By Giancarlo Santoro, Sports Writer

The Pacific Lutheran University women’s tennis team spent its spring break winning two and losing two in four nonconference matchups against California schools Caltech, Whittier, California Lutheran and Occidental.

PLU started the trip slowly after losing the opening two games by scores of 9-0 against Caltech and 8-1 against Whittier. The Lute women rebounded, however, to earn a hard fought 5-4 victory over sister school Cal Lutheran and closed the trip out with a commanding 7-2 win over Occidental.

With the wins, PLU improved to 8-4 overall and 4-2 in Northwest Conference play.

“I think that California is always a learning experience for our team,” junior Allison McClure said. “We play a few schools that are tough and push us to the limits, as well as pulling on our depth to battle it out and win against schools that are very close to us.”

The Lutes endured a rough outing in their opener against Caltech, which started out strong by winning three straight doubles rounds. First-years Megan Beyers and Emily Bower came the closest to victory but ended up losing 8-4.

Caltech swept the remaining six singles matches to post the shutout.

Riding a three game losing streak, the Lutes would fall in the next match against Whittier, but did get on the scoresheet.

Whittier dominated the doubles competition and claimed five out of six games in the singles. Bower had the lone win for PLU in a super tiebreaker.

“Our first two matches were tough, and they were against top seeds in their conference,” sophomore Samantha Lund said. “We aren’t used to playing on these outside courts, and we had a bit of catching up to do.”

The Lutes seemed to adapt better to the outdoor surface in the following games and claimed their first win of the trip against Cal Lutheran to snap a four-loss streak.

Senior Leah Newell and Lund opened up the scoring for PLU in the doubles round with an 8-4 win to pave the way for an 8-6 win by McClure and junior Mariah Siemion. Bower and Beyers finished the doubles round with an 8-2 win of their own.

“I think that [the win] shows how we are learning and growing even within the few days that we are here in California,” Lund said. “We’re using these matches to learn and get better and take some new tricks and skill back to Washington to be even better competitors within our conference. “

The women finished off the trip with a solid 7-2 win over Occidental.

As in the day before, Newell and Lund, McClure and Siemion, and Beyers and Bower swept the doubles round with 8-3, 8-0 and 8-4 wins respectively.

In the singles, Newell won 6-1 and 6-0 to get off the mark and was followed by wins from McClure, Siemion and Bower. McClure won by identical 6-1 scores in two sets, while Siemion won 6-2, 6-0. Bower finished the match against the Tigers winning 6-2, 6-0.

Occidental won the first and third singles rounds to avoid the shutout.

“The main takeaways from this trip are centered around improvement,” McClure said. “Especially coming back with another half of our season left, this trip is a catalyst to keep improving and hopefully not peak too early like we did last season.”

The Lutes return to NWC action at home against Pacific this afternoon at 3:30 p.m.

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