Make no mistake: Gonzaga women’s tennis is a powerful, united team ready to show just how far it can go. After a six-win day to cap off the Gonzaga Invitational and their fall season, the Zags cannot wait to see what their hard work and team chemistry will help them accomplish in the spring.
The Zags claimed two doubles victories and four singles wins on their home court Sunday while playing in an environment much like what they’ll see starting in January. The weekend tournament allowed the Zags to play simultaneously on all six courts inside the Stevens Center.
In doubles, Domonique Garley and Haruna Tsuruta started the day with a come-from-behind 7-6 (4) victory over Oregon's Nia Rose and Daniella Nasser. After falling behind 2-5, the Zags answered with four straight wins and went on to win a tiebreaker, clinching Garley and Tsuruta’s first win together as a doubles pair. Sophie Whittle and Kate Ketels also defeated a pair from Oregon on Sunday, beating Alyssa Tobita and Shweta Sangwan by a break at 6-4. Nevada Apollo and Graciela Rosas, meawhile, fell 6-1 to the last Oregon pair.
In singles play, the Bulldogs relied on each other’s support and high energy to finish out a successful tournament.
The run of four individual wins began with Rosas and Tsuruta’s straight set victories over their Idaho opponents. Tsuruta outmatched Ana Batiri with aggressive play, winning the match 6-2, 6-4. The victory was the freshman’s team-leading 11th win of the fall tournament season. On court 5, Rosas stayed focused late in sets to beat Shion Watabe 6-4, 6-4. On court 2, Whittle lost to Idaho’s Marianna Petrei 6-2, 6-1.
As half the matches came to end, the Bulldogs’ team chemistry was put on display. They gathered at the empty court 3 to root for their teammates as they fought into a third set. This bond and support continues to play a role in the team’s success.
“Our team chemistry is great on and off the court,” Apollo said. “We all hangout a lot, do team dinners and team get-togethers, and I think it really helps feeling the energy knowing that we all want each other to do well.”
With her teammates cheering her on, Apollo fought hard to complete a comeback against Idaho's Lucia Badillos. Apollo fell behind in the first set, but made Badillos work for every point in the second. In the deciding third set, Apollo prevailed with a 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 win, making her the only Bulldog with three singles wins this weekend.
On court 6, Katie Day took home the last victory of the day for the Zags defeating Idaho’s Claire Yang 3-6, 6-0, 6-2. Fighting in a third, tie-breaking set, Ketels had her teammates encouraging here every step of the way, but dropped the hard-fought match 2-6, 6-2, 5-7.
Never-ending fight at the end of long tournaments and continued support no matter the result of a match have become trademarks of this talented team’s greatness. With all Zags playing at a high level, head coach D.J. Gurule is pleased with the way his team finished the fall season.
"It's a perfect end to our season," Gurule said. "To see us battle and jell, especially on the last day when we're tied and ready to be done; for them to compete like that is great.”
The Zags have also benefited from improvement in several players. Gurule noticed a difference in Apollo as she worked hard in the offseason to increase focus and get in the best shape possible. Fellow sophomore Whittle has also done a remarkable job of building on a stellar freshman year. With the freshmen bringing more energy to the team, it is hard to pick just one player who stood out in the fall.
The Zags fall season has come to an end, but the team is focused on getting back on the court together as they shift from tournament play to the dual season.
“I’m just looking forward to competing and having a line-up with my team one through six,” Apollo said. It’s nice to play all together where in the fall tournaments sometimes you can go on and none of your teammates will be on.”
The Bulldogs remind each other day-in and day-out they are still a young team and have much to learn, yet Gurule and his team have reason to be especially excited about what the spring has in store for them.
“We have a very talented team that is passionate about tennis and passionate about each other,” Gurule said. They're willing to work hard...and I'm excited to work with them in the spring.”
After a break, the Zags will return to the court in Jan. 2017 to kick off the spring dual season.