Senior Day Slaughter: Going out with a Bang
UCI 7, UCR 0
UC Irvine’s women’s tennis team swept the UC Riverside Highlanders 7-0 at Anteater Tennis Stadium on April 5, improving to 13-5 overall and 5-1 in conference play.
“Today was a good match because it’s something to build on. Great effort all around,” head coach Mike Edles said. “We got a good start in pretty much all the matches. We didn’t lose a set so it was pretty decisive.”
Following sophomore Marivick Mamiit and freshman Ali Facey’s 8-5 double victory, the tandem of seniors Courtney Byron and Hannah Holladay led the Anteaters’ doubles effort with an 8-5 win to give UCI the doubles point.
“The key to my match was making sure I stayed super solid all the way through and making sure I hit my shots which I did,” Holladay said. “I tried to dominate with my forehand and get to the net.”
Coach Edles noted that he was happy with the doubles performances.
“We were pretty dominant today which is nice bouncing back from the last match where we didn’t really have a good day with doubles,” Edles said. “We’re just trying to build momentum and build a strong base going into the Big West tournament.”
Although UCR may have looked like an easy win on paper, they were not. In one of the singles matches, co-captain Byron downed Kat Saltarelli 6-3, 6-4.
“It wasn’t the prettiest match ever but I think I did a really good job of sticking it out when she started playing better in the second set,” Byron said. “She got a lot of balls in so my strategy was to move her around and get her off the court so that I could move in a put the ball away. She struggled when she got out wide on her forehand so that was a big strategy of mine. She had a really big forehand but the wide forehand was her weak spot.”
UCI seemed at risk to losing the singles sweep with co-captain Stephanie Hammel’s match.
“My opponent played really well today. It was a tough match overall. I was down 3-0 in the first set and then I came back to 4-3 and then we went into a tiebreak. After winning the first set, I felt great,” senior Stephanie Hammel said. “I just stuck with it and pulled it out in the end.”
It was also the last home game of the season and the last home games for seniors Byron, Holladay and Hammel. Each of them had a message for their team and the common theme was simply enjoying their time playing collegiate tennis together.
“Just enjoy your time here and don’t take anything for granted since it goes by really fast,” Byron said. “You learn a lot over the four years and at the end, you never needed to take it so seriously. It is just a game but try your hardest and do the best you can to succeed.”
“Give it 100 percent because you don’t want to look back and have what ifs like,” Holladay said. “Do the extra work and most of all, have fun with it since it goes by so quickly.”
“It goes quickly so use every moment to your advantage,” Hammel added. “It’s kind of a short time in your life and it’s something you want to enjoy every minute. There may be more difficult times, of course. I was out for two years almost but I came back. It’s been a really good experience.”
In addition, although they agree that finding a balance between school and tennis has been tough, being scholar-athletes has been invaluable to them.
Byron: “[Tennis] has taught me how to have confidence [and] to be a team player. Being team captain this year, […] taught me a lot about responsibility.”
Holladay: “Basic things like time management. I love tennis and I love school but it’s finding that balance which took a bit of time at first. It’s a lot of work, but I just enjoyed having something to do every day.”
Hammel: “I did a double major (Biological Sciences and Chemistry). I played tennis while I did that. I did research and all sorts of things so it’s keeping a balance between everything. […] I got one of the best experiences since I’ve been able to do so many things.”
For Edles, he has one request from his graduating seniors.
“Let’s have our best finish ever. I’m ready for it,” he said.
“Hopefully [it will be] three matches at the Big West tournament and then NCAAs.”