By John Nardolillo
UC Irvine women’s tennis fell 5-2 to UC Santa Barbara Saturday morning at the Anteater Tennis Stadium amid several inclement weather delays. UCSB continues their near-perfect conference campaign and improved to 5-1, 12-7 overall, while UCI dropped to 3-14, 1-4 in Big West play.
Singles matches were played first to help expedite the process in fear of a rain-out. The Gauchos stormed out of the gate as sophomore Amanda Atanasson defeated UCI’s senior Andrea Duva 6-2, 6-0 at number five. UCSB’s junior Stefani Stojic took number three singles with a 6-3, 6-0 victory over junior Taylor LeFridge, and junior Jamie Gilbertson topped junior Mazy Watrous 6-1, 6-3 at number four putting the Gauchos one point away from clinching the match.
Santa Barbara won its fourth point and the match on number six singles without even conceding a set. Junior Cassidy Branstine came close to stealing the second set and extending the match but sophomore Natalie Da Silveira narrowly avoided defeat winning 6-3, 7-5.
After the final rain delay, number one singles wrapped up their match as UCI’s senior Sarah Gong could not overcome a tight first-set tiebreaker and lost to sophomore Lou Adler 7-6 (7-5), 6-3. Anteaters’ sophomore Vivien Dvali was able to register a point in the final singles match over sophomore Paulina Dubavets at number two. Dvali won the first set 6-2 before dropping the second set in a tiebreaker, 6-7 (1-7). The third set was interrupted by the rain tied at 1-1, and a winner-take-all tiebreaker to 7 was played when action resumed, which Dvali was able to win 7-5.
As the rain subsided, the doubles teams took the courts giving the Anteaters the chance to end on a high note. Sophomore Ashlynn Hall and Duva lost at number three to Da Silveira and Gilbertson 6-2. UCI’s number one duo of Gong and Watrous were able to upend Stojic and Dubavets, who boast a #15 ranking in the country along with a 20-4 record on the season, winning 6-3. Dvali and LeFridge took number two doubles over junior Melissa Baker and freshman Stephanie Yamada, 6-2, giving UCI its second point of the 5-2 loss.
The Anteaters responded on Sunday while battling the Cal Poly Mustangs in a hard-fought win, 5-2. UCI did not break in tough situations where it had in the past, finishing matches strong when Cal Poly threatened. The Anteaters, now 4-14 (2-4), widened its lead over the Mustangs, 3-13 (1-6), in the Big West standings with the end of conference play looming.
“The players deserve a ton of credit,” said head coach Mike Edles. “All season they’ve had a great attitude and have never given up. There were moments where it got dicey and we could have packed it in, but they hung in there and stayed disciplined.”
The duo of Dvali and LeFridge made quick work of number two doubles defeating sophomores Abigail Bacharach and Molly Reed, 6-1. The number one team of Gong and Watrous were able to fend off freshman Ilana Oleynik and junior Louise Oxnevad for a 6-4 victory and the doubles point. Down 2-1, Gong and Watrous broke the Mustang’s serve to win three straight games, tipping the scales in their favor to win the doubles point and two wins in a row as a doubles team. The number three match went unfinished with Cal Poly leading 6-5.
The strong doubles play carried over into the singles matches as Dvali won number two singles in straight sets over senior Bryn Bacharach, 6-1, 6-2. Cal Poly answered when sophomore Molly Reed knocked off junior Cassidy Branstine at number six, 6-4, 6-2, putting the Mustangs on the board.
Gong swept the Mustangs’ sophomore Zoe Oedekerk after winning the first set 6-4. Gong captured the second set in dominant fashion, 6-2, putting the Anteaters a point away from clinching. Watrous could not build off her outstanding doubles performance and found herself mired in inconsistency at number four singles. Bacharach won the first set comfortably, but Watrous struck back to claim the second. Bacharach proved to be too much and took the third set and the match, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, as the Mustangs drew closer with a score of 3-2.
With the match hanging in the balance, attention turned to a hotly contested match at number three singles between LeFridge and Oleynik. LeFridge won the first set 6-4, but the ladies traded blows in a back-and-forth second set when LeFridge eventually prevailed 7-5, clinching the match for the ‘Eaters. Duva won the last match at number five singles for good measure, outlasting senior Dane Joubert, 6-2, 2-6, 5-5 (10-5).
Edles hopes to build off this conference win as the upcoming Big West Championships are held at the end of April.
“We want to make sure we’re all on the same page in terms of team spirit, camaraderie, and effort. We lost yesterday but the team spirit was there and it carried over into today. We want to finish the regular season strong to give us the momentum to peak down the stretch.”
UCI hosts CSUN next Saturday, April 16 at 11:00 AM in another Big West matchup.