When Ebony Panoho and Alexandra Osborne swept Stanford’s No. 2 tennis doubles team Sunday afternoon, they had accomplished something no other Arizona State women’s duo has been able to do.
The imports from Australia brought home the first women’s doubles conference championship in program history.
It capped a season in which the pair, ranked No. 22 in the country, posted upsets against Stanford’s No. 3 team, UCLA’s No. 7 tandem, and used a big upset over No. 7-ranked Giuliana Olmos and Gabby Smith of USC to advance to the title match at the Pac-12 Championships.
But, as it turns out, that was just one of many highlights for the Sun Devils squad this year.
ASU finished the regular season with a top-25 national ranking and won the Pac-12 team championship for the first time in the history of the program, which has been under the direction of head coach Sheila McInerney for the past 32 years. The team trophy goes to the school that earned the most wins in the main Pac-12 draw in both singles and doubles combined. The Devils had nine total.
“It’s so great for our program,” McInerney said shortly after Panoho and Osborne wrapped up the doubles title at the Ojai Valley Athletic Club in California, “as there have been so many incredible doubles teams from the Pac-12. Eb and Alex played a fantastic match today and should only gain confidence from these wins.
Panoho, who is from Brisbane, is a senior and will be graduating. But Osborne, from Sydney, is a junior who will be looking for a new doubles partner next season.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” says Panoho. “To win the doubles is great, but for the team to win the team trophy for the first time, too, is the icing on the cake.”
The Sun Devils went 8-2 in conference play, the program’s best record since the 1979 season when that team posted a 12-4 finish. That was well before ASU became a Pac-10 member. The program was participating at that time in the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women.
This season was full of accomplishments. Early in March, the team began a winning streak that would last for more than a month. That 10-game streak began with a 4-3 win over Stanford – just the second time in program history an ASU women’s squad beat the Cardinal.
The final victory in that 10-game span was over UCLA. It was the first time in 16 years that the Devils had beaten the Trojans.
And this team also found the perfect way to end a very successful season. They beat rival University of Arizona in the final match on the schedule, for a second straight year, by shutting out the Wildcats, 7-0.
“It was a great way to end the regular season,” said McInerney. “I’m really proud of the team. It’s never easy to beat your rival on the road, but the girls were determined to send the seniors off with a win.
“It was a convincing win, for sure. Hopefully, we can build off of this win for a nice post-season run.”
There will be some down time now as the Sun Devils wait for that post-season play to begin. They won’t find out for awhile where they will be placed in the NCAA Regionals, which begin May 13.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)