PLNU Women’s Tennis Looks To Continue Historic Season in PacWest Tournament

Thelma Sepulveda and Arianna Audelo celebrate a doubles score during the historic match against Hawaii Pacific. Photo courtesy of PLNU Athletics.

Point Loma Nazarene University’s women’s tennis team has been rewriting the university’s record book this season, and the Sea Lions hope to continue their historic season as the PacWest Championships begin this week.

The team is no stranger to history-making moments as last season was its most successful in program history. The Sea Lions placed third in the PacWest conference — their best finish ever — and qualified for the NCAA regional tournament for the second straight year.

However, only three players from that historic squad returned this season. With the experience of last year’s team gone, head coach Curt Wheeler turned to young talent to fill the roster. 

“We recruited five really talented freshmen,” said returner Thelma Sepulveda, a fourth-year kinesiology major.

Wheeler said he is pleased with how well the team came together.

“The freshmen have made a big impact and played with great confidence all season,” said Wheeler. “The two seniors and one junior have been key contributors and leaders on and off the tennis court. Seeing them turn talent into success through hard work, discipline and belief in their abilities and their teammates’ abilities has been exciting to watch.”

This season, the team has accomplished what no other PLNU women’s tennis team has done before; the Sea Lions set an NCAA-era program record with nine-straight wins when they defeated Bowdoin College 5-2 on March 18. 

But they didn’t stop there.

Arianna Audelo setting up to return a Bowdoin opponent’s hit. Photo courtesy of PLNU Athletics.

The team kept winning. With the 7-0 sweep of Linfield on March 28, the Sea Lions tied the program’s longest winning streak of 12, which was set by the 1996 team.

Then, the team took it one step further, and set a new program record of 13 straight wins with its 5-2 victory over Biola on April 6.

“It’s an absolute insane feeling to have a record-breaking winning streak,” said Arianna Audelo, a third-year dietetics major.

However, it is not just the streak that got inked into the record book. The Sea Lions opened their season by defeating Azusa Pacific 4-3, PLNU’s first win over the Cougars in their past 10 matchups. The Sea Lions also beat Hawaii Pacific — the team that has eliminated them from regionals for the past two years — for the first time in program history.

Sepulveda attributes the team’s success to its depth, motivation and chemistry.

“The team as a whole is just really solid. We’re all equal in level which makes us such a hard team to play,” said Sepulveda. “All of us just really want to win every single match. We’re all really close, just knowing that you look over and you have a best friend on every court playing and there to support you really helps.”

With the regular season concluded, the Sea Lions went undefeated 11-0 at home and stand at 15-3 overall. Now, the squad heads to Surprise, Arizona, to compete in the PacWest Championships April 17-20. The team hopes to make history by winning its first conference title.

“We’ve already broken one record,” said Audelo, “so why not break another and win PacWest to go on to nationals.”