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