Cyclones headed back to tennis nationals
One missed opportunity was enough.
After a third-place finish in last year’s National Junior College Athletic Association Region IV tennis tournament deprived it of a berth in the national event, Moraine Valley College made sure it could plan a return trip to Texas in 2014. It did so by being the runner-up at this spring’s Region IV tourney in late April.
Although Prairie State edged the Cyclones for the top spot, the latter had several match highlights. Included among them was the first-doubles championship garnered by Kevin Karczynski and Mike Broderick, each of whom augmented that achievement with second places in singles play. Karczynski competed at No. 1 singles, Broderick at No. 3.
Christian Lagunas was a runner-up at No. 6 singles, and every other Moraine entrant at least reached the semifinal round. The group included Brad Smith (No. 2), Tim Stewart (No. 4) and Bryan Jimenez (No. 5) in singles matches, and the doubles tandems of Smith-Stewart (No. 2) and Lagunas-Jimenez (No. 3).
“There were many good things that came out of regionals,” Cyclones coach Ben Thompson said. “Our guys handled themselves with class.
“Second place is a disappointment, but it still gets us into the dance. We will get to see the level of competition that we are striving for in Texas.”
The NJCAA meet runs Sunday-Friday in Plano, Texas. Moraine’s women, meanwhile, will take part in their own national meet in Tyler, Texas.
The Cyclones overpowered Triton College twice on April 25 as they recorded 11-6 and 15-3 victories in a doubleheader. The games marked Moraine’s final home appearance of the regular season.
Dana Cummings was a batting force in Game 1 as she went 6-for-6 with three RBI and four runs scored. Amie Raynor included a double among her five hits, tallied five times and drove in three runs, while Ari Bulthius chipped in four hits, six RBI and four runs.
Key individuals in the second contest were Megan Beckow and Sam Newhall, both of whom supplied two hits and scored once. One of Beckow’s hits was a triple and Newhall included an RBI in her production.
Entering the Region IV tournament last Tuesday, the Cyclones tangled with Prairie State in the quarterfinals, just as they did in 2013. And like before, Moraine moved on, thanks to winning two of three games.
Raynor pitched a five-hitter to help the Cyclones post a 6-3 victory in their first postseason contest. Carly Trinley was Moraine’s headliner on offense with a homer, triple and two runs scored. Raynor and Bulthuis both hit safely as well, while Cummings and Beckow each crossed the plate once.
The Pioneers bounced back to win the next game 8-5, despite input from Janay McGovern (two doubles, one run), Bulthuis (homer), Raynor (double, one run) and Trinley (one hit, one run) on the Cyclones’ behalf.
But then it was Moraine’s turn to display resiliency. Prairie State put the Cyclones in a 4-0 hole during the rubber game, and Moraine coach Mike Veen decided it was time for a pep talk.
“I told [our players] they’ve been there before and they could do this,” he said. “I knew they’d pull it out.”
The Cyclones finally did in the sixth inning, when only six outs separated them from tourney elimination. Beckow started the comeback with a single and Moraine eventually racked up five runs to grab the lead.
Then its defense locked up the win. Cyclones shortstop Jenny Vanek gloved a liner to strand two Pioneers runners and seal the deal for Moraine.
“I had no doubt we were going to win,” Veen said. “You can’t believe how proud I was of those kids. It wasn’t the greatest game, but they came through when they had to.”
Cummings had two hits and scored a run for the Cyclones, while McGovern, Trinley, Kristie Bagus and Sofia Lamb all hit safely once.
The playoff road ended for Moraine last Friday as Kankakee and South Suburban colleges handed out 12-1 and 9-4 setbacks in the semifinal round.
It was rough going for the Cyclones last Wednesday as they were blanked 3-0 by Illinois Valley College. Mike Levigne was a hard-luck loser on the hill as he gave up just four hits.
Moraine, however, did itself no favors by committing some fielding errors. Walks and hit batsmen also aided Illinois Valley.
A few Cyclones suffered injuries during the game, which didn’t bode well for Moraine when it took the field again on Saturday. And Kankakee capitalized on Moraine’s shortened state to administer a 12-2 defeat.
Bobby Neylon had three hits for the Cyclones, but Moraine stranded nine baserunners on the day.
Sunday was a better day for the Cyclones, who knocked off Olive-Harvey College 11-0 and 9-2 in a nonconference doubleheader.