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Miami thrilled with NCAA women’s tennis berth

California is beckoning the Miami University women’s tennis team, and that’s just fine with the RedHawks.

MU is headed to the NCAA tournament for the third time in five years and learned Tuesday that it will travel to Palo Alto to face Stanford, which is making its 32nd consecutive NCAA appearance.

“It’s exciting and definitely one of those goals that you set at the beginning of the year,” third-year Miami coach Anca Dumitrescu said. “We’ve had a challenging year, but this team just kept persevering. To be able to come through at the very end when it mattered the most, that’s really special.”

The RedHawks earned the NCAA berth by edging Bowling Green 4-3 in the Mid-American Conference title match last weekend in Muncie, Ind., getting singles wins from junior Nimisha Mohan at No. 1, sophomore Alix Thurman at No. 2, junior Christiana Raymond at No. 3 and freshman Ana Rajkovic at No. 5.

Mohan, from Bangalore, India, clinched the victory with a 7-6 (7-4), 6-0 conquest of BG’s Nikki Chiricosta.

“I found out I was the deciding match when it was 1-0 in the second,” said Mohan, the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. “I wanted to win so badly because the last two years we lost in the tournament finals, and I just told myself there’s no way we’re going to lose this time.”

MU struggled through the pre-MAC campaign and will take a 13-12 dual record into its match against 12th-seeded Stanford (16-4) on Friday, May 10, in the 64-team NCAA field. The winner will play either Rice or Pepperdine the next day.

The RedHawks got blanked by Northwestern in their previous NCAA appearances in 2009 and 2010.

“I’m really confident about our team right now,” Mohan said. “I think we’ve all improved immensely, and we’ve gotten a lot stronger in the head. I feel like now we can win even playing ugly tennis.”

Dumitrescu said the nonconference schedule wasn’t easy, but it sharpened the players’ mental and physical skills.

“I think this team is capable of anything,” Dumitrescu said. “It’s not about who we play. It’s about us.”

Asked to describe her squad’s improvement, the Romanian replied, “Just the level of maturity and professionalism on the court and the ability to stay in the moment and execute the game plan. We’re a consistent team and a very fit team, so we have the ability of hitting our targets over and over again with precisiont. That in itself is a tremendous source of pressure for any opponent.”

Mohan (23-11), Thurman (22-12) and Raymond (22-13) lead the RedHawks in singles victories this season. Mohan and Thurman are 14-7 as a doubles unit.

Sophomores Christine Guerrazzi and Ramona Costea, along with freshman Chloe Heerden, round out the roster.

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