SHEDDING HAPPY TEARS
McNamara delivers RMAC championship for Mesa women's tennis team
When it was over ...
After a senior’s determination defied a first-set collapse to stand strong as the weight of her team’s postseason dream straddled her shoulders alone ...
... Shannen McNamara cried.
And every hug from teary-eyed teammates made her cry a little more.
Even during the few minutes after her teammates walked away to the Elliott Tennis Center’s Court 2 on Saturday, where the Colorado Mesa University women’s tennis team was instructed to gather to receive its championship trophy, McNamara couldn’t stop the tears as she gathered her equipment and accepted congratulations from several family members and friends.
Her time for being composed had passed. She had delivered when it mattered most. And Colorado Mesa will play in the NCAA Division II national tournament for the second time in three years because its No. 3 singles player persevered.
McNamara defeated Western New Mexico’s Claudia Osuna 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 to give the Mavericks the deciding win in their 5-4 dual victory for the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference tournament championship.
Some of the tears stemmed from joy, but there was much more to it, as McNamara explained, “Just, it’s my senior year, and there was a ton of pressure. It was very stressful out there, and it all comes out.”
Her opponent was the same one she dispatched 6-1, 6-2 a fortnight earlier when the Mavericks spoiled the Mustangs’ Senior Day by dealing them a 6-3 regular-season loss.
But this wasn’t the same Claudia Osuna. The Western New Mexico sophomore knew what was at stake, too, and it looked as if she might be the Mustangs’ hero after battling back from a 5-2 deficit to win the first set 7-5.
“She started playing a lot better, and I started making unforced errors,” McNamara said.
Osuna then won two straight games for a 3-2 lead in the second set, but McNamara reasserted herself to win the set 6-4.
“I just pushed myself,” she said of the second set, adding she realized CMU needed a win from her or junior Rachel McLaughlin, who was playing a third set at No. 4 singles.
After McLaughlin bowed 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 to Diamond Morrill, all of the spectators moved to Court 8 to watch the only remaining match, and McNamara knew she was CMU’s last chance to win the RMAC title and the automatic NCAA berth.
She was leading 2-1 at that time, and while Osuna made her earn everything she got, McNamara won the final four games and the match.
“I went out gunning,” she said. “I was all or nothing at that point. I was going to make shots or make errors, and (the shots) were going my way.”
After McNamara scored the winning point, CMU’s only other senior, Kaylee Davis, clasped her tear-streaked cheeks in her hands and started walking onto the court until she realized she should wait for McNamara to shake hands with Osuna.
Seconds later, McNamara was mobbed by thankful teammates and members of CMU’s men’s team, who stayed after their loss to the Mustangs.
McNamara’s tear ducts finally took a break during the awards ceremony, during which fans called for her to bite the silver-cup trophy she held during a team photo. At first she resisted, then relented and took a bite, earning more cheers.
Now, she was laughing, but she also wanted more attention to go to her teammates instead of her. After all, the Mavs had to win four other matches, and they got those wins from Kristyn Wykert and Katie Kirby at Nos. 5 and 6 singles, respectively, plus the No. 2 doubles team of McNamara and Wykert and the No. 3 doubles team of Emily Dodson and Katie Metz.
But McNamara deserved the spotlight.
McLaughlin hugged Dodson’s father during the post-dual celebration and said to him, “Thank God for Shannen.”
McLaughlin admitted she was disappointed in herself for not ending the dual with a win, but she said she was confident McNamara would win.
“I’m glad Shannen got to take it,” McLaughlin said, adding McNamara in practice doesn’t remotely resemble McNamara during matches. “She’s a totally different person (in practice). Then, moments like this, she comes through. She wows us all.”