CALIFORNIA, Pa. -- Trailing 4-3 with two singles matches remaining, Mercyhurst had to turn to its proven senior and its star rookie to come from behind to knock off West Liberty 5-4 in the opening round of the NCAA Division II Women's Tennis Tournament. The Lakers improved to 13-5 overall and advance to Sunday's second round against the top-seed in the Atlantic Region, California (Pa). The Hilltoppers finished its season with a 14-10 mark.
Senior Caroline Bristol, a three-time All-PSAC selection in both singles and doubles, tied the match at 4-4 with a three-set victory against West Liberty's Lauren Howard at No. 1 singles. Bristol, a native of Orchard Park, New York, won the first set 6-3 before Howard convincingly won the second set 6-1. In the third set, Bristol was able to hold off Howard 7-5 to knot the match.
The teams watched as the final result of the day was at No. 4 singles where freshman Annie Baich, who entered with an 18-2 singles record in her rookie campaign, was battling West Liberty's Emily Dawson. Dawson won the first set by a 6-2 final, only to watch Baich cruise to 6-1 and 6-2 wins in the second and third sets to give the Lakers the opening-round victory and a rematch with California.
Last season, the Vulcans ended the Lakers' season with a 5-0 victory in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
West Liberty took two of three doubles matches to take a 2-1 lead heading to singles action. Mercyhurst's only victory came at No. 2 doubles where Courtney Thompson and Annie Baich were able to hold off Raquel Cabero and Alex Barr 9-7.
Thompson, an All-PSAC selection in singles this season, won her solo match against West Liberty's Raissa Wischi 6-1, 6-1 to tie the match at 2-2. Junior Sarah Baich won at No. 3 singles, defeating Cabero 6-3, 6-3 to give the Lakers a 3-2 lead. The Hilltoppers won the next two matches to take a 4-3 lead before the heroics from Bristol and Annie Baich gave the Lakers the victory.