When the Dixie State women’s tennis team dropped a tough 4-3 decision to MSU Denver on April 6, head coach Eric Pelton gathered the team immediately following the match to issue a reminder that the Trailblazers would have another shot at the Roadrunners a few weeks later.
“Before we even left the parking lot after the match in Denver, we sat down and talked about what a tough match it was,” Pelton said. “I told the girls I wanted them to remember the match and how it felt, but to let that feeling give them a chip on their shoulder to want to go and take it to MSU Denver in a few weeks at the conference tournament. And they did just that. They did exactly what we talked about in Denver.”
Fast forward to Saturday and that day had come. Dixie State and MSU Denver matched up at the Elliott Tennis Center in Grand Junction, Colorado, with the 2019 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Title on the line. And the Trailblazers would not let the opportunity pass by, battling to a 4-2 victory to claim their first-ever conference championship and avenge their earlier loss to the Roadrunners in the process.
“The girls worked extremely hard this year and really put their heart and soul into this season,” Pelton said. “We always knew we had a chance to win the conference, so to see it all come together in the end and accomplish that goal and that dream was just exciting.”
Like the match in Denver, the Trailblazers cruised through doubles play to claim the point and build a 1-0 lead. Yolena Carlon and newly named RMAC Co-Freshman of the Year Isabel Heras rolled to a 6-2 win at No. 1, followed by a 6-4 victory for Kyra Harames and Megan Lynch in the No. 2 position to clinch the doubles point. And this time, Dixie State would not let that lead evaporate during singles play.
“We reminded them to just go out and play their game during singles,” Pelton said. “We told them to hit their shots and execute the things we’ve been working on all season. That’s all it really came down to was them realizing they could do it, and they caught that vision.”
MSU Denver took a brief 2-1 lead early in singles play, claiming victories at No. 2 and No. 5. But the lead didn’t last long. Juliana Honczaruk made quick work of her match at No. 6 and rolled to a 6-1, 6-3 win to tie the match at 2-2. After dropping the first set at No. 4 singles, Megan Lynch rallied for a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 win to push the Trailblazers to a 3-2 lead.
Needing just one win out of the two remaining singles matches, Heras rose to the occasion. Just two days after sharing the RMAC Freshman of the Year award with MSU Denver’s Helena Steenberg, Heras settled the debate with an RMAC title-sealing victory over Steenberg at the No. 3 position. Steenberg claimed a 6-4 decision in the first set, but Heras would not be denied, and countered with a 6-3 win in set two and a 7-5 triumph in the decisive third set to clinch the RMAC championship for the Trailblazers.
Dixie State closes the 2018-19 season with a 13-4 overall record, tying the program record for most wins in a season (13, 2013-14) and setting a new program record for highest winning percentage at .765.