women’s tennis team’s hopes at a Colonial Athletic Association title. The Phoenix fell 4-3 in heartbreaking fashion to the Tribe on Saturday morning in the CAA championship semifinals.
“We talked about putting everything out there and leaving it all out there,” head coach Elizabeth Anderson said. “I think they fought really hard. We just came up a little short.”
No. 4 Elon pulled out the doubles point using the same pairings from yesterday’s quarterfinal win against Stony Brook. Graduate student Olivia Archer and sophomore Miray Konar won their match 6-3, which was soon followed up by a 6-2 win from junior Lizette Reding and senior Sibel Tanik.
Every singles match was intense. When most of the singles matches began to reach second sets, it was apparent that today’s semifinal was going to come down to the wire. Every point won or lost appeared to carry significant momentum swings for both teams.
Tanik dropped her first set and fought back into a competitive second set, but her efforts to force a third set came up short. With Tanik’s loss, the Tribe earned their first point of the day tying it up at one apiece. Archer dominated court five with a 6-1, 6-0 victory to give the Phoenix a 2-1 edge.
Soon after Archer’s win, Reding prevailed 6-1, 6-3. Reding’s thrilling second-set victory pushed the Elon lead to 3-1. Her win also meant the Phoenix only needed one more victory out of three remaining matches to punch its ticket to the CAA championship match.
Konar quickly fell behind in both of her sets. While Konar did manage to hang a couple of games on her opponent, she eventually fell allowing William & Mary to pull within one point of the Phoenix.
Senior Julie Ball seemed like the last hope for Elon. Ball dropped her first set and battled back from a break down in the second set. Her second-set comeback gave the Phoenix hope. However, she was broken late 7-3, giving up another point to the Tribe.
William & Mary had tied it 3-3. Based on the score of freshman Helen Sarikulaya’s match at the time, a Tribe victory seemed inevitable.
At the beginning of Sarikulaya’s singles match, she held a commanding 5-2 lead. However, she squandered it away and dropped set one 7-5. She was unable to muster a second-set comeback. Sarikulaya’s loss made it official. The Tribe had just punched its ticket to the CAA championship game.
The heartbreak set in for the Phoenix in its various forms. Archer began to cry after Ball lost her match. Senior Shauna Galvin quickly comforted her in an embrace. It wasn’t long before Galvin said something to make Archer crack a smile. Sarikulaya let out a scream of frustration as she sat on the bench. Konar hid her face with a towel as she and the Phoenix walked off the court for the final time this season.
Archer said while coach Anderson’s guidance has been influential to her, the fate of the matches comes down to the team’s desire to be successful in pivotal moments such as the semifinal match. She also said while today’s loss was a hard moment to reconcile with, her time at Elon hasn’t gone to waste.
“It's just been a huge opportunity for growth,” Archer said. “So, I'm very thankful for that.”
Anderson praised the maturity of the veteran leadership on her team this season.
“They're so impressive,” Anderson said. “The way that they've led by setting such a great example, Shauna, Olivia, and Julie have just worked so hard to help motivate their teammates.”
Elon’s 2023 campaign comes to an end with today’s loss. The Phoenix finished the season with a 16-7 record.
No. 1 William & Mary (14-5) has a chance to win its 28th CAA women’s tennis championship tomorrow at 2 p.m. The Tribe will face the No. 6 University of North Carolina Wilmington Seahawks (13-8) at the Mackesy Tennis Center. The winner will secure an automatic bid to the NCAA Women’s Tennis Tournament.