IUP tennis went back on top of the PSAC after claiming the title Friday. It was the third title since 2017, but was unconventional compared to their last ones.
The team was scheduled to play Millersville in the title match at the Maple Street Courts in Indiana, but was canceled due to COVID-19 protocols. This meant the Crimson Hawks won the title by default. It was the team’s first since 2018.
“Winning PSAC was in our mind at all times, and we work hard for it,” Idoia Huerta (junior, biology) said. “This season has not been easy on us. We have played different matches with four or five players due to injuries and/or health concerns. It is not easy to play with only four players, and we managed to do it and win.
“We were out for one month at the beginning of the season and that caused us to not be super prepared for it. Despite all that, we work harder, and we create an opportunity for us to win. Winning PSAC is exciting.”
Despite the fact that IUP won the championship, some of the athletes were saddened by the news they would not be able to compete Saturday.
“The team reaction when coach [Larry] Peterson announced that we won was no excitement at all,” Huerta said. “It was all sad expressions, disappointment, etc. There is nothing like winning the match on the court.
“We knew that our chances of winning were really high after defeating SRU. We were ready to win on the court; we were ready to get the PSAC Championship, and winning it by not playing is never fun. I remember the excitement when we clinched the semifinals, and that was awesome. It would have been great to win on the court.”
“We all were shocked when coach told us about Millersville,” Laura Dunarova (junior, accounting) said. “It took us a while to process it. It would feel better if we played on Saturday, but there is nothing we could do about it. I do not think this title feels different because we all worked hard the entire semester, and we deserved it.”
The Crimson Hawks were coming in red hot after defeating Slippery Rock 4−1 on April 28 during the PSAC Semifinals in Indiana. That win extended the team’s win streak to six.
It also helped IUP finish with a 13−3 overall and 6−0 record in the PSAC. Millersville was coming in with a four-match win streak with an 8−4 overall and 4−1 conference record.
With the PSAC title secured, IUP now looks ahead to the Atlantic Region Championships where they will face Slippery Rock on Monday. The team is excited for the opportunity to compete on a national level.
“The team energy is great,” Dunarova said. “We are happy about our game and results.
“The plan is to work hard this week and get ready for regionals. We want to go to nationals in Arizona.”
“The excitement level is OK,” Huerta said. “We won in a way that we did not want to win. Regionals is the big tournament that we have been waiting for since day one. Regionals is the door for nationals, our goal.
“This year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, only one team from the region makes it to the NCAA tournament. We are ranked No. 2 in the region where Charleston is ranked No. 1. We lost 4-3 against Charleston the last time.
“We are in a better position regarding injuries and health concerns. We have a chance; we believe we can do it. The level of excitement is high and at the same time mixed with the nerves and the desire of winning regionals.”
As Huerta said, the Crimson Hawks’ biggest opposition is the Charleston Golden Eagles, who won the Mountain East Conference Championship against West Virginia State 4−1. They will go into the Atlantic Regional Championships with a 14−3 record on the season.
The Crimson Hawks and Golden Eagles last competed against each other on April 10 in Charleston, West Virginia. If IUP wants to make it to the NCAA Championships, they will need to get past some steep competition.
The first round of the NCAA Atlantic Regional Championships will begin Monday with the champion crowned the next day in Charleston.