Fearless. That's been the word to describe the youthful Midwestern State women's tennis squad throughout the 2017 campaign as the 15th-ranked Mustangs did not back down from the challenge of capturing the program's third Lone Star Conference title in four years Saturday afternoon in a 5-1 victory over No. 3 seed Tarleton State at the Arlington Tennis Center.
The victory over the TexAnns solidified a spot for Midwestern State (21-4) into its 17th NCAA Tournament, earning one of 21 automatic bids for the 48-team postseason field beginning Monday, May 1 at select campus sites.
The Mustangs won two of three doubles matches and three singles matches in straight sets en route to claiming their first league crown since capturing back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015.
MSU fended off a feisty Tarleton State (12-10) squad in doubles play with junior Daria Panferova and sophomore Eirini Kontaki lifting the Maroon and Gold to an early 1-0 advantage with an 8-5 victory at No. 2 over Erika Johnston and Ashleigh Elward.
On court three, the tandem of Alicia Barbaroux and Tori Simmons snapped the 15-match win streak of sophomore Greta Lazzarotto and freshman Ashley Ramirez with an 8-5 win to even the match at 1-1.
Trailing 7-4, sophomore Maddy Coffman and freshman Bianca Duff won five-straight games to propel the Mustangs back in front with a 9-7 triumph at the top position over Luiza Ferraro-Adas and Elena Preadca for a 2-1 lead in the match.
Midwestern State overpowered the TexAnns in singles play with Duff dropping just one game before posting a 6-0, 6-1 win over Barbaroux at line three to push the MSU lead to 3-1.
Kontaki helped the Mustangs to a 4-1 advantage soon after with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Preadca on court two before Ramirez earned the clincher at No. 6 with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Simmons.
Midwestern State will be one of four teams from the South Central Region to advance to the NCAA Tournament. The Mustangs will learn their opening round opponent Tuesday at 7 p.m. when the NCAA Selection Show airs online at NCAA.com.
Midwestern State's rally fell just short in the Lone Star Conference title match Saturday afternoon with the third-seeded Mustangs erasing a 4-2 deficit before falling in a 5-4 result to No. 1 Cameron.
After Cameron (16-10) built a 4-2 advantage, Chris Norrie and Angel Palacios kept the Mustangs alive to even the match at 4-4. Norrie recorded a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Julen Gutierrez on court five before Palacios overcame a first set defeat to earn a 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 win against Bruno Babic at No. 2.
However, the Aggies halted the Midwestern State (14-10) comeback to earn their first LSC crown with 50th-ranked Vinicius Santos winning the final three games for a 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 win over No. 9 Ramon Toyos at No. 1 singles to lift the Aggies to the title.
Cameron began the match by taking two of three doubles matches, both by 8-6 scores on courts two and three. Toyos and Dillon Pineda tallied MSU's lone point in doubles play with an 8-3 rout over the nation's 13th-ranked team in Felipe Oyarzun and Mateo Velasco at No. 1.
Denney Norrie was first off the court for the Mustangs in singles, coasting to a 6-2, 6-3 win over Keiran President at No. 6 to knot the match at 2-2.
The Aggies followed soon after with straight-set wins on courts three and four to pull the momentum back to the Black and Gold.
Midwestern State will learn its postseason fate Tuesday with the NCAA Selection Show airing online on NCAA.com at 7:30 p.m.