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Trailblazers Down Rend Lake for Region 24 Lead

Article by: Jim Hunstein,

The women’s tennis team defeated Rend Lake College 7-2 on April 1. The victory gives the Trailblazers sole possession of first place in Region 24 with a record of 3-0 and the top seed in the upcoming Regional Championships next weekend.   

“Rend Lake came in strong this year,” said head coach Jim Hunstein. “They always seem to play us tough, but we handled the pressure well and played well.”

As the top team in Region 24, the Trailblazers will play the winner of the Rend Lake – Kaskaskia match. The championship finals will be played at the Andy Simpson Tennis Complex on the Lewis and Clark Community College campus on Saturday, April 11, at 11 a.m.  

In last year’s finals. L&C defeated Rend Lake 8-1 to earn a trip to the NJCAA National Championship held that year in Tyler, Texas, where the team finished 20th in the country. On the line this year is a potential return trip by the Trailblazers to Nationals in Tucson, Arizona, and a chance to improve their national ranking.

Yesterday’s match began auspiciously as did Tuesday’s against Kaskaskia, with all three L&C doubles teams having their serve broken to start the day. The No. 1 doubles team of sophomore Claire Morrissey (Alton) and freshman Mel Schlaeger (Hanau, Germany) seemed to struggle in their 2-8 doubles loss, but both showed their toughness in their respective singles wins.  

Schlaeger, at No. 1 singles, battled a shoulder injury and ended up serving underhanded but still pulled off the straight-set win. Morrissey lost the first set and the first two games of the second before turning it around.  She won the third set tie-breaker 10-8 by winning the last four points in a row.

The No. 2 doubles team of sophomore Taylor Stevenson and freshman Nikki Steiner, both from Troy, came back strong for an 8-4 win. Stevenson, at No. 3 singles, lost a tough three-set singles match, which broke a two-match perfect scoring streak. She won both of her singles matches against Kaskaskia and Missouri Baptist with perfect 6-0, 6-0 scores.

The No. 3 doubles team of Alex Dennis (Godfrey) and Merle Bitter (Hamburg, Germany) won 8-3 and was the first team off the courts. Dennis followed up with a straight-set win at No. 6 singles. Sophomore Abby Mundel (Wood River) also won in straight sets at No. 5 singles.

Next up for the Trailblazers is another tough run against four-year schools, all road games, including Blackburn University on Monday, Greenville College on Tuesday, and Webster University on Thursday.   

Following are the Rend Lake match results:

1D: Mel Schlaeger/Claire Morrissey (LC) lost to Paige Hutchcraft/Evelyn Mendez (RL); 2-8 

2D: Taylor Stevenson/Nikki Steiner (LC) def. Marisa Uhls/Katie Wall (RL); 8-4 

3D: Alex Dennis/Merle Bitter (LC) def. Emily Culbreth/Sydney Crews (RL); 8-3

1S: M. Schlaeger (LC) def. P. Hutchcraft (RL); 6-2, 6-4

2S: C. Morrissey (LC) def.  M. Uhls (RL); 2-6, 6-4, 10-8 

3S: T. Stevenson (LC) lost to E. Mendez (RL); 6-2, 4-6, 5-10 

4S: N. Steiner (LC) def. K. Wall (RL); 6-0, 6-0 

5S: Abby Mundel (LC) def. E, Culbreth (RL); 6-2, 6-1

6S: A. Dennis (LC) def. S. Crews (RL); 6-2, 6-3