The Beach got the best of the Anteaters on March 6 when the 75th-ranked UC Irvine Women’s Tennis team was defeated by 67th-ranked Long Beach State in a match that lasted almost four-and-a-half hours, ending with a point total of 5-2.
The Anteaters didn’t go down without a fight, sweeping all three doubles matches.
‘We played a competitive match and we were happy to win doubles, especially since Long Beach is good in doubles,’ said UCI Head Coach Mike Edles.
UCI senior Anna Bentzer and freshman Inna Agababian beat the previously undefeated CSULB doubles team of Nicole Bouffler and Sandra Rocha on court one.
Strong serves and a few impressive overhead hits helped them pull ahead with a 9-7 set. On court two, UCI senior Hui Leow and freshman Becky Bernhard displayed nice teamwork in their win against Long Beach’s Alanah Carroll and Rachael Porsz.
UCI was confident and enthusiastic starting the match, and kept the intensity throughout the game that ended, 8-3. Anteater freshman Lisa Shih and sophomore Jayme Hu defeated CSULB freshmen Stephanie Bengson and Nicoletta Ratiu, 9-8(3). Hu and Shih’s powerful returns kept the Long Beach team at bay during a few key rallies that went in UCI’s favor.
There was plenty of school spirit from UCI at the match; some students displayed ‘Beat the Beach’ signs, T-shirts and towels. However, the fan support wasn’t enough to keep UCI from losing all except one singles match against CSULB.
‘We put in a good effort,’ Bentzer said, ‘but we were let down in singles.’
The lone UCI victory in singles came from Bentzer who forced LBSU’s Bouffler to hustle throughout the match. Bentzer stayed strong throughout the whole match to win 5-7, 6-2, 6-2.
‘I think I got the job done. I did a good job but not excellent,’ a determined Bentzer said of her individual performance in singles.
Bentzer also said that she is ‘never satisfied’ with her performance, always striving to improve.
‘It was a great win by Anna,’ said Edles. ‘[Bouffler] is a tough opponent.’ He described Bentzer and Bouffler as ‘two of the best players in the conference.’
On court two, UCI junior Izabella Mijic and LBSU’s Bengson fought out perhaps the most exciting match of the evening that ended with the win going to Bengson, at 5-7, 6-4, (10-4). Mijic showed good strategy with a nice drop shot in the beginning but Bengson ultimately came out victorious after many long rallies. CSULB’s Rocha out-played UCI’s Agababian on court three. Rocha’s ability to maneuver on the court with quick footwork contributed to her win of 6-0, 7-6.
Court four added another loss for UCI when CSULB’s Carroll defeated Bernhard. Carroll’s fast shots passed up Bernhard who was unable to return them, ending the match at 6-4, 1-6, 6-4.
UCI’s Hui Leow couldn’t keep up with CSULB’s Porsz in a game with numerous exhausting rallies that Leow was unable to break favorably. Leow lost to Porsz at 6-2, 6-2.
On court six, LBSU’s Ratiu defeated Anteater Hu at 6-2, 6-2.
Hu’s power and spin didn’t match up to Ratiu’s tactical hits.
‘We really wanted this match,’ Bentzer said after the loss. ‘I think we were really fired up in doubles but we got off to a slow start in singles.’
Edles felt the same way.
‘Long Beach started better in singles and gained momentum which went in their favor, especially on courts three and five,’ Edles said. ‘There were some breaks that, if they went our way, the outcome of this match would’ve been different.
Ending on a hopeful note, Edles said, ‘It was a good effort … I’m very encouraged. It was a tough match.’
Edles also added, ‘It may not look like it from the score today, but we are still going in the right direction.’