Army Begins Quest For 14th Patriot League Crown

Della Taylor

Della Taylor

April 25, 2013

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WEST POINT, N.Y. - It has been an unprecedented run for Army, and the Black Knights will look to extend it another year when they vie for their 14th overall and ninth-straight Patriot League Women's Tennis Championship when the tournament gets underway Friday at the Malek Tennis Courts at West Point.

The quarterfinal bouts will begin Friday at 9 a.m., when No. 4 seed Colgate takes on fifth-seeded Lehigh. At approximately noon, second seed Navy takes the court opposite No. 7 Lafayette. The final of three quarterfinals on Friday pits No. 3 Bucknell against sixth-seeded Holy Cross.

Saturday's semifinal matches are set for 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The host Black Knights earned the No. 1 seed and will take on the Colgate/Lehigh winner in the opener. The second semifinal tilt will take place between the Navy/Lafayette winner and the Bucknell/Holy Cross winner.

The last two remaining teams will square off Sunday at 1 p.m. for the Patriot League championship and the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

In the event that play is forced indoors because of inclement weather, the matches will move to the Black Knights' state-of-the-art Lichtenberg Tennis Center.

Last year's championship victory for Army was the program's 13th overall and 12th in the last 14 seasons. Only wins by American in 2002 and again in 2004 interrupted the run.

Army's yearly march to the league crown in recent history has been accompanied by a dominating performance against conference opponents during the regular season. The Black Knights went 6-0 in Patriot League matches this spring to claim the tournament's top overall seed and extend their win streak against league foes in the regular season to 60 straight.

Junior Jamila Paul, last year's Patriot League Player of the Year, and 2012 tournament co-Most Valuable Player senior Erin Colton have won three matches in a row and are a team-best 20-7 in doubles. Freshman Carolyn Pitman and junior Margaret Iliev have also reached double digits wins and are 15-6. Sisters Della and Elle Taylor are expected to top the Black Knights' doubles lineup on Saturday.

Paul and freshman Gabriella Spindler lead the team in singles wins with 23 and 24, respectively. Both have won four matches in a row.

Army (20-6), which earned a quarterfinal bye as the No. 1 seed, will have plenty of teams looking to end its streak. At the top of the list is a rival that was so labeled even before the program's met on the tennis court for the first time in the finals of the 2011 tournament. Navy (23-4, 4-1 Patriot League) is the tournament's No. 2 seed and has finished at the runner-up each of the last two seasons.

Bucknell (9-11, 3-2) is no stranger to the championship final. The Bison advanced that far six straight years from 2005-10, losing out each time to the Black Knights.

Colgate (11-5, 2-3) in the tournament's No. 4 seed and put together one of its most successful regular seasons in recent memory. The Raiders opened the spring with nine straight victories, and senior Merideth Rock was named Player of the Month of February. Their quarterfinal opponent in Friday's opener is Lehigh (5-14, 2-4), which features a young roster of no seniors but the League's most experienced coach in Dave Shook, who is in his 24th year.

Holy Cross (3-7, 0-2) and Lafayette (4-9, 0-5) required ITA rankings to be split apart for the purposes of seeding. The Crusaders earned the No. 6 seed and will go up against Bucknell in Friday's quarterfinal round, while the seventh-seeded Leopards have a match with Navy.

Colgate won 5-2 over Lehigh in their regular-season showdown April 7 at Turning Stone in Verona, N.Y. The Raiders won at the second and third flights to capture the doubles point and were triumphant in singles at the third, fourth, fifth and sixth positions in the lineup. Navy traveled to Lafayette April 13 and picked up a 7-0 win over the Leopards. After claiming the doubles point with three tandem victories, the Mids won all six singles matches in straight sets. Erin Snook, Emani Decquir, Darien Sears and Logan Antill had a hand in two wins on the day.

Bucknell and Holy Cross have not met since going up against one another in the 2007 Patriot League Tournament. The Bison captured that match en route to making their third straight appearance in the League final.

