Another thrilling finish on championship Sunday saw Las Cruces native Lindsay Harlas play the hero and clinched the Western Athletic Conference Championship and NCAA Tournament berth for the New Mexico State women’s tennis team in a three-set thriller – giving the Aggies a 4-3 victory over Grand Canyon at the Brownsville Tennis Center.
Down 4-3 in the final set, Harlas battled back to take the 5-4 lead before the changeover. However, GCU’s Celia Morel fought back to tie things up at 5-5 with Harlas serving next. The hometown hero would rally and go ahead 6-5 over her opponent and tie things up at 30-30 before clinching match point, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5.
“We are so excited to have won this year and it couldn’t have been clinched in a more perfect way,” said second-year head coach Emily Wang. “I am so proud of Lindsay for handling the pressure and beating a player that beat her in regular-season. This team has worked so hard this year and they earned every bit of the battle.”
Sunday’s victory is just the second time New Mexico State (15-9) has won the WAC Championship and earned an NCAA Tournament berth. The program’s first championship and tournament berth came in 2015.
The first installment of championship Sunday between NM State and Grand Canyon began with the Lopes taking court No. 3 over the Aggies in doubles action 6-1. However, Yadira Rubio and Harlas had other plans and took down their opponents on court No. 2 6-4 before Harsha Challa and Gavi Kalaga clinched the doubles point with a 6-3 win at the top slot.
Grand Canyon (10-9) quickly tied things up in singles play when Rebecca Keijzerwaard was bested at the No. 1 position 6-1, 6-3 by Emilia Occhipinti. Ludovica Infantino gave the Lopes a 2-1 edge when she bested Rubio 6-2, 6-4 on court No. 5.
Neus Torregrosa knotted things back up for NM State when she bested Martina Lo Pumo 6-3, 6-3 on court No. 4 before GCU went up 3-2 thanks to a 6-4, 6-2 defeat of Challa at the No. 3 position. Freshman Chloe Gavino was able to fend off Autum Prudhomme on court No. 6 and ousted her 6-2, 6-3 to set up the thriller on court No. 2 with Harlas.
The senior had won the first set 6-3 over Morel but couldn’t keep the momentum and dropped her second set 6-3 to set up the exciting finish that went in Harlas’ favor.
New Mexico State will now return home to the NM State Tennis Center where it’ll wait and find where it’ll go for the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA Selection Show is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. (MT) via live-stream.