The 57th-ranked UC Irvine women’s tennis team fell 6-1 to 18th-ranked Pepperdine University in the sweltering heat at Anteater Tennis Stadium on Saturday afternoon. After riding on a four-game winning streak, the women’s team dropped to 13-8.
The Anteaters never found their rhythm or momentum in the beginning as they lost two of three doubles matches, giving Pepperdine a 1-0 lead. Their only doubles victory was when Clare Fermin and Rebecca Kwan of UCI defeated Jill Braverman and Anarmika Bhargava of Pepperdine 8-4 in the No. 2 match. The other doubles matches included Bianca Dulgerhu and Sylvia Kosakowski of Pepperdine defeating Inna Agababian and Becky Bernhard of UCI 8-3 in the No. 1 slot. In the No. 3 slot, Lisa Shih and Jessica Broadfoot of UCI were swept 8-0 by Antete Bandere and Tania Rice of Pepperdine.
The Anteaters still could not find an answer in the singles matches as Braverman of Pepperdine beat Kwan of UCI 6-3, 6-0 in the No. 5 match. Another singles match victory from Bhargava of Pepperdine gave them a comfortable 3-0 lead when she defeated Agababian of UCI 6-4, 6-4 in the No. 2 match.
Head Coach Mike Edles realized that in order to become a successful team, every singles match has to be played with intensity from the No. 1 match to the No. 6 match.
“The middle of our line up [in the singles matches] needs the most improvement right now,” Edles said. “We’re always strong at the top but our depth has always been a little shaky in the middle.”
Pepperdine clinched the overall match with 4-0 when Bandere moved past Bartlett of UCI 6-3, 6-3. It would continue its string of singles match victories in Dulgerhu’s win over Fermin of UCI 6-2, 6-2 in the No. 3 match and Liles’ 6-1, 6-4 win over Broadfoot of UCI in the No. 6 match.
In the final No. 1 singles match, however, senior standout Becky Bernhard refused to give Pepperdine a 7-0 shutout. In the first set, she displayed her physical prowess as she outplayed No. 77 nationally ranked Kosakowski of Pepperdine 6-0, not allowing Kosakowski to break any of her serves. The second set was more dynamic as Kosakowski began to find her rhythm, which was not enough as Bernhard broke her serves twice. Bernhard won 6-0, 4-6 (10-5).
This has been Bernhard’s ninth consecutive win so far this season, a feat very difficult to accomplish especially against nationally ranked teams like Boise State, Long Beach State and University of Southern California. “[Becky has] been playing so well this year. It’s not just this year, but over four years, it’s been great to see how much improvement she’s made since her freshmen year,” Edles said.
Still, Edles remains optimistic about the Big West Tournament and the Anteaters’ last conference game against UC Riverside this Wednesday, despite losing to Pepperdine on Saturday.
“We’re just trying to put in the final touches on our game right now to get ready, and fine tuning,” Edles said. “I think we’re coming together as a team at the right time.”
And if that is the case, other teams better be preparing for a revamped Anteater team.