Women's Tennis Splits Matches Against Island Squads

    Before the University of Hawaii-Hilo women’s tennis team returned to its island paradise, it bid the UCSD squad an irksome “aloha.”

    Greg Dale/Guardian
    Junior Katie McKee and the rest of the of the UCSD women’s tennis team have four league matches remaining before the NCAA Division II West Regional tournament May 4 and 5. The Tritons fell to Hilo last weekend and may face the Vulcans again in the the tournament.

    The Vulcans were one of two Hawaiian teams to visit the mainland this weekend, with the University of Hawaii-Pacific crew also venturing across the Pacific to battle UCSD in a showdown between the region’s top contenders. While the Tritons were victorious in an easy 6-3 win over Pacific on April 1, they fell to Hilo in a disappointing 4-5 loss the following day. The loss drops No. 17 UCSD to 8-6 on the season.

    In singles play against Hawaii-Pacific, junior Marsha Malinow downed Anastacia Ageychik, 6-4, 6-1, and freshman Ina Dan came from behind to earn a three-set victory over Isidora Ljuri. Sophomore Justine Fonte easily handled Aradna Verdejo to provide another tally for the Tritons, who lost their other three matches to split singles play with Pacific.

    UCSD’s doubles play remained the Tritons’ stalwart, with all three tandems making haste of the sluggish Pacific players. In the closest of the matches, juniors Katie McKee and Kristin Bronowicki outlasted opponents Ageychik and Ljuri in an 8-6 final. It was the eighth win in 13 matches for the doubles pair.

    According to head coach Liz LaPlante, the Tritons’ doubles performance has been outstanding and dependable throughout the season.

    “Doubles is crucial to the outcome of the match,” she said. “If you can be up going into singles, it definitely helps.”

    Despite the success against Pacific, No. 10 Hilo proved to be a tougher opponent, subduing the Tritons’ top three singles players, Malinow, McKee and Dan and their No. 1 doubles squad on its way to victory. All losing singles players fell in straight sets, and the usually battling doubles duo of McKee and Bronowicki also went quietly.

    LaPlante said she expected tough competition from both island teams.

    “We had been gearing up for the two Hawaii matches all season,” she said. “They are both strong teams and a lot rides on the outcome for regionals.”

    McKee agreed, adding that the teams’ strength was no surprise.

    “Hilo is always one of our toughest matches,” she said. “It could have gone either way.”

    One bright spot for the Tritons against Hilo was Fonte, who defeated Akimi Kifune in dominant fashion, 6-2, 6-1. With the win, Fonte maintained her undefeated season, bringing her win total to seven.

    According to Fonte, her success is due in large part to her composure.

    “I’ve been playing a lot more relaxed this season,” she said. “I’ve played with more consistency and made my opponent work for each point while I just waited for the opportunity to put the shot away.”

    While losing is justifiably frustrating, UCSD has reason to bemoan the most recent loss because it was yet another close series that tipped in favor of the enemy. In fact, half of the Tritons’ losses have been decided by one match, showing that the team could easily be 11-3 instead of 8-6.

    LaPlante echoed her team’s frustration, but was optimistic about the Tritons’ future success against Hilo.

    “Our 5-4 loss to Hilo is disappointing,” she said. “Unfortunately, they were just better that day, but I’m confident we can beat them next time.”

    With the majority of the season behind them, the Tritons hope to finish their campaign on a strong note, facing four league opponents in six matches in the upcoming weeks. Their weekend results kept them at third in the region, with only Brigham Young University of Hawaii and Hilo ahead in the No. 1 and 2 spots, respectively.

    Following the regular season, the Tritons will try their luck at the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II West Regional Tournament. Assuming the rankings do not change, UCSD will face the No. 7 team. If the Tritons win, they will advance to play Hilo again.

    Only the top two regional teams qualify for nationals, and LaPlante is well aware of the challenge ahead.

    “BYU Hawaii always goes [to regionals] … it’s between us and Hilo.” she said. “Last year, we beat them at home to go to Florida, but this year we’ll have to beat them on their courts.”

    UCSD faces off against Cal State Los Angeles on April 8 to begin its homestretch for the regular season.

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