Long Beach 3
UC Irvine 4
With the powerful forehand of sophomore Ali Borowicz, the UC Irvine women’s tennis team kept its first-place standing in the Big West Conference and undefeated conference record intact.
Facing Long Beach State, which entered the match in second place in the conference, behind UCI, the Anteaters used an entire team effort to beat the 49ers 4-3 on Thursday afternoon at Anteater Tennis Stadium.
With the game tied at 3-3 and the deciding game between Borowicz and Long Beach’s Sandra Rocha heading into the third and final set, Borowicz rose to the occasion.
Borowicz broke Rocaha’s serve and captured the third set 6-4 to give her the 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 victory and the women’s team the overall 4-3 win.
‘I have been in the deciding match position before, and it has always made me really nervous,’ Borowicz said. ‘It is a huge amount of pressure. But this time it was different for me. Honestly, there was nowhere else I would have rather been than playing that deciding match against Long Beach. My teammates did a great job of cheering me on from the sidelines, and I really wanted to pull through victorious for them.’
The win was the sixth straight for the Anteaters (11-2 overall, 5-0 Big West). They now hold a one-and-a-half game lead over Long Beach (5-5, 3-1) for first place in the Big West Conference.
‘It definitely feels good to be 5-0,’ said Head Coach Mike Edles. ‘We feel like we are in the driver’s seat in terms of conference play.’
UCI captured the first point of the match, winning two of the three doubles games. The team of junior Becky Bernhard and sophomore Clare Fermin won 9-7 in the first match. Borowicz and senior Jayme Hu won the other game 8-5 to give UCI the early 1-0 lead.
Heading into the doubles match, the Anteaters needed to win three of the six matches to clinch the win.
With the help of junior Jessica Broadfoot, the Anteaters jumped to a 2-0 lead. Broadfoot set the tone from the beginning, easily winning 6-2 in both sets.
Junior Inna Agababian and Fermin both lost their singles matches, allowing Long Beach to tie the game at 2-2.
Junior Becky Bernhard helped UCI regain the lead at 3-2 when she upset Long Beach’s Hannah Grady in straight sets 6-2, 6-4.
After a tough 4-6, 3-6 loss by UCI sophomore Heidi Koloi, the game was tied at three points apiece and the stage was set for Borowicz.
‘[Borowicz] really demonstrated her ability to play under pressure in this match,’ Agababian said. ‘Playing a third set to decide the overall match outcome is tough, but she showed everybody how mentally strong she is when it matters the most.’
With a roster featuring just two seniors, Edles said the biggest difference for his team has been the growth of many of his younger players.
‘Our players are just playing with poise now and they have the maturity to be focused,’ Edles said. ‘I think they have a better understanding of their abilities and they are just rising to the occasion in pressure situations.’
UCI still has two more conference games remaining against Cal State Northridge and UC Riverside before the Big West Championships from April 27 to 29.
Right now, most of the Anteater players are just looking to keep both their undefeated record alive and the top spot in the conference.
‘It feels great so far; hopefully, we can keep up the performance throughout the rest of the season and win the final two Big West matches against Northridge and Riverside,’ Agababian said.
The Anteaters will next take on the University of Pennsylvania on March 5 at 1:30 p.m. at Anteater Tennis Stadium.
The match against Pennsylvania will be the first of four straight home games for the women’s team who will also take on Central Florida, Yale and New Mexico.