Women’s and Men’s Tennis Find Success at Home
Women’s Tennis vs GCU
Up 6-2 in a tiebreaker in the first set of her match, and senior Sarah Gong finds herself amidst a furious rally against her opponent. Her opponent unloads a crosscourt return 2 meters to her right, and Gong launches across the court while readying herself for a forehand return. She plants her feet, and while simultaneously winding and unwinding her body, whips her racquet across the face of the ball.
As the ball furiously spins across the court, it grazes the net cord and momentarily stalls in the air, before dropping limply onto the other side and dropping twice on the court.
7-2, set Gong.
Gong raises her hand to signal an apology to her opponent, shortly which after a look of relief washes over face. While net-cord balls are generally frowned upon because of the element of luck involved, the point itself was indicative of the UCI women’s tennis team’s 4-3 victory over Grand Canyon University Saturday morning:
Sure, a bit of good fortune was involved, but it was only Gong’s tenacity and perseverance throughout the set that allowed her to be in a position to reap the benefits of Lady Fortune in the first place.
Following her first set victory, Gong went on to take the second set 6-4, clinching the Anteater’s third point of the day and tying the match score at 3-3 apiece.
With the fate of both teams hanging in the balance, all eyes then turned to court six, where UCI’s freshman Catherine Kreslin battled GCU’s Sofia Helgstrand for the decisive point.
As a steady defensive player who prioritized consistency over winners, Kreslin steadily wore her opponent down, acting as a human backboard and waiting for her opponent to make unforced errors.
Despite the pressure of playing in her first collegiate match — never mind the decisive game — Kreslin remained focused, and after approximately three hours and thirty minutes of grueling (and oftentimes, monotonous) tennis, emerged with the three-set victory to clinch the match for her team.
The victory is a sign of positive things to come for the Anteater’s season. Not only did they defeat a team that qualified for last year’s NCAA championships, but they did so without the services of several starters.
“I’m extremely proud of the team and the effort,” said head coach Mike Edles. “I think, given the challenging circumstances, we did a terrific job. The effort was outstanding.”
Men’s Tennis vs UC San Diego
A day after falling to No. 22 University of San Diego, the UCI men’s tennis team rebounded at home to record a 5-2 victory against UC San Diego at the Anteater Tennis Stadium Sunday morning.
While the score tells the story of the ‘Eaters cruising to victory, the match was, in reality, a much more hard-fought contest.
After securing the doubles point, the Anteaters entered the round of singles without their No. 1 Sebastian Heim, who had upset No. 35 Uros Petronijevic in straight sets (6-2, 6-2) the day prior.
From the onset of the first set in each match, it appeared the Anteaters were facing an upset at the hands of the Division II Tritons.
Nico Mertens was down 1-4 at No. 1, while Tyler Pham, Justin Agbayani and Jonathan Hammel each dropped the first set. While newcomers Luca Marquard and Vatsal Bajpai won their matches in straight sets to give UCI a 3-0 edge, but Hammel and Agbayani dropped their second sets to keep UCSD’s chances alive.
With the score at 3-2, the outcome of the match hinged on the results of Pham and Mertens. Mertens, who was down 1-4, eventually rallied back to take the first set 7-5, but dropped the second set 4-6 to UCSD’s Axel Bouillin.
While both players were having an intense back-and-forth on court 1, Pham had adjusted to his opponent after dropping the first set, and overtook Eric Tseng 6-2 (6-3 in the second and third sets) to clinch the match 4-3 for UCI.
“It was tough. He came out of the gates really strong, but I was able to, like, keep my cool and fully get back into the match,” said Pham. “It was helpful; the coach on the side gave me different patterns to play, and slowly it ended up working, and I ended up building momentum to get the win.”
Though the match had been decided, Mertens and Bouillin opted to play their match through till the end, in which Mertens emerged victorious 6-3.