Eagles, Seawolves are no match for UCSD

Members of the UCSD women’s tennis team set a goal of going undefeated against California Collegiate Athletic Assoociation opponents this season, and following a pair of resounding victories against Sonoma State on Feb. 25 and Cal State Los Angeles on Feb. 26, the team is well on its way.

UCSD athletes were at the top of their games, defeating both opponents by match scores of 8-1. Strong individual efforts were plentiful, with many players competing in both singles and doubles matches to pick up multiple wins for UCSD (5-0 overall, 2-0 CCAA). Juniors Marissa Hilker and Leigh Roberts and sophomore Kristin Bronowicki each did double duty and went 4-0 for the weekend (2-0 in both singles and doubles play).

The women traveled to Los Angeles on Feb. 26 to take on the Cal State Los Angeles Eagles. In their first away match of the season, the Tritons took an early 3-0 lead, thanks to wins in all three doubles matchups. No. 1 tandem junior Tara Siddiqui and sophomore Marsha Malinow defeated the Eagles’ Kim Godoy and Ronalyn Miller, 8-4. Sophomores Bronowicki and Katie McKee handled Cal State Los Angeles’ Kimmy Barnes and Maggie Bollinger at the No. 2 spot, 8-5, and Hilker and Roberts took down Dana Popescu and Charise Godoy, 8-3.

“Winning our doubles matches really helps improve our confidence going into the singles matches,” Malinow said. “But we never want to be overconfident or underconfident. Our goal is to get to the point where everybody has a good day every match day.”

On the singles side, the Tritons were just as dominant, with No. 1 Malinow (d. C. Godoy, 6-3, 6-3), No. 2 Hilker (d. Bollinger 6-0, 6-3), No. 4 Roberts (d. Miller, 6-4, 6-0), No. 5 Bronowicki (d. Barnes, 6-1, 7-6), and No. 6 Liz Brown (d. K. Godoy 6-0, 6-0) all winning in straight sets. No. 3 Siddiqui fell, 4-6, 3-6, to Popescu.

On Feb. 25, the Tritons hosted Sonoma State at the Northview Courts in their first conference match of the year. The Seawolves came in with upset on their minds, but the Tritons crushed those hopes quickly and emphatically, taking all three doubles matches. Hilker and Roberts set the tone at the No. 3 spot with an 8-1 victory. Bronowicki and McKee followed suit with an 8-4 victory at the No. 2 spot and Malinow and Siddiqui battled back from a 5-6 deficit, winning three straight games to finish, 8-6, at the No. 1 spot.

The women built on this momentum in singles play, winning five of six. Hilker, Siddiqui, Roberts, Bronowicki and Brown all scored victories for the Tritons. Sonoma’s Brianna Bailey saved the Seawolves from the goose egg, narrowly defeating Malinow at the No. 1 spot, 7-6, 7-5.

Bronowicki has been a large part of the Tritons’ success. Besides going undefeated for the weekend, she has not lost a match all year, and has an overall record of 10-0.

“[Bronowicki] didn’t get a chance to play singles last year, but we always knew she had the potential,” head coach Liz LaPlante said. “She’s gotten her chance this season, and is playing really, really well. She could play and do well at any spot in the lineup.”

The Tritons’ hot start has earned them the ninth ranking in the nation from the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) in its Feb. 23 release.

“We’re happy with our results so far, but we always strive to be better,” LaPlante said. “Our competition hasn’t been the most difficult so far — teams that we’re going to have to face down the road at Regionals and Nationals will certainly be way tougher. We’re not at full strength; we have a couple of injuries to starters that we’ve had to work around. Doubles play is ahead of where it was last year.”

The busy weekend was a change for the team, after its past four matches were rained out. UCSD will have to reschedule away matches against conference opponents Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State Bakersfield and Cal State San Bernardino.

The Tritons next host Cal Poly Pomona on March 2 at 2 p.m. at the Northview Courts, then will travel north for away matches against San Jose State on March 4 and Sonoma State on March 5.

“San Jose State [a Division I program] should be a good indicator of where we are,” LaPlante said.