College Notebook: Olbrich, Click help lead Linfield to NWC women’s tennis title

Skyview graduates give Wildcats three wins in 5-3 victory

By Kurt Zimmer, Columbian Sports Reporter

Published:

 
photoSarah Click, Linfield College tennis

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Revenge might be best served cold.

Windy helps, too.

Avenging its only loss during the Northwest Conference regular season on Saturday, the Linfield College tennis team defeated Whitworth University 5-3 in the championship match of the NWC tournament.

The Wildcats earned the NWC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament.

“I think we knew all along that we could beat them,” said Linfield junior Abby Olbrich, a Skyview High School graduate and three-time First Team All-NWC selection. “We just had to prove it. I think that we definitely showed that we wanted it more than Whitworth. We believed all along that we could beat them.”

Linfield finished the regular season 13-4, with two of losses on the road against NCAA Division I opponents Gonzaga and Portland, and 11-1 in conference play.

The Wildcats defeated Whitman College, 5-2, in the conference semifinals Friday in Spokane to set up the rematch against Whitworth.

“Our goal was to win conference in the regular season and unfortunately, we fell one match short, but we knew that we had the potential going into the tournament to make up for that one loss,” said Linfield senior Sarah Click, a first-time All-NWC selection who was also a teammate of Olbrich’s at Skyview. “... We were definitely looking forward to getting another shot at them in the conference tournament. We were happy to fulfill our potential this time, because we knew we could give them a better run for their money.”

Click said she is honored with her All-NWC selection to cap her collegiate tennis career, but it is not something she anticipated — or even contemplated.

“To be honest, I don’t really look at that stuff,” she said. “I think my dad might have told me this weekend. But it’s a great honor. I think that I came in as a freshman without a ton of experience, and it’s nice to grow and learn and get better and get recognized on the all-conference team as a senior. It was definitely a nice accomplishment that I’m proud of.”

Olbrich and Click got the Wildcats on track in the conference championship match Saturday with a 9-8 pro-set win over Rachel Burns and Alli Marshall at No. 1 doubles, then each won her singles match. Olbrich defeated Burns, the NWC Player of the Year, winning the No. 1 singles flight with a 6-1, 6-2 victory. Click’s 6-4, 6-2 win over Megan Wingfield at No. 5 singles secured the title.

“The loss at Whitworth during the season was probably not what we were hoping for,” Olbrich said, “but we got the job done when it counted.”

After a season mostly played on indoor courts, both said that adjusting better to windy conditions at the outdoor tournament was key to Linfield’s success.

Olbrich said that playing outside “was a big factor” in the outcome, with wind the biggest factor.

Burns defeated Olbrich 6-2, 6-1 in Whitworth’s 5-4 win March 11 over Linfield in Spokane.

Olbrich turned the tables on Saturday.

“We’re kind of more used to playing outside,” she said. “I think that gave me a little advantage, but I just wanted to get the win, I guess.”

Click agreed that conditions helped Linfield on Saturday.

“It was sunny out, but it was definitely really windy,” Click said. “I think playing outside was definitely an advantage for us. We haven’t gotten to play outside very often this whole season — I think this whole season we’ve had maybe two matches and maybe two or three practices outside.

“Neither team had played outside a lot, but I think we were a little bit more excited to play outside and I think we may have had a tiny bit of an edge playing outside. I think we’re more of an outdoor team than they are.”

Linfield had won seven consecutive NWC tournament championships from 2002-08 before Whitworth claimed each of the last two.

Click helped the Wildcats win a title as a freshman and capped her final season with another, while Olbrich won her first of a stellar three-year career.

“It kind of came full circle for the seniors this year, because we got to go when we were freshmen, but we came up short our sophomore and junior years,” Click said. “It’s nice this year to get back on that trip to regionals. That’s nice.”

Linfield dropped two of the three doubles matches that began the final against Whitworth, with Olbrich and Click prevailing after trailing 6-3 in the pro set then saving two match points at 7-6.

Olbrich and Sophie Larson at No. 2 singles won their matches, then No. 4 Carolina Brigham and Click at No. 5 began their matches while Lexi Thomas at No. 3 was still playing a long three-set match she eventually lost.

Brigham’s win put Linfield ahead, then Click secured victory for the Wildcats.

NCAA-III regionals will be played May 13-15, with sites and matchups not yet determined.

“I know that we’re all really excited to be going to regionals,” Click said. “We don’t know where we’re going yet, but it’s definitely a sweet feeling to get to have the season go on for another month.”

WWU’s Porter honored by GNAC

Western Washington University senior Sarah Porter was named Great Northwest Athletic Conference Track and Field co-Female Athlete of the Week for April 10-16.

The Hockinson High School graduate posted an NCAA Division II automatic national qualifying time in the 5,000 meters at the prestigious Mt. San Antonio College Relays last Thursday in Walnut, Calif.

Porter finished fourth in 15 minutes, 57.02 seconds — the second fastest time in GNAC history, breaking her own WWU school record.

The NCAA-II championships are May 26-28 at Cal State Stanislaus in Turlock.

WWU’s Breihof runs provisional qulaifier

Western Washington senior Lauren Breihof placed 18th in her section of the 10,000 meters at the prestigious Mt. San Antonio College Relays last Wednesday in Walnut, Calif.

The Mountain View High School graduate’s time of 36 minutes, 15.12 seconds is a provisional qualifier for the NCAA Division II naitonal championships.

The NCAA-II championships are May 26-28 at Cal State Stanislaus in Turlock.

Suggestions for College Notebook? Contact Kurt Zimmer at 360-735-4563 or by e-mail at kurt.zimmer@columbian.com