The classic tennis grunts were out in full force on Tuesday afternoon as the UC Irvine women’s tennis team obliterated Cal State Fullerton 7-0 on Senior Day, completing a successful regular season.
The Anteaters (14-7, 7-1) were never threatened in the contest, winning every single point. Doubles teams Heidi Kaloi/Stephanie Hammel, Miranda Young/Courtney Byron and Brooke Bartlett/Rebecca Kwan won all three of their doubles matches, earning the first point of each match.
Senior Kaloi swept Cheyenne Inglis 6-0, 6-0 in the fourth singles match for point number two. Freshman Courtney Byron defeated Leslie Bullock 6-0, 6-1 in No. 1 singles. Sophomore Brooke Bartlett cruised past Shelly Injejikian 6-1, 6-1 in No. 2 singles. Senior co-captain Claire Fermin won her No. 3 singles match 6-0, 6-2 over Karina Akhmedova, clinching the match. Fellow senior co-captain and 2007 team Most Valuable Player Ali Borowicz took down Brandy Andrews 6-4, 6-0 while freshman Hannah Holladay finished up the match with her fellow teammates cheering her on, defeating Jerusha Cruz 6-3, 6-3. Fermin, Kaloi and Borowicz, the three four-year lettering seniors being honored, all played singles. Posters and streamers were set up around Anteater Tennis Stadium by the underclassmen to pay tribute.
“It’s been our tradition to dedicate the last game to the seniors,” said Head Coach Mike Edles. “All the decorations, food, presents … makes for a special day.”
The three seniors are the last remaining members of the 2007 NCAA Tournament team, and each of them played a vital role on that team. Borowicz, who usually plays No. 6 singles, is a two-time Beyeler Sportsmanship Award winner and three-time Big West Scholar Athlete. Fermin, who usually plays No. 4 singles and No. 2 doubles with Kwan, was a 2007 first team All-Big West Doubles and 2007 Honorable Mention All-Big West Singles player. Kaloi, from Wahiawa, HI, was the 2006 Team Most Improved Player and 2nd Team All-Big West Doubles player.
“We’re really happy with how the season has gone, but it’s also sad that it is coming to an end,” Kaloi said. “We’re really close as a team … all of us honestly enjoyed playing for UCI. It’s an emotional match for us.”
Usual No. 1 singles player and freshman Stephanie Hammel only played doubles, partly to rest a sore shoulder. However, the strong freshmen class showed its prowess by winning two singles matches, even without Hammel.
“This team has a lot of talent, but the 2007 team had more experience,” Edles said when asked to evaluate which team is better. “It might seem a little strange having a freshman as the No. 1 singles player, but it’s been good. They are so talented and pretty mature for their age.”
Before the ‘Eaters think about their bright future, the team must concentrate on the upcoming Big West Championships from April 16 to 19, where the winner receives an automatic bid for the NCAA tournament. The Anteaters will enter with the second seed and a current rank of number 59 nationally. After being ranked in the 60s to start the year, with a high point of being ranked 27th and 48th at the time of the match, the team now sits just outside the at-large bid zone of teams.
“We have a good chance [to make the tournament]; our matches against Long Beach have been pretty close,” Edles said. “I knew we had talent coming into the season, but just wasn’t sure about our experience. One of our main goals was to make the NCAA tournament — we’re right there.”
Look out for information on the UCI’s athletics Web site for where to catch their next mathces as they head to the conference tournament.