PLNU Senior Wins NAIA National Title
MOBILE, Ala. - PLNU senior Kristin Strimple was undefeated in singles play at the USTA/ITA Small College National Championships, winning the NAIA national title Saturday morning by defeating Yi Ching Chen of Embry-Riddle (FL) 6-2, 6-4.
She then swept through a pair of matches in the ITA "Super Bowl" bracket, topping the Juco and NCAA Division II champs to advance to the ITA National Indoor Collegiate Championships held at the USTA Billie Jean Tennis Center in Flushing-Meadows, New York. That tournament starts on November 4.
Strimple, a 2-seed in the NAIA championship bracket, defeated Trina Slapeka of Lindsay Wilson 7-5, 7-6  on Thursday in a quarterfinal match and then rallied to top the 3-seed, Oklahoma Christian's Hermon Brhane, 6-7, 6-2, 6-4. The PLNU three-time first team All-American, then challenged #4 seed Chen in the title match. Chen reached the finals by blanking Ana Veselnovic (Auburn Montgomery) 6-0, 6-0 and upsetting #1 seed Ana Veselnovic (Auburn-Montgomery) in the other semifinal tilt.
The two finals opponents met the day before; in the doubles championships.
"Seeing her (Chen) before helped a little," said Strimple. "She played a bit different in doubles, but there were some similarities. She was tough and did me a big favor by beating the Auburn-Montgomery girl. I knew I had to play solid to beat her, and I did."
Not through by a long-shot - though as a rare American player in competition - Strimple might have been considered a long-shot, she nevertheless avanced to the "Super Bowl" bracket, which features the winners of the NAIA, Juco, NCAA DII and NCAA DIII brackets. Strimple topped Juco champion Sun When (Tyler), 6-3, 6-3 and then wrapped up play with a win over NCAA DII champ Alida Muller-Wehlau (Armstrong Atlantic), (7-6 , 3-6, 6-4).
Strimple becomes the first PLNU player to win both brackets. Mathias Sundberg won the NAIA’s ITA men's title back in the early 1990's but fell in the "Super Bowl" round.
"I came here with no expectations," said Strimple, who was battling a pulled hamstring injured on Thursday. "I wanted to play my best and see what happens and it worked out. It feels great."
In addition to a pair of singles titles, Strimple and partner Ashley Litchfield posted a 2-1 record in the NAIA doubles flight; winning in the quarterfinals and semifinals before falling in the title match to third-seed Chen/ Strom (Embry-Riddle), 7-5, 6-3.
Strimple and Litchfield, the fourth seeded doubles team, posted a win on Thursday when they defeated Delk/Massey of Indiana Wesleyan 6-1, 7-5. They then topped #1 seed Curtis/Hajkova of Auburn Montgomery 7-5, 7-6 Friday afternoon before losing in the finals.
"We had our chances," Strimple said. "Once we lost that first set, it was tough to come back. They played well, though. They are a good team."