No. 5 Wyoming Outlasts No. 1 Fresno State 4-3, Advances To First-Ever Mountain West Women's Tennis Championship Match

2015 MW Women's Tennis Championship Central | 2015 MW Women's Tennis Championship Bracket
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – In a match that took four hours and eight minutes, Wyoming’s Silviya Zhelyazkova took a third set tiebreaker 7-3 on number six singles as the Cowgirls defeated top-seeded and No. 49 Fresno State 4-3 to advance to the championship match for the first time their Mountain West history. The 2015 Mountain West Tennis Championships are being hosted by the University of New Mexico at the McKinnon Family Tennis Stadium.

The match marked the first time in the history of the Mountain West Tournament (either men’s or women’s) that all six singles matches went the full three sets.

The match was every bit a typical Wyoming match it terms of length, ebb-and-flow, and heart-stopping moments. The Cowgirls picked up the doubles point to open the match after splitting 1-1 on courts one and two. The Cowgirls No. 1 doubles team of Christa Gecheva and Alma Espniosa won in a tiebreak 9-7, fighting off two set points at 5-3, and then needed a fifth match point themselves before finally securing the doubles point, which would loom large.

The Cowgirls put immediate pressure of the Bulldogs by winning five of the first six sets in singles, dropping only the opening set on No. 6 as Anne Susdorf opened with a 6-4 win. Fresno State answered as you would expect the defending champions would, by tying all five of those up. When Zhelyazkova evened hers, it put all six matches into the third set.

Wyoming finally got the second point of the match with a 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 win at No. 4 by Jessica Parizher. They then went up 3-0 with Gecheva’s 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 win at No. 5 singles. That 3-0 lead should have been enough, but at No. 3 singles, Rana Sherif Ahmed fought off to match points in the second set, eventually winning right after her sister Maiar won at No. 2 singles, and it was suddenly 3-2.

Then it was time for the Mountain West Player of the Year Sophie Watts to get on the board. Watts, who entered with 21 straight wins, dropped just the fourth set of that streak to open her match, losing 11-9 in a tiebreak. After rebounding 6-3, Wyoming’s Magdalena Stencel was up 5-4 with two advancement points. Watts however staved those off, broke Stencel and then served out her win at 7-5.

That shifted the attention to court six, where Zhelyazkova was broken in the 11th game, giving Susdorf a 6-5 lead. Susdorf was then serving up 40-30, giving Fresno State two advancement points. Susdorf however double-faulted and then Zhelyazkova hit a winner down the line that Susdorf could only send back long, sending the match to a tiebreaker. In the tiebreaker, Zhelyazkova opened with a 3-0 lead, pushed it to 5-3 and then closed it out 7-3.

“That’s Wyoming tennis,” said head coach Dean Clower. 

On the importance of opening with five singles opening sets, Clower said, “We actually talked about that.  We wanted to come out hard and put some pressure on Fresno State.”

As for Zhelyazkova closing out a match for the second straight day to win 4-3, “That kid is like my closer back there.  She’s Mariano Rivera.”                                                  

Wyoming improved to 15-5 on the season, and Fresno State dropped to 18-5 and will await the NCAA selection show on Monday.                                                                                                                                          

Notes: Every match of the Mountain West Tennis Championships is available on the Mountain West Network, powered by Campus Insiders.  Download the Mountain West app to your phone or tablet to catch all the action … Wyoming had lost in the semifinals in each of the last four seasons … Wyoming is the lowest seed to reach the finals since 2010 when No. 6 TCU beat No. 5 San Diego State 4-3.