Top doubles team falls in opening round of NCAAs

In their last college tennis match as partners, USF’s top doubles team didn’t end on a good note, said senior Melissa Koning.

Koning and Irene Rehberger, ranked No. 16 in the country after a 12-7 record during the regular season, dropped their opening-round match in the NCAA Doubles Championships on Thursday against No. 27 Hilary Bartlett and Taylor Marable of Princeton, 6-3, 5-7, 3-6.

“There is no way that (Princeton) is better than us overall,” Koning said. “We won the first set but let them back into the game by making too many errors. They are a good team, but we beat ourselves.”

Going into her second NCAA Championship in three years, Koning hoped to win at least two matches so she and Rehberger could earn All-America honors.

Playing at Auburn in 2008, Koning advanced to the second round of the tournament before losing to Fresno State. But she said the defeat against Princeton last week in Athens, Ga., is much harder to swallow.

“The way we lost is very disappointing,” she said. “The first round is always the hardest, and nerves got the better of me (Thursday). As a senior, I knew that it could be my last match, so I wanted to finish at my best, but it is unfortunate that we weren’t able to get it done.” A native of Australia, Koning transferred to USF last summer and helped the Bulls (12-8) reach the NCAA tournament after they finished with an 8-13 mark in 2009.

Koning split time playing in the second and third singles positions this season, accumulating a 10-7 record.

Despite the first-round exit, Koning said her lone season at USF was a successful one.

“I already miss playing here,” Koning said. “We had such a great group of girls, which is why I had so much fun on this team. Overall, I am very happy with this season and my career. We made it to the NCAA tournament as a team and I got to play in the Doubles Championships, so I can’t complain.”

Thursday’s match against Princeton was not the only one of the day for Koning’s partner, as No. 43 Rehberger lost to No. 2 Jana Juricova, 6-2 and 6-1, in the second round of the NCAA Singles Championships.

After a three-set victory in the opening round May 26, Rehberger knew she would be faced with a difficult match against the second-ranked player in the country.

Even though she lost in straight sets, USF coach Agustin Moreno said Rehberger had an impressive showing in her first career Singles Championships.

“Irene played extremely well considering the tough level of competition,” Moreno said. “(Rehberger) is one of the best players in the country, and I know that she will take this experience and work harder to become an even better player in the future.”

While Rehberger will return for one more season at USF, Koning’s college career is over. She graduated this spring with a degree in sports marketing, but says she will continue to play and see what happens regarding a professional tennis career.

“I loved playing doubles with (Rehberger),” Koning said. “She was a really great partner, and hopefully we can team up again someday in the professional ranks. I have to wait another year for her to graduate, but perhaps you haven’t seen the last of me and Irene on the court together.”