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Women's Tennis - Thu, May 11, 2017

Georgetown College women's tennis is doing something no Tiger has done since 2008 – send an entire team to nationals. The ladies got the unexpected news this past Monday.

"I had an idea that we were going to make it based on the alteration of the way at-large teams are selected," said Jessica Cunningham. "I didn't let the team in on my feelings though as I wanted it to be a surprise. At the end of conference tournament all our players are always physically and mentally drained and ready to step away from the game and focus on finals.

"So once I received the message Monday that we were in, I did a group text that said, 'Ladies, congratulations on making the national tournament, see you at practice tomorrow. Once the team got over their initial shock of qualifying for the tournament, everyone was excited to take on the challenge."

The No. 23 Tigers are headed to Mobile, Ala. on Sunday and will play No. 12 William Woods University 2:30 pm EST Tuesday. The Owls have played three other Mid-South Conference opponents, beating University of the Cumberlands and Campbellsville University while losing to Lindsey Wilson College.

"William Woods started as high as sixth, I believe this season, so they have been ranked up there most of the year," Cunningham said. "We've played like opponents and the win over Cumberlands was close so I think this will be a really good match for us."

Cunningham knows the newness and anticipation of a national tournament will potentially heighten the moment, but as a player that has been there, she hopes to help her athletes avoid pitfalls of first timers.

As a freshman, Cunningham played in the tournament as a singles player – back when the NAIA tournament was not strictly team based but also allowed for individuals and doubles teams with strong resumes to compete as well. She won two rounds, a historic moment for the Tigers back then.

"Now we sit with an opportunity to be the first Georgetown team to win a round as a team," Cunningham said. "We just have to approach it like we approach everything else – move early, be brave and go after it. We don't look at rankings. We don't focus on doing things differently for any opponent, and that is what we need to do Monday."

All rounds will be played the same as a season match – doubles first and first team to five wins. Georgetown has been strong in doubles this season, often winning at least two of the matches if not sweeping and giving themselves the big early lead.

Cunningham also has a plan to help with the nerves by having a duel practice session with another national tournament qualifier.

"It gets repetitive playing the same person, but we were approached by Lewis and Clark to practice together before it all starts," Cunningham said. "We've not played a match since late April in the conference tournament. This invite speaks volumes about our players and program. I know we will be getting right off the bus for this, but to have a chance to see someone we don't usually see will help get us geared up for Monday."

The start of the tournament solidifies the resurgence both Michael and Jessica wanted when coming back to Georgetown. In their own Tiger careers each were highly successful – Michael winning ITA and holding the most wins record; Jessica posting wins at nationals and holding the most wins in a season record – however this joy is a whole new experience.

"This is very, rewarding," Jessica Cunningham said with a smile. "Doing all those things as a player, for both Michael and I, was satisfying in our personal careers, but to see our players, and not just the current ones but the ones that helped us get here, joy from this has been especially rewarding and almost indescribable."


 

 
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