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Women's tennis team caps historic run in Elite Eight

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The UNG women's tennis teach reached the 2019 Elite Eight and finished 22-6, setting a program record for wins.

University of North Georgia (UNG) student Lexa Loden was part of history. She and her women's tennis teammates reached the Elite Eight in 2019, marking the best finish in program history.

Spontaneous celebrations broke out often as UNG took each step up the postseason ladder. The senior from St. Marys, Georgia, couldn't have scripted it any better.

"That was the best way I could have thought of ending my tennis career at UNG," Loden said. "It was just an incredible experience to be a part of."

The Nighthawks secured a 4-0 victory against Queens (New York) College on May 22 in Altamonte Springs, Florida, to earn a spot in the Elite Eight. Then UNG lost 4-0 to top-ranked and eventual national runner-up Lynn University in the May 23 national quarterfinals.

UNG finished the season with a 22-6 record, breaking the previous record of 20 wins set in 2017. The Nighthawks were in their third straight NCAA tournament, which accounts for the first three postseason trips in program history.

This was the second straight season the team reached the Sweet 16, but this year it went one step further. It also marks the sixth straight winning record for the program led by head coach Kent Norsworthy, who capped his 14th season.

"It was an amazing result to get to the Elite Eight. Programs strive for that for a very long time," Norsworthy said. "This team came together at the right moment, kind of like we did last year, and played some really good tennis."

The doubles pairs of Emma Etelalahti and Cibeles Zuddy at No. 2 and Loden and Adrienne Bofinger at No. 3 each prevailed 6-1 against Queens to earn the doubles point.

Then Bofinger prevailed 6-1, 6-1 at No. 1 singles, and Zuddy won 6-3, 6-2 at No. 4 singles. Holly Bennett clinched the match for UNG with a 7-5, 6-3 triumph at No. 3 singles.

In addition to the Elite Eight appearance, UNG turned the tables on regular-season losses by beating Flagler in the Peach Belt Conference (PBC) tournament and Queens University of Charlotte in the NCAA tournament. The Nighthawks reached the PBC finals.

Bofinger, a sophomore, earned Intercollegiate Tennis Association All-American honors in singles play, in which she posted a 22-3 record in 2019. She is the second player in program history to earn this honor, joining Kathrin Waidner in 2017.

Norsworthy pointed to seniors Bennett, Etelalahti and Loden as catalysts for his team.

"The seniors definitely led the way and set the standard," Norsworthy said. "We're going to miss that experience a ton."

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