The UMBC women's tennis program pulled off a feat that had to be exceedingly rare and lands at No. 40 in the #retriever50for50 countdown.
In April of 1998, the Retrievers won the Big South title with 4-1 victories over Charleston Southern and Coastal Carolina. There was no NCAA automatic bid for the Retrievers, so the season basically ended there. As of July 1998, UMBC moved its entire athletic program to the Northeast Conference and that league held its championships in the fall.
In a thrilling conclusion, UMBC bested defending champion and No.1 seeded Central Connecticut State, 5-4, in the finale of the Northeast Conference Women's Tennis Championships held at the Concord Resort, located in Kiamesha Lake, New York. The date was Oct. 24, 1999 – giving Keith Puryear's program a pair of conference titles in just over a six-month span.
Tied at 4-4, the match between the two top seeded teams went down to the wire, with UMBC's No. 3 doubles team of Karina Mosling and Danielle Martinez clinching the victory with a 9-8 (10-8 in tiebreaker) victory over CCSU's team of Cristina Argueso and Emily Athas. Over the last two games of the match, both UMBC and CCSU failed to capitalize on three championship points apiece. After UMBC successfully fought off a match point to tie the contest at eight games apiece, the momentum swung decidedly to the Baltimore school. The Retrievers took a 6-3 lead in the tiebreaker, but the Blue Devils rallied to win the next four points and take a 7-6, and then an 8-7 advantage. The Retrievers would not surrender, and took advantage of two CCSU unforced errors to win the last three points of the match and earn the title.
The Retrievers, under the guidance of NEC Coach of the Year Keith Puryear, were led by the performances of Karen Prangley at No. 3 singles and Carrie Koncilja at No. 6 singles, both of whom were undefeated in three tournament matches. In the title match, Prangley topped CCSU's Sunna Zinnert 7-5, 6-0 and Koncilja defeated Athas 6-1, 6-1.
Nicole Russo also had a big championship day for UMBC, rallying for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win at No. 1 singles and teaming with Kathryn Wheatley to win, 8-5, at No. 1 doubles.
UMBC, which posted a 21-4 record in 1998-99, would have to wait another seven months before making their first of five consecutive appearances in NCAA competition.