49ers Finally Toppled
For the last three seasons, the Anteaters had made it all the way to the Big West Tournament Finals before falling to Long Beach State one step short of becoming Big West champions. In fact, this trend had occurred in six of the last nine seasons.
This year was different. Even though injuries plagued their season, UCI’s younger players showed their resilience and stepped up when they needed to. They learned a lot about what it meant to be leaders and it really showed at the Big West Tournament. UCI emphatically defeated the 49ers 4-1, for their first ever Big West Tournament title.
As the season concluded, Coach Mike Edles commented that he was hoping to get the chance to face Long Beach State. UCI had that chance on Sunday morning, with more than just pride on the line.
Heading into the match the Lady Anteaters knew that they were the underdogs. In addition to the less-than-favorable track record for UCI, the Anteaters had lost to Long Beach 4-3 on Feb 20.
For the first time in six meetings, the Lady ‘Eaters were able to right the ship and defeat the CSULB 49ers. There is no question that the hard work and perseverance through recovering from UCI’s many injuries played a role in their monumental victory.
UC Irvine won 4-1 over CSULB by sweeping singles play. Courtney Byron defeated Jaklin Alawi in the number one singles match by winning 7-5, 6-4. April Bisharat won the number two singles match by a score of 6-0, 6-3. The lone loss came in double’s play.
With their win in the Big West Tournament, they will advance to the NCAA Regional Tournament in hopes of continuing their storybook post-season run. The win also tied up the Black & Blue Rivalry Series between the two schools at 16.
With this much momentum carrying them along, who knows what this year’s team of Lady ‘Eaters is capable of.
Quarter-Finals & Semi-Finals
The UCI women’s tennis team stormed into the Big West Tournament coming off of three straight regular season wins. The third seeded Lady Anteaters first test was the sixth seed, University of the Pacific Tigers on Friday afternoon.
The underclassmen had a strong showing, as freshmen Kristina Smith and April Bisharat both contributed to separate wins in doubles play along with a victory in their respective singles game.
Brook Bartlett and Becka Kwan also contributed to the victory with wins in their singles matches. The sophomores Courtney Byron and Stephanie Hammel were unable to defeat their opponents in the number one and number three games respectively.
Having handled the first of their opponents with a 4-2 win, the Lady ‘Eaters took their momentum into the next round against the second seeded UC Santa Barbara Gauchos.
The match was held Saturday morning at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, and the UCI underclassmen were once again superb in doubles play. It ended up being the difference, as the Lady ‘Eaters split singles play 3-3 with the Gauchos.
In singles matches, Kristina Smith once again came through with a victory, but this time she was accompanied by the veteran leadership of sophomore Courtney Byron and junior Becka Kwan in getting wins.
Stephanie Hammel suffered her second straight loss in singles play since coming back from a wrist injury. Her teammates April Bisharat and Brooke Bartlett both received losses as well. Hammel did not participate in a doubles match, but both Bisharat and Bartlett made up for their losses with a victory as doubles partners.
It was a close match on Saturday morning, but the Lady Anteaters managed their way into the championship round of the tournament. The No. 3 seeded Anteaters finish the season with a 13-10, 6-2 Big West overall record.
Now, UCI awaits their destination and first round match-up in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Stay tuned to ESPNews on Tuesday between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.