Generally speaking, a first-time singles player doesn’t beat the 15th-ranked tennis player in the nation.
Yet this was the case Saturday, Jan. 21 as UC Irvine sophomore Becky Bernhard, playing her first ever singles match, surprised her opponent, Pepperdine’s Bianca Dulgheru.
The upset was the highlight of the match as No. 68 UCI fell 5-2 to No. 28 Pepperdine Saturday at Anteater Tennis Stadium.
Dulgheru became red-faced with exhaustion as Bernhard tenaciously plugged away toward victory.
Both players were highly skilled at holding off until just the right moment to push aggressively.
‘That’s what I would call a breakthrough victory for Becky,’ said Head Coach Mike Edles. ‘She deserves a lot of credit.’
She earned it. When all the other matches had ended, Bernhard and Dulgheru’s was still furiously raging, the two tigresses pushing back and forth for the victory.
When the match began, Dulgheru pushed with her steady and effective game.
Bernhard responded by getting Dulgheru to zigzag across the court before she slammed the ball beyond the outstretched racket of her flustered opponent.
The third set was almost painful to watch, a long and drawn out wrangle beneath the heat of the sun.
‘Come on!’ Bernhard shouted desperately, hurling an unanswerable ball into the center of Dulgheru’s court. Bernhard beat Dulgheru 6-3, 1-6, 6-3.
Sporting an ice pack against her tired arm, Bernhard could only beam while recalling her performance.
‘This was my first time playing ones,’ Bernhard said. ‘I was … just really looking forward to it. … And I came out really strong with wanting [the win].’
Bernhard’s victory brought the Anteaters one of their two points against the No. 28 Waves in a match that, despite its somewhat disappointing outcome, proved promising to Edles.
‘I’m just really pleased that it was a much better performance than on Thursday,’ Edles said. ‘We played more to our level. Although we lost the doubles point, I was encouraged because we were executing … the aggressive play we’ve been working on.’
Aggressive was the word for freshman Ali Borowicz who brought Merve Asimgil of Pepperdine down 6-1, 7-5. Borowicz showed poise, confidence and intensity on the court.
‘That’s just how I play,’ Borowicz stated. ‘I just tried to stay consistent.’
The level of frustration suffered by the Pepperdine team made the loss a lighter one.
UCI senior Bela Mijic’s singles match against Sylvia Kosakowski is evidence of this. Although Mijic lost the match 6-1, 6-4 to Kosakowski, she played a tenacious game. At one point, Mijic’s opponent beat the ground with her fist in frustration.
‘It was tough,’ Mijic said. ‘It could have gone either way.’
The Anteaters lost two of their three doubles matches against Pepperdine’s well-balanced play.
Mijic pointed out a few mistakes in her own doubles game.
‘[The] last two games were really close,’ Mijic said. ‘They made some mistakes, but instead of looking [at the fact that] they had made mistakes, we started rushing into it, and then at the end they just executed some balls better than us, and it just could have gone either way.’
Bernhard and sophomore Ashley Siddall competed in their doubles match against Pepperdine’s Vanessa Dunlap and Jelena Jovic just as strongly as the Waves played in the other two doubles matches, notching an 8-4 victory for the Anteaters. Bernhard and Siddall had strong control over the match. Midway through the fourth game, the Waves players expressed frustration as they began to lose ground to the aggressive UCI play.
UCI came close in the other two doubles matches, losing 8-6 and 8-5. Both matches were against a Pepperdine tandem that was nationally ranked in the top-25.
In her singles match, Siddall, light on her feet and persistent, demonstrated the team’s characteristic resilience despite her 7-5, 6-2 defeat.
The No. 3 match featured Pepperdine’s Caroline Raba defeating UCI’s sophomore Inna Agababian 6-3, 6-0. In the No. 4 match, Pepperdine’s Natalie Braverman beat UCI freshman Clare Fermin 6-3, 6-2.
Women’s Tennis plays an exhibition game this Wednesday, Jan. 25 against Vanguard.
Filed Under: Sports