Herd Sweeps Miami 4-0 to Earn Date With Destiny in MAC Tournament Finals Against No. 1 Seed Western Michigan
Senior Ashley Kroh celebrates her match clinching win at No. 1 singles against Linda Jirouskova of Miami Saturday afternoon at the Cardinal Creek Tennis Center.
Photo by Matt Riley
MUNCIE, Ind. – The Thundering Herd tennis team is now one step away from completing its Mid-American Conference four-peat after downing rival Miami 4-0 Saturday afternoon at the Cardinal Creek Tennis Center in Muncie, Ind., to advance to Sunday’s MAC Championship match.
Marshall, winners of three-straight MAC Tournament titles, will square off against No. 1 seed Western Michigan at 1 p.m. in the title match as it tries to avenge its only loss in conference play this year.
On Saturday, the No. 3 seeded RedHawks came out looking to dethrone the defending champs and gave the Herd a run for its money early in doubles play. Miami jumped out to quick leads on courts one and two, but the Herd reigned supreme in the end. On court three, Lille Nzudie (Duoala, Cameroon) and Shannon Brown (Overland Park, Kan.) rolled to an 8-2 win and All-American Ashley Kroh (Louisville, Ky.) and Jeanne Schwartz (West Palm Beach, Fla.) picked up momentum and played with an intense fire to rally for an 8-5 win on court two to clinch the doubles point for the Herd.
“We really anticipated a strong effort from Miami after beating them 7-0 in Huntington,” Marshall head coach John Mercer said. “They were really going after it and we had to pick up our play and gain some confidence. I think it really prepared us and helped us by giving us a challenge we had to fight through in this tournament.”
After taking the 1-0 lead with doubles win, the Herd continued to show why it’s been the MAC’s top team for the last three years. The Herd picked up where it left off in singles play with wins from the Nos. 1, 3 and 5 positions. Schwartz defeated Victoria Pulido 6-0, 6-2 in the five position and senior Joelle Good (Zurich, Switzerland) tied Alice Sukner for second place all-time on the Marshall career singles win list (92) with a 6-0, 6-0 sweep of Kelly Douple.
In the most entertaining moment of the day, Kroh and Nzudie both had won five games in their second set and were vying to finish their respective matches first to claim the win 4-0 win for the Herd. It was Kroh that prevailed, whipping through the final game with a furied pace to take the win 6-3, 6-0 over and Jirouskova and clinch it for the Herd.
“I looked over and noticed Lille was up 5-2 in her match and knew we already had three points so I picked up the pace a little and kind of had a fun competition within the competition and ended up getting the win,” Kroh said. “Mentally and physically we’ve been preparing to get to the finals all year and this win today gives us that shot. It’s a great feeling to be going for number four.”
The Herd is now 18-7 on the year and has won its last 11 matches by shutting out its opponent since losing at Western Michigan on March 25. The loss to Western Michigan snapped Marshall’s 34-match MAC winning streak.
“We’ve been trying to get to this position all year,” Mercer said. “We played really good, consistent tennis today with a lot of high percentage plays so I think we’re in a good mindset going into the finals. We’ve working to get back for another shot at Western Michigan after we lost to them and we’re excited and looking forward to playing for another MAC championship. Hopefully we’ll be ready and play well.”
Kroh said she’s ready as the seniors try to close out a sweep of MAC titles in her career at Marshall.
“We’re all very excited to be in this position to go for a fourth consecutive MAC title and hopefully we’ll continue to play as well as we’ve been playing in the past several weeks,” she said.
Kroh now has 91 career singles wins and is in fourth place all-time on that list. She is now the sole holder of first place all-time in overall wins at Marshall with 198. Good needs just one more singles win to tie Alyssa Bengel for first on the career singles list at MU with 93.
Schwartz said she’s also looking forward to helping add to the Marshall tennis dynasty as the Herd freshmen prepare for their first MAC Championship match. The freshman has been dominant thus far in the tournament going 4-0 in singles and doubles.
“I can’t wait to get out there and hopefully win,” Schwartz said. “It’s been a great experience so far and winning would be the perfect way to end this season and send the seniors out on top.”
Western Michigan enters the match 20-5 overall and is ranked No. 55 in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll. The championship match is set to start at 1 p.m. at the Cardinal Creek Tennis Center.
No. 1 – Jirouskova/Lomidze vs. Hock/Good 3-7 (DNF)
No. 2 – Kroh/Schwartz def. Swain/Pesatova 8-5
No. 3 – Brown/Nzudie def. Pulido/Douple 8-2
No. 1 – Kroh def. Jirouskova 6-3, 6-0
No. 2 – Nzudie vs. Lomidze 6-1, 5-2 (DNF)
No. 3 – Good def. Douple 6-0, 6-0
No. 4 – Hock vs. Pesatova 6-3, 4-2 (DNF)
No. 5 – Schwartz def. Pulido 6-0, 6-2
No. 6 – Swain vs. Brown 6-2, 1-4 (DNF)