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Trailblazers Four-Peat for Region 24 Championship

Article by: Jim Hunstein,
The women’s tennis team defeated Rend Lake College 6-3 on Saturday, April 11 for their fourth consecutive Region 24 Championship. The finals were held on a beautiful spring Saturday at the Andy Simpson Tennis Complex on the Lewis and Clark Community College campus. 

The Region 24 title, the women’s fourth in a row and 10th in the last 12 years, propels the team to the NJCAA National Championship held this year on May 2-8 in Tucson, Arizona. Last year, the Trailblazers finished tied for 20th in the country, which was up from 23rd the year before. 

“The overall match was very close even though some of the matches weren’t,” said head coach Jim Hunstein.  “The match at three doubles was decided by a couple games and the match at four singles was decided by a couple points in the third set tiebreaker. But we won the games and points we needed to for the team win.”

Even though the two teams played the same line-ups and match-ups as they used in their match on April 1 and the overall score was similar (L&C won the previous meeting 7-2), several of the individual match results were quite different.  

The No. 1 doubles team of sophomore Claire Morrissey (Alton) and freshman Mel Schlaeger (Hanau, Germany) won on Saturday 8-3 but lost before 2-8.  Meanwhile, the No. 2 doubles team of sophomore Taylor Stevenson and freshman Nikki Steiner, both from Troy, lost on Saturday 2-8 but won the earlier match 8-4. 

In singles, Morrissey at #2 singles lost on Saturday but won earlier. And Steiner at No. 4 singles, won a tense, back-and-forth third set tiebreaker on Saturday, yet cruised to a 6-0, 6-0 win previously.

“Obviously in addition to winning, one of the best parts of the day was the weather,” Hunstein said. “We’ve had matches called or suspended for just about everything; lightning, rain, tornado warnings, sleet, snow, cold, and darkness. I was just waiting for a herd of locust to come out of the trees. It was nice to play when we could all just focus on tennis.”

Next up for the Trailblazers are two more four-year schools, both at home, including McKendree University on Tuesday, April 14, at 2 p.m. and Fontbonne University on Wednesday, April 15, at 6 p.m. The McKendree match will be a dual match with the men’s teams.

After that, the team will be practicing intently to prepare for the competition at Nationals. 

 “We play a tough schedule all season long," Hunstein said. “I want the women to be ready for the level of competition in the postseason.”

Following are the match results from the Region 25 Championships against Rend Lake:
1D: Mel Schlaeger/Claire Morrissey (LC) def. Paige Hutchcraft/Evelyn Mendez (RL); 8-3 

2D: Taylor Stevenson/Nikki Steiner (LC) lost to Marisa Uhls/Katie Wall (RL); 2-8

3D: Alex Dennis/Merle Bitter (LC) def. Emily Culbreth/Sydney Crews (RL); 8-6

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

2S: C. Morrissey (LC) lost to  M. Uhls (RL); 4-6, 3-6

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

4S: N. Steiner (LC) def. K. Wall (RL); 6-2, 3-6, 10-8

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

6S: A. Dennis (LC) def. S. Crews (RL); 6-4, 6-2