Pepperdine Women’s Tennis Sees Successful NCAA Run

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Luisa Stefani

The Pepperdine women’s tennis team ended their season on a high note after reaching the NCAA Elite 8 for the first time since 1994 and only the fifth time in program history. 

The Waves entered the tournament as the number eight seed, and defeated both Idaho and USC at home to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1999. The team downed Idaho, 4-0, on May 13, before entering a slightly more difficult matchup against USC the next day. The Trojans started off strong, clinching the doubles point, but the Waves fought back in singles to win the match, 4-2, and write their ticket to Tulsa, Olka. to continue their NCAA run. 

The Waves faced 24th-ranked Texas in the Sweet 16, and Pepperdine’s number one doubles pair, Apichaya Runglerdkriangkrai and freshman Luisa Stefani, won a challenging matchup against a 16th-ranked pair to clinch the doubles point. The team continued its winning ways throughout the singles competition to end the match in a 4-0 sweep and advance to the Elite 8. 

Top-seeded California was Pepperdine’s opponent in the quarterfinals, and the Waves fought hard to clinch the doubles point against some of the nation’s top-ranked squads. The Golden Bears fought back, picking up singles wins on courts four and six before sixth-ranked Stefani evened the match by taking down seventh-ranked Manasse on court 1. Unfortunately for the Waves, their efforts were not enough, and the Golden Bears picked up two more wins on courts three and five to secure a spot in the final four and end Pepperdine’s successful NCAA team championship. 

“If there is a team that can walk around proud it’s our team,” head coach Per Nilsson said in a release by Pepperdine Athletics. “We came a long way, only losing to the number one team in the country twice and another team that is top five and we just gave these guys a really good battle.”

The end of the team tournament did not signify the end of the season for four Pepperdine players — Luisa Stefani, Apichaya Runglerdkriangkrai, Matea Cutura and Christine Maddox — who remained in Tulsa to compete in the NCAA Doubles Championships. Stefani earned a spot in the singles tournament as well, and also earned an unprecedented honor for the Waves. The freshman was announced as the recipient of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) National Rookie of the Year accolade on May 24, making her the first Pepperdine player in history to receive the award. 

Since the beginning of her collegiate campaign, Stefani has gone 36-5 in singles and holds a 22-4 record against nationally ranked opponents. Stefani is also in the midst of a successful rookie season in the doubles competition, as she and her partner Runglerdkriangkrai have 22-5 overall since September at the Waves number one doubles pair.