Texans close season with epic win at Abilene Christian, finish perfect in WAC play

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ABILENE – What. A. Season.

Tarleton entered their season finale at Abilene Christian on Saturday already with the Western Athletic Conference Southwest Division title, and left with a firm undefeated conference record, coming in dramatic fashion.

Deniza Marcinkevica, playing in her final collegiate match, used a late third-set rally, winning in tiebreaker fashion in a tied 3-3 team match to boost Tarleton to their seventh straight win, the Texans’ longest winning streak since Feb. 22 through March 21, 2014.

The Texans finished their incredible 2021-22 season 18-4 overall, 5-0 in conference play, and 10-0 against WAC teams. With their 4-3 win against ACU at the Eager Tennis Pavilion in Abilene, Texas, Tarleton went undefeated in the conference for the first time in at least the past 15 years, while claiming their first winning record on the road since 2017-18 (5-3 – Tarleton went 5-0 in the other matches played away from Stephenville at neutral site locations).

There was a lot to play for all around the conference on Saturday, mostly regarding WAC Tournament seeding. 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. With Tarleton and Dixie State ineligible, the top three teams from each division, followed by the next two best teams overall make the tournament, with one odd team out. The last spot came down to ACU, Lamar and Chicago State. If Tarleton beat ACU and Lamar beat UTRGV, the Wildcats would have had their season come to an end.

The Wildcats played like it throughout, showing as much emotion as any Tarleton opponent this year, boosted by a strong crowd in Abilene. The Texans shut them down early though, easily taking the doubles point for the 10th straight time. Since head coach Elianne Douglas-Miron changed up the doubles pairings on March 5, Tarleton never lost a doubles point.

Marcinkevica and Martha Makantasi won in the top flight 6-2 over Allison Stewart and Sylvia Viljoen. At the No. 2 position, Jemi Aguilar and Elsa Boisson defeated Ileana Mocciola and Eva Arranz 6-3 to clinch the point. The No. 3 doubles match between Tarleton’s Celia Vaudiau-Faustine Palatte and ACU’s Maryjoe Crisologo-Andrea Guerrero went unfinished with the Texans up 4-3. This was the senior Palatte’s final match as a Texan, ending her year going 9-5 in doubles, 9-3 with Vaudiau. Marcinkevica and Makantasi were 7-1 as a duo at No. 1, while Aguilar-Boisson were 7-2 at No. 2.

In singles, it was all Tarleton early. Makantasi won first in the No. 3 position 6-3, 6-4 over Viljoen to finish 17-4 on the year. Vaudiau won her 20th straight singles match with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Mocciola at No. 5. The Tarleton junior went 20-1, her lone loss at the hands of the No. 6 team in the nation, Texas A&M.

The Wildcats answered with three singles wins to tie the team match 3-3. Paula Garrote defeated Anna Davidson 6-3, 6-1 at No. 6, Guerrero beat Boisson at No. 4 6-2, 6-4, and Stewart took down Aguilar 6-2, 6-4.

It was all up to the top flight between Marcinkevica and Crisologo.

The Texan won the first set with ease, 6-3. In the second set, she was up 4-3 before she fell behind 4-5. She came back to make it 6-6, but fell in the tiebreaker 3-7.

The third set could not have started more horribly for Marcinkevica, down 0-3 with all momentum to ACU. Still, the Texan senior battled and won the next two games. In a seemingly pivotal deciding point in the sixth game, Crisologo won it to make it a 4-2 Wildcat advantage. Marcinkevica then won back-to-back games to tie it 4-4. Each of the next four games went serve, so the pair headed to a tiebreaker to decide the match. ACU went up 3-0, but Marcinkevica battled back again to tie it 3-3. In fact, she made it six straight points to make it 6-3 and get three match points. Crisogolo won them all, and made it four straight to get match point herself at 7-6. Marcinkevica staved off two match points before taking the tiebreaker 10-8 in dramatic fashion.

Marcinkevica went 12-6 this season, all at the No. 1 position.

This was Tarleton’s final match of the year. Even though the Wildcats lost, Lamar also lost to UTRGV, so ACU advances to the WAC Tournament as the No. 8 seed based on their head-to-head tiebreaker advantage over the Cardinals.

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