Women’s tennis drops two consecutive matches

    The UCSD women’s tennis team, after starting the season with 10 straight wins, suffered its first two losses of the season against Barry University in an 8-1 deficit and the University of West Florida in a 9-0 shutout during the Triton Spring Break Challenge, bringing their season record to 10-2.

    “We played both matches well,” head coach Liz LaPlante said. “It’s just a whole different level. At the top of Division II tennis, you see a lot of international players on full-ride scholarships. It’s a whole different caliber of tennis.”

    On March 25, the Tritons hosted Barry University (12-2), ranked No. 6 in the nation. The Buccaneers came out all business, and got an early jump on the Tritons in doubles play, taking two of the three matchups. Juniors Kristin Bronowicki and Katie McKee came up with the only UCSD victory on the day at the No. 2 spot, defeating Barry’s Ana Maria Zuleta and Helen Wisniewski, 9-7. Sophomore Marsha Malinow and junior Tara Siddiqui lost, 3-8, at the No.1 spot, and senior team captain Jasmin Dao and junior Marissa Hilker fell at the No. 3 spot by the same score.

    On the singles side, Barry University swept the field. McKee came the closest to victory, taking the Bucs’ Kristin Danielson to a third set at the No. 5 spot before ultimately falling, 7-6, 2-6, 4-10. Malinow, Dao, Hilker, Siddiqui and junior Leigh Roberts all fell in straight sets.

    “We don’t think it’s a bad thing [to lose],” Dao said. “We’d rather have tough matches and lose than just cruise through the entire season. When we have tough competition, it makes us more prepared to compete when it really counts.”

    Two days prior, on March 23, the Tritons matched up against their highest-ranked opponent of the season, University of West Florida (14-2), currently No. 3 in the nation.

    The Argonauts quickly showed that they were deserving of their ranking, jumping out to a 3-0 lead after taking all three doubles matches. Malinow and Siddiqui fell, 3-8, Bronowicki and McKee, 5-8, and Dao and Hilker, 4-8.

    In singles play, the Tritons battled valiantly, taking four of the six matches to third sets. UCSD players won the first set in each of those four matches, but could not maintain the momentum to pull out victories against the West Florida players. Malinow (6-2, 4-6, 7-10), Dao (0-6, 6-3, 6-2), McKee (4-6, 6-3, 10-4) and Roberts (6-7, 6-3, 10-5) each fell in three sets; Hilker (6-1, 6-4) and Siddiqui (6-4, 7-5) fell in two.

    “All of us fought to the very end, and that shows we can compete with them,” Dao said. “The matches were very close and very long, so they were definitely closer than the [9-0] score indicated. We learned what we need to improve on.”

    Prior to finals week, the team played a grueling stretch of three home matches in three days, testing the players’ stamina. They passed with flying colors, emerging victorious against Cal State Bakersfield (9-0) on March 12, against Cal State San Bernardino (8-1) on March 11 and against University of San Francisco (7-2) on March 10. University of San Francisco was the second Division I opponent the Tritons downed this year. UCSD remains undefeated in conference play against California Collegiate Athletic Association opponents.

    “Everybody’s going to get tougher from here, and we’re really looking forward to the upcoming matches,” Dao said. “If we continue to improve, we’ll peak at the right time.”

    The team returns to action March 31, hosting Williams College at 2 p.m. at the Northview Courts. The following day, the Tritons will head north for the Cal Poly Pomona Tournament.

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