Women’s Tennis Will Battle Westmont in First Round of National Tournament

(BETHANY,OK)---The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) has announced the pairings for the 2004 NAIA National Tournament and the 11th-ranked Crimson Storm women’s tennis team will battle 22nd-ranked Westmont, California in the first round of the NAIA National Tournament.

SNU enters the tournament at 12-11 on the season and finished ranked 11th in the Final National Poll of the season. Westmont, which finished 22nd in the Final National Rankings, enters the tournament with an 8-16 record on the year.

Southern Nazarene and Westmont each compete in two of the nation’s toughest conferences. SNU, a member of the Sooner Athletic Conference, will join fellow SAC school, 6th-ranked Oklahoma Christian in the National Tournament this year. Westmont, a member of the Golden State Athletic Conference, will join fellow GSAC members, 3rd-ranked Vanguard; 6th-ranked Point Loma; and 7th-ranked Azusa Pacific at the National Tournament.

SNU and Westmont each have common opponents this season, with the Crimson Storm and Warriors each having squared off this season against #3 Vanguard and Biola, both of California. The Crimson Storm lost a 3-6 match to Vanguard back on March 19th in Florida and defeated Biola at home on April 17th, 7-2. The Warriors lost to Vanguard 0-5, 0-9, and 0-5 this season and split with Biola 5-4, and 4-5.

“Westmont has traditionally been a solid program,” said SNU Head Coach Phil White. “They will be ready to play and it will be a tough first round match, but we feel good about the match. We will have to be prepared.”

The Crimson Storm earns their second consecutive bid to the National Tournament. Last year, SNU advanced to the second round after defeating Georgia Southwestern 5-4 in the first round. Southern Nazarene would be defeated in the second round by eventual National Champion Northwood, Florida. SNU lost to Northwood 5-2.

The Crimson Storm has never advanced beyond the second round in National Tournament play. SNU has advanced past the first round two times, last year and in 2001.

SNU currently boasts the Nations 2nd-ranked singles player in sophomore Larikah Russell. Russell is currently 19-1 overall this season with her lone loss coming to #1 ranked Olga Hluschanka of Vanguard, California. SNU also sports the Nation’s #1 ranked doubles team in Russell and freshman Nikkita Fountain. Russell and Fountain are 19-1 on the season and is the top doubles tandem in America.

The winner of the SNU-Westmont first round match will advance to compete against 6th-seeded Oklahoma Christian on Tuesday in the second round of the tournament. SNU and OC have met twice this year, with the Lady Eagles taking both matches this year, 6-3 and 5-4.

“I feel we have a lot of opportunities this season,” said SNU Head Coach Phil White. “I see the possible second round match (Oklahoma Christian) as being the key to our tournament. We played OC well this season but haven’t been able to get the victory. If we can get over the hump and get that final match point, I think we can go all the way to the Finals.”

To view the complete NAIA National Tournament bracket, click here.