Graig Mantle

The Cal Poly women’s tennis team finished the 2007 season April 29 with a 4-0 loss in the Big West Conference Tournament title match against Long Beach State at the Indian Wells Tennis Center.

Long Beach State took the win and its fourth consecutive conference title over the fifth-seeded Mustangs, who finished the season 9-12 overall after going 3-4 in Big West play.

Despite their loss in the finals, the Mustangs won a string of upsets on the road to the championship round.

Cal Poly beat No.4 seed UC Santa Barbara in the quarterfinals and then advanced to knock out No. 1 seed UC Irvine in the semifinals.

“The season finished on a really high note for us,” Cal Poly head coach Hugh Bream said. “Our goal was to steadily improve throughout the year and we did just that.”

At the April 29 match versus UC Santa Barbara, Cal Poly was the first lower-seeded team to record a victory at the Big West tourney.

The Mustangs, who had lost to UCSB earlier in the season, beat the Gauchos 4-0.

That same weekend, the Mustangs overthrew Long Beach State, which was ranked 32nd nationally in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll, 4-3. The match was a back-and-forth battle with the Anteaters.

After Cal Poly won the doubles point, it won four of the six singles matches played.

The Mustangs have only had one other appearance in the Big West tourney title match in program history.

The young Cal Poly team has only one graduating senior this year, team captain Carol Erickson. Erickson, the team’s leader in singles victories over the last three seasons, made major contributions to the Mustangs this season until a forearm injury forced her to the sideline in March.

“Loosing Carol (was) of course a big blow,” Bream said. “These young girls got pressed and it hurt their confidence. Losing Carol mid-season accelerated their development. They knew they had to work hard and they did.”

Next year’s team will consist of two junior players, five sophomores and two incoming freshmen.

“With such a young team coming back, we will be a favorite to win the Big West next year,” Bream said.

Another highlight is freshman Brittany Blalock’s being named Big West Freshman of the Year.

Blalock was crucial in the Mustangs’ advancing to the finals by defeating UC Irvine’s first-team All-Big West pick, Becky Bernhard, in the semifinal round.

“It is really exciting,” Blalock said of the award. “I am not sure if it has really hit me yet. (The) Freshman of the Year title was a great way for me to end the season.”

Blalock is the only Cal Poly women’s tennis player to ever win a Big West major award.

“We are a young team, and we are going to build a strong and solid foundation,” Blalock said. “So next season, everyone better watch out.”

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