Catherine Allen's Clincher Gives CMS Women's Tennis 5-4 Win over Emory for ITA Indoor Championship

Catherine Allen came through with a 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 win for the clinching point (photo courtesy of ITA)
Catherine Allen came through with a 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 win for the clinching point (photo courtesy of ITA)

Nicholasville, Ky. - Senior Catherine Allen won a thrilling three-setter at No. 2 singles (7-5, 3-6, 7-5) to provide the decisive point as the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women's tennis team, ranked No. 2 in the nation, outlasted No. 3 Emory for a 5-4 victory to earn the ITA Indoor Championship on Sunday afternoon at Centre College.

With the win, CMS improves to 10-0 on the year and avenges a 5-3 defeat to Emory in the ITA Indoor Championship last season. The two teams also played for the 2018 Division III National Championship in Claremont, when CMS prevailed 5-4 to win the program's first ever national title. 

Allen and junior Caroline Cox also provided a point at No. 1 doubles with an 8-6 win, which was the same score on all three doubles courts. First-year Justine Leong and sophomore Crystal Juan also won 8-6 at No. 2 doubles, while senior Nicole Tan and sophomore Sarah Bahsoun were edged 8-6 at No. 3. 

Emory earned the first singles win, before Cox gave CMS back the lead at 3-2 with a 6-3, 6-1 win at No. 6 singles. Emory again was able to tie the score, before Leong came through with a statement win at No. 1 singles, defeating defending national champion Ysabel Gonzalez Rico 6-3, 6-3 to put the Athenas back in front. With the showcase victory, Leong rimproves her singles record to 18-1 on the year, with the only loss coming to Jada Hart of UCLA in the second round of the ITA Fall Nationals in Newport Beach, California. The only other set she has lost all season was the first set against Ghazal Pakbaten of Division II Concordia Irvine in her debut tournament in September. 

Leong's win gave CMS a 4-3 lead, leaving No. 2 and No. 3 singles as the last two courts to determine the match. Junior Rebecca Berger, who won a second set tiebreaker to earn a split, trailed 5-2 at No. 3 singles in the third set, before earning a big break and a hold to pull back within 5-4. Alexa Goetz, though, got the hold she needed for Emory to earn a 6-2, 6-7, 6-4 win and once again tie the match score up at 4-4. 

That left Allen and Defne Olcay as the last two players on the court, and Olcay had a chance to serve the match leading 5-4 in the third. Allen dug down for the crucial break, though, and promptly held serve to take a 6-5 lead. After the changeover, Olcay tried to hold to get the match into a tiebreaker, but Allen came up big, and earned the win as Olcay's final shot attempt on break point sailed wide of the right sideline, giving Allen and the Athenas the dramatic win. 

CMS came into the match without having dropped a single point in any of its first five Division III matches, winning all five of them 9-0, but the Athenas were pushed by an Emory team that is one of the strongest contenders for the national title, along with CMS and defending national champion Wesleyan (Conn.). Allen, who has won in singles in each of the last two Division III national championship matches (a 5-4 win over Emory in 2018 and a 5-4 defeat to Wesleyan last year), drew on her experience in pressure situations to come through for CMS for the ITA Indoor title. 

CMS will be back in action at the Biszantz Tennis Center this weekend for three matches, facing Cal Lutheran on Friday at 3 p.m. and then Division I Army West Point (10 a.m.) and Swarthmore (2 p.m.) on Sunday.