BYU-Hawaii Outshines Women’s Tennis Squad

    The UCSD women’s tennis team kicked off the year by hosting the ITA Small College West Regional Championships Sept. 28-30. Unfortunately for the Tritons, their tournament opener was overshadowed by nagging injuries and the superb play of Brigham Young University-Hawaii senior Julia Ustyuzhanina and sophomore Ramona Husaro.

    “It was a great tournament with some very good competition,” UCSD coach Liz LaPlante said. “The BYU-Hawaii girls are definitely much better than everyone else, but the other matches were very competitive.”

    The BYU-Hawaii duo of Ustyuzhanina and Husaro dominated the tournament, easily claiming the doubles title by shutting out UCSD seniors Alison Legakis and Christy Knudsen in the final round, 8-0.

    Ustyuzhanina and Husaro also finished first and second, respectively, in the singles championship with Ukrainian-born Ustyuzhanina beating her Romanian-born teammate for the tournament championship. BYU-Hawaii, which boasts six international players, won last year’s Division II national championship and has won six championships in the last eight years under the guidance of head coach David Porter.

    Although the BYU-Hawaii duo bested the UCSD players, the tournament allowed the Tritons an opportunity to face top-rate competition after losing seniors Kristin Bronowicki and Katie McKee, last year’s top doubles team, both of whom decided to graduate early.

    In addition to losing Bronowicki and McKee, injuries to two of their top players and lack of team practice time hindered the Tritons.

    “Since we just started school and only had three days of practice, I think the team performed well,” LaPlante said. “Returning number-one player Marsha Malinow had a bad foot injury and played, but couldn’t play to her potential.”

    Malinow, seeded third in the singles tournament, was eliminated early in the second round by newcomer Krishana De Silva of Cal State Los Angeles, 6-4, 6-2. The injured Malinow also lost her doubles match with sophomore Ina Dan to fellow teammates Legakis and Knudsen in the semifinals, 8-5.

    Dan, the 2006 California Collegiate Athletics Association Freshman of the Year, advanced to the third round in her first-ever appearance in this tournament with wins over Elena Park from Cal State Los Angeles in the first round, 6-1, 6-3, and Mallory Brady of Cal State Pomona in the second round, 7-6, 6-1. Dan, recovering from a wrist injury she suffered in last season’s loss to the University of Hawaii-Hilo in the second round of the NCAA Division II tournament, eventually lost in a competitive third-round match to top Cal Poly Pomona junior Jenny Tsai, 5-7, 6-4, 7-5.

    “I thought I played well, and I was happy with my performance,” Dan said. “Coming off of an injury I sustained at Hilo last season … I think I’m at a pretty good place considering how long we have until the season actually starts.”

    The Tritons are coming off of a third-straight CCAA title and return all but two players from last season’s championship team; however, LaPlante acknowledges that the team will have to improve if it wants its perfect 30-0 record in league play from the last three seasons to remain intact.

    “There is always room for improvement,” LaPlante said. “But all the girls returning have great experience from last year. Now we have to get back in shape and get back in the competitive mode so we’re ready for conference. All three teams, Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State [Los Angeles] and Sonoma State have quite a few new good players, so I think the conference will be much more competitive.

    Last weekend’s tournament went a long way in showing what improvements the team needs to make, namely replacing its No. 1 doubles team, before entering conference play at home against Cal State Los Angeles Feb. 10.

    “As a team, we really need to work on putting together good doubles teams, and working out any kinks in our games,” Dan said. “It is just a matter of practice and playing a lot of matches.”

    The team will get a chance to work out some of the kinks when it returns to action at the UC Irvine Invitational from Oct. 28-29, when it will face Division-I competitors. “I’m really looking forward to this season,” Dan said. “Our team seems to be working really well together already, and things can only get better.”

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