HUNTINGTON -- West Virginia State's NIka Tadic survived a scare against Kasumi Hayashi in the day's final match as the top-seeded Yellow Jackets held off West Virginia Wesleyan in the Mountain East Conference semi-finals here Saturday.
The upset-minded Lady Bobcats jumped to a 2-1 lead after doubles, and then worked the score to 4-4 with singles wins at #4 and #5, leaving Hayashi and Tadic to play out the deciding point.
Hayashi, a senior from Ontario who will graduate early in December, was a grinder throughout a first set which lasted longer than four of the other matches combined. In the end, Tadic held serve to take the first set 6-4, before relaxing and finishing off the point and the Lady 'Cats with a 6-4, 6-0 win.
"We have been stressing doubles every day for an hour at practices for the last three weeks," said head coach Marc Walters. "Today was as close as we have been to playing the way we want to on a doubles court, and it was really nice to see our leaders step up."
While the matches appeared to be less than competitive, the matchup of Tadic and Hayashi was the most intriguing and proved to be the most difficult to predict.
"Kasumi was very coachable and level-headed today, just like a senior should be," said Walters. "We got what we wanted, and if we pull that first set then we would have had an interesting next two hours. Tadic raised her level in the end, and she showed she wasn't afraid of the moment. It was a great matchup and the better team won today."
Hayashi, who has a versatile game of spins and quickness, was able to dictate the play throughout the first set, as she forced her opponent to execute difficult winners or play from less than desirable spots on the court. Every game of the first set was a multiple deuce battle, ultimately decide by two forehands that Hayashi floated beyond the baseline.
"We were in control on each of the courts we won, and played them as well as we could have to give us the opportunity for the upset," said Walters. "In the end, State is just a little more experienced and played like champions play at the top of their lineup."
The Lady Bobcats, 8-5 overall and 6-4 in the MEC, now are idle until spring when they begin regional play with a match at Alderson Broaddus on March 19.