The no. 5 seed Oles, who featured only two players with prior playoff experience, defeated no. 4 seed St. Benedict's 5-2 at Gustavus's Swanson Tennis Center. This MIAC quarterfinals victory avenged the Oles' 7-2 loss to the Bennies back on March 8.
"Even though we lost to them during the regular conference season, our line-up for playoffs was very different and we had almost an entire season's worth of playing experience that we didn't have for our first match," Abigail Ho '11 said. "I think the team really grew a lot this year and it showed during playoffs."
Ho and Anna Klenke '11 got the Oles off to a positive start with their 8-4 victory at second doubles. Sarah Magnuson '11 and Ida Holdahl '11 also put together a dominant doubles match, winning 8-2 and securing St. Olaf a 2-1 lead over the Bennies heading into singles play.
The two Oles with playoff experience from last year's MIAC tournament, Aimee Ny '10 and Sarah Carlson '10, overcame their struggles in doubles play to each post a positive result in singles competition.
Ny defeated St. Benedict's second singles player 6-3, 6-4 in two solid sets of tennis. Carlson secured a similar result in her match at third singles; she dropped her opponent in straight sets, 6-1 and 6-2.
Ho dismantled St. Benedict's top singles player with an unblemished 6-0 first set, followed by a second-set 6-3 victory. Ho closed the season with a 10-3 record in singles matches, 12 of which were played at the Oles' no. 1 spot.
Holdahl played in the fourth and final completed singles match, but lost matching 6-2 sets.
Maddy Buck '11 and Magnuson each competed in a singles match, but neither contest was completed because the Oles had already clinched the five points required to advanced to Saturday's semifinals contest against Gustavus.
Unfortunately for the Oles, Gustavus had advanced to the NCAA National Tournament each of the previous 19 years, and this season resulted no differently. Gustavus swept the Oles 5-0 in the semifinals match up on their way to defeating St. Thomas 5-0 in the championship contest.
The contest left four unfinished matches remaining as the Gusties continued their dominating streak of MIAC championships.
Despite Saturday's defeat, the women are proud of their showing in this year's playoff tournament. The entire St. Olaf squad will return next year as experienced sophomores and juniors.
"Looking back on the season, we did pretty well for such a young team," Ho said. "Ending the season on such a good note at playoffs is an excellent motivator to work hard in the off-season & and make a return trip to the MIAC tournament."
The women will play an alumni match Saturday at 2 p.m.