The Tarleton tennis team has already accomplished everything it could have possibly hoped for this year. The Texans are undefeated in the conference, boast an exceptional overall record, have received a dozen weekly awards, and already clinched the Western Athletic Conference Southwest Division title.
With one final match remaining in 2021-22, it’s about wrapping up the year with a fifth cherry on top – beating rival Abilene Christian and potentially keeping them out of the conference tournament.
Tarleton, who is in the second year of a four-year reclassification period to NCAA Division I, isn’t eligible to play in the WAC Tournament until next season. That’s a shame especially in a year like this one, since the Texans are 4-0 in conference play and 9-0 against WAC teams overall.
But there is still a lot to play for Saturday, a match set for 12 p.m. CT at the Eager Tennis Pavilion in Abilene, Texas. On Tarleton’s side of things, the Texans could finish conference play undefeated for the first time in at least the last 15 years. They’d finalize 2021-22 at 18-4 overall, adding another victory to their most wins in a season since 2005-06. It would be Tarleton’s seventh straight win to end the year, which would tie their longest winning streak since a seven-match run from Feb. 22 through March 21, 2014. Finally, Tarleton would claim their first winning record on the road since 2017-18, where they’re currently 4-3 (Tarleton is 5-0 in the other matches played away from Stephenville at neutral site locations).
On Abilene Christian’s side of things, a Texan win could bar the Wildcats from competing in the WAC Tournament. With Tarleton and Dixie State not eligible, eight of the other nine programs in the WAC will make it to the tournament – the top three teams from each division plus the next two best teams. Currently, the final spot is down to ACU, Lamar and Chicago State. If ACU loses, the final spot would only come down to them and Lamar. The Cardinals play Sam Houston, and if Lamar wins, the Wildcats would be the odd team out. However, with the first tiebreaker being head-to-head, ACU beat Lamar earlier this season, so if Sam Houston wins, ACU would still make it into the tournament. If ACU beats and Tarleton and Lamar beats Sam Houston, then Chicago State’s season would be over.
Individually for Tarleton, all probable singles players can make significant last polishes of their 2021-22 records. Celia Vaudiau has won 19 straight matches to go 19-1 thus far, with a nice, round 20-match winning streak on the table. Deniza Marcinkevica is 11-6 and could finish with a .667 winning percentage, all at the No. 1 position. Elsa Boisson is in a similar position at 13-7, needing a win to turn in a .667 W% mark. At 16-4, Martha Makantasi can stay above the .800 W% threshold. Anna Davidson, 5-4, can complete a winning season in her first year with the purple and white, against the same program she transferred from. And Jemi Aguilar, 8-9, can conclude her final collegiate year at .500.
In doubles, the Texans have won the doubles point in nine straight matches, a streak that started on March 5. Probable pairings are Marcinkevica-Makantasi (6-1) at No. 1, Boisson-Aguilar (6-2) at No. 2, and Vaudiau-Faustine Palatte (9-3) at No. 3.
Saturday will be the final collegiate match ever for three Texans – Aguilar, Marcinkevica and Palatte. The trio was celebrated for their great accomplishments on Senior Day in Tarleton’s last home match, and lots of emotions charged through the day, and Saturday should bring nothing less.
To top all reasons why Saturday still matters for the champion Texans is the fact that they flat out just want to win. Head coach Elianne Douglas-Miron has made it a point several times this year that her team has willed their way to victory after victory largely because of the deep winning desire. Why would that stop now?