Army will await either Colgate or Lehigh in Saturday's first semifinal. The Black Knights won 7-0 over Lehigh March 24 and swept Colgate March 29. Looking at potential semifinal battles in the other bracket, Bucknell and Navy did not meet this season, but the Bison do own a 6-1 win over Lafayette April 14. Holy Cross did not match up with either Navy or Lafayette this season.

Patriot League Women’s Tennis Tournament Notebook

The field returns to the United States Military Academy for the Patriot League Women’s Tennis Tournament for the first time since 2008, when the host Black Knights captured what was their fourth consecutive crown with a 4-3 win over Bucknell. Army serves as the host again in 2013 looking to extend their streak of dominance that reached eight consecutive League titles a year ago. Outdoor play will take place at the Malek Tennis Courts. In the event of inclement weather, competition will move to the Lichtenberg Tennis Center also at West Point.

Friday’s quarterfinal contests are set to begin at 9 a.m., when No. 4 seed Colgate goes head-to-head with fifth-seeded Lehigh to open the tournament. The second quarterfinal will start at approximately noon with second-seeded Navy battling No. 7 Lafayette. Friday’s third quarterfinal features No. 3 Bucknell taking on sixth seed Holy Cross at approximately 3 p.m. Saturday’s semifinals are set for 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., with top-seeded Army taking on either Colgate or Lehigh in the opener, and the Navy/Lafayette winner going against the Bucknell/Holy Cross winner in the second contest. Sunday’s championship battle between the semifinal winners is slated for 1 p.m.

A year after being edged out for the top spot, Army returns to familiar digs for this year’s Patriot League Tournament. The Black Knights are the No. 1 seed after going a perfect 6-0 in the regular-season against League foes. Navy rose to secure the top seed last season, ending a streak of nine consecutive years in which Army had claimed the No. 1 position.

Despite a different seed the result was the same for the Black Knights, who won three matches to claim the 2012 Patriot League Championship hosted by Lehigh University. For the second year in a row Army battled rival Navy for the hardware, and the Black Knights came away with the championship. Army leads all programs with 13 women’s tennis titles, including 12 in the last 14 years.

The rest of the field looks to end Army’s grip on the women’s tennis championship. Navy has battled the Black Knights in each of the last two Patriot League finals, and the Mids are hoping for a third crack at their rivals. But Navy isn’t the only team with designs on the title. Bucknell, which has two titles to its credit but none since 1994, advanced to the championship match for six straight years from 2005-10. Colgate has three titles but none since winning them consecutively from 1995-97, while Lafayette has one (1991) and Holy Cross none.

The student-athlete selected as the Tournament’s Most Valuable Player will be presented with the John “Pat” Rooney Award. Rooney served as the women’s tennis coach at Fordham from 1973 until his death in February 1991, and guided the Rams to the first Patriot League Women’s Tennis title in the fall of 1990.

The rivals were at it again as Army and Navy met for the Patriot League title for the second straight year. In the 2012 championship matchup at Lehigh, the Black Knights captured the doubles point and won contests at the three top singles flights to post a 4-1 win over the Mids. Erin Colton clinched the match with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win at No. 1 singles and shared the Tournament MVP honors. Colton went on to earn first-team All-League laurels.

2013 Patriot League Women’s Tennis Tournament
Friday, April 26 – Quarterfinals

No. 4 Colgate vs. No. 5 Lehigh – 9 a.m.
No. 2 Navy vs. No. 7 Lafayette – Noon
No. 3 Bucknell vs. No. 6 Holy Cross – 3 p.m.

Saturday, April 27 – Semifinals
No. 1 Army vs. Colgate/Lehigh – 10 a.m.

Navy/Lafayette vs. Bucknell/Holy Cross – 2 p.m.

Sunday, April 28 – Championship
Semifinal winners – 1 p.m.

Preview courtesy of Patriot League officials

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