Ball State women’s tennis can't repeat as MAC Champions falling short in tournament
As the Ball State women's tennis season ended in heartbreak yesterday in the Mid-American Conference semifinal to Miami, head coach Max Norris said his team had lapses and let their emotions get the best of them. He said he couldn’t ask much more from his team this year after winning back-to-back MAC regular-season championships.
“I couldn’t be prouder of what our team did,” Norris said. “There’s not a doubt in my mind that any of these teams still here, Miami, Akron, Buffalo, they would trade places with the things we’ve done the last two years and it’s not even a question. So, I can’t be sad about that.”
The atmosphere was electric inside the Northwest YMCA. All the stands in the arena were full of noisy supporters willing their team on. For those sporting the red of Ball State, the day got off to a great start in the doubles.
Ball State women's tennis honors:
MAC regular season champions: 2016, 2017
MAC tournament champions: 2016
Qualified for NCAA Championships: 2016
Ironically, throughout the season, the doubles are where Ball State (20-3, 8-0 MAC) has been tested the most and punished for starting slowly. This would lead to stronger singles matches where they could isolate their opponents and pick them off one by one. Yesterday, though, this wasn’t the case.
Sophomore Peyton Gollhofer said her opponent played “incredible” on her way to beating her 6-2 7-6 (1). Gollhofer was the deciding factor in the past two matches for the Cardinals, but as much as she screamed herself around the court, she couldn’t muster another heroic feat. Her face was one of desperation as she threw everything at Miami’s Anzhelika Shapovalova.
“It sucks," said a tearful Gollhofer. "Sucks. That’s just it. It sucks. We’re all just sad, obviously. I can’t really describe it. It’s horrible.”
Sophomore Audrey Berger won her singles match yesterday, but it was to be a mere consolation point.
“Not going to lie, it does hurt, but I’m so proud of this team," Berger said. "I love them all to death. I mean we fought right until the last point. So proud of them. Can’t ask for anything more than a bunch of sisters that are with you there until the end.”
Berger described a moment post-match where the players stood together in a circle in the building where they’ve trained and played in for years.
“None of us wanted to leave," Berger said. "We were just perfectly happy standing here at the YMCA."
This was the last match for the three seniors on the team. Berger could only say positive things about her departing teammates.
“On and off the court, I can’t put into words how much impact those three girls have on my life," Berger said. "I’m really going to miss them, living with them, seeing them every day. It’s something really special knowing that they had my back no matter what,” said Berger.
One of the graduating seniors is Toni Ormond. After winning her doubles with sophomore Isabelle Dohanics, Ormond fell 6-3 6-2 in her singles match. Her voice was tainted with heartbreak as she explained how she felt her day went.
“Definitely for myself, I’m really disappointed and I wish I could’ve done more for the team,” Ormond said. “I know we all rely on each other so much but I just didn’t step up the way I needed to, to help my teammates and to help myself.”
Senior Rosa Calderon was not able to get on court for what would be her final time with the Cardinals, and Norris said it was just “a bummer” it turned out that way. Although this will be her last time playing, senior Carmen Blanco returns next year as the team’s graduate assistant, taking the place of Tessa Lyons, who Norris said has done “a remarkable job.”
Berger said she and her teammates stand together as a team, win or loss.
“Not saying it’s a bad thing but, if my team doesn’t win, then it doesn’t feel like I’ve won," Berger said. "I think all of us feel the same way too. It’s all a team effort. We’re a team."