Comeback falls short as UCCS eliminated from RMAC women's tennis tournament

By Doug Fitzgerald published April 21, 2006

DENVER - A brilliant comeback fell agonizingly short as the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs fell 5-4 to the Mesa State Mavericks in the semifinals of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Tennis Tournament Friday afternoon at Gates Tennis Center.

At one point, the Mountain Lions trailed 3-2 and were down a set in three other matches. After Kaitlyn Towne completed a 6-2, 6-1 victory at No. 5 singles to lift UCCS to 3-3, Natascha Vander Molen, Jessika Kardel and Charis Lopez all came from behind to force their respective matches into a third set.

Tired from a difficult match against Nebraska-Kearney Friday morning, Lopez ran out of steam and fell 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 to put Mesa State one win away from taking the match. Vander Molen denied them that win by winning a gutsy third-set tiebreaker 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2).

"I really wanted us to go on and I knew we needed another match," said Vander Molen. "We played our freakin' hearts out and we deserved it."

Vander Molen's win put all the focus on the remaining match between UCCS' Jessika Kardel and Mesa State's Krystal Smith. After dropping the first set 6-2, Kardel was down 5-2 in the second set and facing match point. She won three straight games, eventually sending it into an improbable tiebreaker, which she won 7-3. In a third set marked by long rallies, Smith held on for a 6-4 win to send Mesa State to the RMAC championship match against Colorado State-Pueblo.

"I gave it my best," said Kardel. "It's not always about the win. It's about playing to the best of your ability and I think I did that. The whole team did that. We fought to the very end."

Katie McPhail, who capped her senior season by being named the RMAC player of the year, agreed.

"Jessika's down 5-2 and she comes back and fights to the end," said McPhail. "That's how all of our matches have been and it's how our season weighed out, too."

The unwillingness to concede defeat proved to be an identifying factor for the 2005-06 Mountain Lions. After a rough start, UCCS battled back to claim the third seed in the RMAC playoffs and a No. 10 regional ranking. Both would have seemed highly unlikely as the season began.

"This is the best team we've had since I've been playing," said McPhail. "We never give up; we fight to the end."

UCCS Players/Staff Featured

Jessika KardelJessika Kardel
Jessika KardelJessika Kardel
Jessika KardelJessika Kardel
Jessika KardelJessika Kardel
Katie McPhailKatie McPhail
Katie McPhailKatie McPhail
Katie McPhailKatie McPhail
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