by Jimmy Chau
After a thorough defeat at the hands of eventual champion Whitworth, a limping Pioneer squad upsets a heavily battered Linfield team 5-4 at the year end conference tournament.
Lewis & Clark, coming off two matches the day prior and Linfield, hurting from a draining battle with Whitman, took the court in a battle of wills. With both teams missing players from their usual lineups and ladies who were playing through injuries, it was nip and tuck all day long as to who was going to take the match. First to claim a point for the Pios was the unlikely duo of senior Maggie Peach and freshman Macrina Sharpe who for the second day in a row came up with a big doubles point for their team. The edge would quickly dissipate as Linfield would jump to early leads in the first and second flights and hold on for wins and a 2-1 lead. Isabelle Borris, playing through hand and leg pains would be the first off the court and to even it up for the Pios as she took down Kiana Nip. Macrina Sharpe, a big surprise for the Pioneers all weekend would give the Pioneers the lead again with a thorough 6-1, 6-1 victory at the number six flight. The 3-2 lead would not last long as all conference player Abby Olbrich would slip by Lisa Harunaga who was playing some very solid tennis. Sarah Click would take her match soon after to give the lead back to the Wildcats 4-3. Playing side by side on courts four and five, the two remaining contests would have to go the Pios' way to come out victorious. Peach, playing in her last match for the Pios would make the most of it by grinding out her match against a big hitting Jill Heilbrunn. So the stage was set for the second time this weekend, another dual match that would go down to the last contested flight. Jill Coleman and Kirstie Franceschina would take it the distance for the decider. After Coleman took a close first set 6-4 with some timely shot making, Franceschina would give the large Wildcat contingent a lot to cheer about by playing a very conservative and mostly error free second set that seemed to bother Coleman. Coming out of the break, a different Coleman would emerge. Playing calm, cool, and patiently, Coleman would take the time to develop points and play to her strengths. Playing the underdog role all tournament long, the Pios would end up celebrating another upset win after an impressive third set turn around by Coleman in a 6-0 rout. In one of the most all around competitive conference tournaments in years, the undermanned Pios left their mark with an almost unthinkable third place finish. Coach Gundars Tilmanis was thoroughly impressed by the way these players came together in the wake of some late season adversity to play their hearts out against whoever was put out before them. Coach Chau believed the team's chemistry and the growing pains of a tough season set up by the coaches were key in the maturation of the players and their success this past weekend. After a grueling season and three matches in the span of two days, the coaches were surprised to find the Pios still hungry and already talking about the possibilities for the upcoming season. This is a special group of kids who have found the right mix for high level competitiveness, all the while making the journey just as rewarding as the destination.