The UC Irvine women’s tennis team ended one of its most successful seasons in school history with a tough 4-0 loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
After making the tournament for the first time, the Anteaters were unable to keep up with the healthier and more experienced University of Texas squad on Saturday, May 12.
‘It was disappointing because our goal was to advance past the first round, not just make the tournament,’ said UCI Head Coach Mike Edles. ‘We weren’t satisfied with just being there.’
UCI finished the season with an overall record of 21-5 and a 7-0 record in the Big West Conference.
‘The season in general has been one of our best years overall and, despite losing, our team should be very proud of the type of season we had,’ Edles said. ‘We made the No. 34 ranking, we advanced to the tournament and we brought the program to a new elite level. I wanted to make sure the team held their head high, though, because they should be proud of where they have taken the program.’
The Anteaters began the match losing two of the three doubles matches, giving Texas an early 1-0 lead. UCI needed to win four of the six singles matches to advance to the second round but were unable to break through against the Longhorns.
Sophomore Ali Borowicz, junior Becky Bernhard and sophomore Heidi Kaloi dropped their singles matches allowing Texas to win the three single points and capture the match 4-0.
Edles was proud of the team’s effort and acknowledged the spotlight might have affected its performance.
‘Experience played a big part in the game,’ Edles said. ‘It was our first ever appearance in the tournament and [Texas’] 15th appearance in a row. There is not much difference between us in terms of talent and skill but the fact that they have been there so many times before, they were a bit more comfortable in the situation.’
One of the biggest challenges the team faced this season was dealing with injuries. After jumping out to a hot start, the Anteaters had numerous players sidelined toward the end of the season.
Heading into the Big West Tournament, Bernhard and Borowicz were recovering from injuries and in the week before the NCAA Tournament, junior Inna Agababian (quad) and junior Jessica Broadfoot (hamstring) suffered serious muscle problems in their legs.
‘We weren’t sure how [Agababian and Broadfoot] were going to respond,’ Edles said. ‘It’s a credit to them that they really stepped up and played some great tennis despite playing hurt.’
Edles said that ‘psychically [his team] hit a wall toward the end of the season.’
UCI will loose only two seniors from its roster and will have a legitimate chance to the return to the NCAA Tournament once again next season.
‘We brought the team to a new level and one that we can definitely build upon in the future,’ Edles said. ‘The future is definitely looking bright.’