April 22, 2012
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Army women’s tennis upset top-seeded Navy 4-1 to win the 2012 Patriot League Championship. The second-seeded Black Knights’ conference title is their eighth straight and 13th overall. With the win, Army receives the league’s automatic NCAA Championship bid into the 64-team field, marking its 11th trip to the national stage.
With rain covering most of the Northeast, matches were forced indoors into Lehigh’s Lewis Tennis Center. There were only four available courts, forcing the singles contests to be split up.
The Black Knights (22-6, 5-0 PL) jumped out to a 1-0 lead after clinching the doubles point from the Midshipmen (20-3, 4-0 PL).
Sophomores Margaret Iliev and Carly Riney improved upon their team-leading winning percentage in doubles play after knocking off Darien Sears and Dye Das at No. 3. Iliev and Riney move to 15-1 (.938) this spring and have won nine consecutive matches. The duo won in two of three tournament matches, as the quarterfinal match went unfinished with the Army sophomores ahead 6-0.
To clinch the point, sophomore Della Taylor and younger sister Elle Taylor added their names to the Army record book after securing their 27th win of the season. The pair defeated Emani Decquir and Stefanie Ton at No. 1 doubles to move into a tie for 10th all-time with Megan Noble on the Black Knights’ single-season wins list. The sisterly duo achieved the feat quicker by one match, as Noble took 39 tries to get to 27, while the Taylors did it in 38.
The Taylors were the lone Army doubles pair to win in all three tournament matches.
Navy knotted the score at 1-1 after Erin Snook defeated Iliev at No. 4 singles, 6-2, 6-0. By winning a match, the Midshipmen halted Army’s shutout streak against Patriot League foes at 14 matches, dating back to March 26, 2011.
Freshman Natalie Allen regained the lead for the Black Knights by knocking off Ton, 6-4, 7-5 at No. 3. Allen is the lone Army player to win in all three postseason matches and improved her record to 29-7 this season. The 29 victories rank tied for third all-time with Melanie Bundoc (2000-01) on Army’s single-season wins list.
Sophomore Jamila Paul pushed the lead to 3-1 after battling back at No. 2 singles. Paul was outmatched in the first set by Decquir, 1-6, but regained her ground in the second and third to prevail 6-4, 6-2.
Junior co-captain Erin Colton also needed three sets to put away a Midshipman, but Colton did so in match-clinching style. The junior defeated Sears 6-3 in the first set, before the Navy player won by the same margin in the second. Despite being down 0-2, Colton rallied in the third to seal the victory for the Black Knights, 6-3.
Following the match, Colton and Allen were named tournament co-MVPs.
“Navy played tough,” said Army head coach Paul Peck. “They lost the doubles point a few times this season and still won the match, so we knew it wasn’t going to be easy even though we took doubles.
“I’m proud of the way our girls battled,” Peck continued. “Natalie has been solid for us all year and winning all three matches in the tournament was key. Erin was in a pretty clutch situation for us. I would have hated to have put a freshman in that situation, so as a captain it was huge for her to step up and play well like that, even when she found herself behind late in the match.
“Overall it really was a team effort. Everyone won a match in the tournament in some regard. They’re excited, they’re pumped, and I’m proud of them.”
Army and Navy have never met in the regular season as the Black Knights move to 2-0 all-time against their academy rival. The only other meeting between the two academies was in the 2011 Patriot League Championship, when Army secured a 4-0 win to capture its 12th conference crown. The Black Knights improved to 12-4 all-time in league title matches.
Army will learn its opponent and destination for the first round of the NCAA Championship on May 1 at 5 p.m. The opening round is slated to begin on May 17. The Black Knights are 0-10 in the NCAA Tournament, including last season’s 4-0 setback at No. 11 Virginia.
Army 4, Navy 1
1. D. Taylor/E. Taylor (A) def. Decquir/Ton (N) 8-2
2. Colton/Paul (A) vs. Snook/Kaufmann (N) 5-4, DNF
3. Iliev/Riney (A) def. Sears/Das (N) 8-0
Order of finish: 3, 1
1. Erin Colton (A) def. Darien Sears (N) 6-3, 3-6, 6-3
2. Jamila Paul (A) def. Emani Decquir (N) 1-6, 6-4, 6-2
3. Natalie Allen (A) def. Stefanie Ton (N) 6-4, 7-5
4. Erin Snook (N) def. Margaret Iliev (A) 6-2, 6-0
5. Gabby Winter (N) vs. Della Taylor (A) 6-4, 4-1, DNF
6. Elle Taylor (A) vs. Noelle Kaufmann (N) 4-3, DNF
Order of finish: 4, 3, 2, 1