ATLANTA -- Berry College defeated Methodist University, 5-4, in an exciting NCAA Championship first round match.
Berry's Mary Cerny broke a 4-4 tie with a come-from-behind win at second singles, to lift BC over the Monarchs. The contest ended in dramatic fashion. Cerny's match point had to be moved indoors after a downpour hit the area.
With the win, Berry improved to 18-2 on the season. Methodist ended its campaign with a 22-3 ledger.
"I am very proud of the team, as usual," said Berry Head Coach Clay Hightower. "Methodist has a strong NCAA Division III tennis tradition and it took a great effort for us to come out on top. Despite considerable pressure, Mary Cerny really dug deep to win the deciding match and point."
The match started strong for Berry as the Vikings took two of three doubles matches. Cerny and Lauren Byrket took #2 by a score of 8-6. At the #3 slot, Kaleigh Carpenter and Heidi Seabaugh prevailed, 8-3. Caitlin Smith and Emma O'Reilly lost at #1, 8-4.
In singles, the Vikings built a 4-2 lead after Seabaugh won at #6, 6-2, 6-2, and Carpenter prevailed at #5, 6-3, 6-0. At that point, BC needed just one more match victory.
Methodist, however, then got a win at #1 as Laura Baker bested O'Reilly by scores of 7-5 and 6-1 to cut the advantage to 4-3. The Monarchs then tied the match after Sam Munze edged Byrket 5-7, 7-5, 6-2.
The match pitted a pair of teams ranked in the Atlantic South Region, with the Monarchs checking in as the region's seventh-ranked squad, and Berry registering at 10th in the latest poll.
The contest then came down to the battle between Cerny and Isabella Graf at #2 singles. Cerny (pictured left), a freshman, impressed by rallying from one set down to prevail.
Graf claimed the first set for Methodist in a tiebreaker, 7-6 (4); Cerny battled back to win the second set 6-4, forcing a match-deciding third set. After Graf grabbed a 2-1 lead, Cerny won the next four games to take a 5-2 lead in the set. Graf won the next game, pushing the score to 5-3, but Cerny answered again-- reaching match point-- before play was halted and moved inside. A storm, which had been threatening throughout the match, moved play indoors. The move would prove to be for just one point, as Cerny finished off the contest, winning the set 6-3 and clinching the contest for Berry.
"The ladies really had to battle today and they rose to the occasion," added Assistant Coach Keri McGinnis. "All season they have come through in the close ones, and they did it again today."
Berry will advance to the second-round of the NCAA Championships, facing top-ranked and host Emory University at 2 PM Saturday at the Woodruff Physical Education Center in Atlanta. The two teams met earlier in the season on February 20th at Berry. Emory won all three doubles matches and led in each of the six singles contests, before play was stopped due to rain.