Jordan Rinard, Staff Writer

The Miami University women’s tennis team closed regular season play in a triumphant fashion as they downed Mid-American Conference (MAC) foe Northern Illinois University (NIU) 5-2 at the Boylan Tennis Courts in Rockford, Ill. Saturday to improve its winning streak to seven matches and clinch its fifth straight regular season conference title.

“This weekend, we stayed focused and competed well to win the MAC championship,” junior Christiana Raymond said. “It has been encouraging and amazing to see how much our team has grown this year. Starting off with a loss to Ball State was tough, but it lit a fire in us to work that much harder.”

In doubles play against Northern Illinois (14-10, 0-7 MAC), Miami won its fifth doubles point in conference play this season. Junior Nimisha Mohan and sophomore Alix Thurman started off doubles by defeating freshmen Cristina Alvarez and Maria Rozo 8-5 for their seventh straight victory, although NIU would respond with an 8-3 win by sophomores Nelle Youel and Arantza De La Torre over sophomore Christine Guerrazzi and freshman Ana Rajkovic. Raymond and junior Ramona Costea claimed the doubles point for the RedHawks by earning an 8-5 win over sophomore Stephanie McDonald and junior Haley Dekkinga to push their record as a pair to 6-2.

The ‘Hawks extended their lead to 3-0 in singles, where Guerrazzi snapped a two-match skid with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over sophomore Mary Malkin while Raymond defeated De La Torre 6-0, 6-2 to finish the conference regular season unbeaten in singles play. The Huskies responded, however, as Youel earned an NIU record 27th singles win on the season with her 6-4, 6-0 victory over Mohan, but Costea clinched the match for Miami as she snapped a two-match drought of her own by downing McDonald 6-2, 7-5. Rajkovic extended her winning streak in singles to five matches with a 6-4, 7-5 triumph over Alvarez, but Northern Illinois closed the match with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory by Dekkinga over Thurman.

“We’re happy with our doubles play,” Head Coach Anca Dumitrescu said. “We executed the game plan with Raymond and Costea. In singles, we competed well overall, but we were not consistent with our competitive attitude and our game plan. We need to be more consistent with those things on every single point.”

Raymond discussed the team’s optimism heading into next weekend.

“We’re looking forward to competing in the MAC Tournament,” Raymond said. “We will be getting back to work on Monday in practice in preparation for the weekend. We have really improved in both doubles and singles, and I am confident we can keep it up going into the tournament.”

The RedHawks (11-12, MAC 7-1) will now travel to Muncie, Ind., the site where they sustained their lone conference loss of the season, for the MAC Tournament to face the winner of the match between the fourth-seeded Ball State University and fifth-seeded Western Michigan University in the semifinals 10 a.m. Saturday. The final round will be held 12 p.m. Sunday. The Red and White will be looking for redemption in the postseason as they have bowed out in the finals of the conference tournament to the University of Akron the last two seasons after claiming a tournament championship in the 2010 postseason.