Best foot forward
Aching toe doesn't stop Wykert from clinching spot in RMAC finale for Mesa
The big toe on her left foot hurt so bad, Kristyn Wykert wanted to cry.
Finally, after a three-hour match Saturday afternoon that clinched the Colorado Mesa University women’s tennis team’s 5-3 victory over Metro State in the RMAC semifinals, she did cry — in pain and in relief.
The Mavericks’ No. 3 singles player defeated Metro State’s Marianne Evangelista 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 despite playing with a torn toenail. Her victory kept the Mavericks’ hopes of winning the tournament title and qualifying for the NCAA tournament alive.
Mesa (13-15) plays regular-season champion Western New Mexico (11-14) for the tournament title at 9 this morning at the Elliott Tennis Center. The winner receives an automatic berth to the NCAA South Central Region tournament. The losers’ season is likely over.
“Kristyn is a champ,” doubles partner and roommate Skyler Nelson said. “She’s so tough. There’s no other way to describe her, but tough. I know her so well, we’re roommates, so I can tell exactly what she’s thinking and how she’s feeling. I know she’s in critical pain. I ask her, ‘You need anything? Are you OK?’ ‘I’m good.’ ‘No, you’re not good.’
“This morning I forced the trainer to go on the court, because she would not accept that. She was limping a little, but she acts like it was nothing. Kristyn never cries and you know she’s in so much pain right now.”
Wykert, though, didn’t want to default or use her injury as an excuse. Her toe has only bothered her in singles matches since she first injured it two weeks ago.
“Kristyn plays clutch in every match we need,” Nelson said. “She got us to nationals last year. It literally came down to her and she won. Today, it pretty much came down to her and she won after three hours of singles.”
“Seriously, it’s been three hours?” Wykert asked.
“It’s six o’clock right now,” Nelson said. “You’ve been playing since two.”
“Awesome!” Wykert said sarcastically.
“I tried to shake it off,” Wykert said. “I knew I needed to battle. Metro is a tough team. They’ve always been a rival.”
Wykert and Nelson got the first victory over Metro State, 8-2, at No. 2 doubles. Emily Dodson and Katie Metz won 8-5 at No. 3 doubles to give Mesa a 2-1 edge.
Shannen McNamara rolled to a 6-3, 6-2 victory at No. 2 singles for a 3-1 lead, then Dodson, whose match started after Wykert’s, won 6-4, 6-3 at No. 5 for a 4-3 lead, leaving the team result down to Wykert and Nicole Lessley at No. 6 singles. Lessley won the first set, but was trailing 5-4 in the second set when Wykert won.
“She’s played enough tennis to know you stay in the moment,” CMU coach Dan MacDonald said of Wykert. “Since her freshman year, she’s been in a lot of pressure situations. You put yourself in those situations and you respond better each time hopefully.
“She’s embraced that philosophy; pressure is a privilege you have playing as an athlete. She’s good at focusing on her court and not getting caught up on the other matches.”
Mesa defeated Colorado Christian 5-1 in the quarterfinals.
The Mavericks won two of three doubles matches and had singles wins from McNamara, Wykert and Lessley.
Colorado Mesa’s young team continued to roll, defeating Montana State-Billings 5-1 in the RMAC tournament semifinals at the Elliott Tennis Center.
The Mavs (15-12) won two of three doubles matches and the top three singles matches.
“Doubles was huge to come up 2-1,” MacDonald said. “The last time we played they were up 2-1 after doubles. That’s a huge momentum swing. That gave our singles players more freedom to play looser, go for their shots, stay aggressive, knowing you only had to win three matches.”
Freshman Spencer Weinberg picked up the first singles victory, 6-2, 6-2 at No. 2 singles, then sophomore Jordan Lyden won 6-4, 7-5 at No. 1 singles. Freshman No. 3 singles player Andres Garcia-Rojas clinched the win with a 6-0, 6-2 victory.
“The top of our lineup all year have played great doubles and awesome singles,” MacDonald said. “They’ve played awesome doubles and carried it into singles.”
The Mavericks play RMAC regular season champion Western New Mexico for the tournament title at noon today. Mesa will need to win to qualify for the NCAA tournament.
“We got great community support,” MacDonald said. “That made a huge difference.”