Women’s Tennis Finishes Season on High Note

Head coach Liz LaPlante called her team’s showing at the Anteater Invitational the program’s best ever. The Tritons went 11-4 in singles play but struggled in doubles action, posting one win in seven matches. (Erik Jepsen/Guardian File)

WOMEN’S TENNIS — The Tritons took the court last weekend for the Anteater Invitational on Nov. 15 and 16, the team’s final appearance in the fall season before its next match in February. After having over a month off, the Tritons were eager to return to action for one last test before the long break. The tournament, which UC Irvine hosted, was especially important for 29-year coach Liz LaPlante because it gave her team an opportunity to measure itself against Division-I competition.

“I was extremely proud of the way my team played because this was, by far, the best we have ever done,” LaPlante said. “In past years we have come away hardly winning sets, let alone matches against these teams. But, in the last couple years, our team has continued to get stronger and we have gotten better results over here. This year, however, we achieved unprecedented success and it’s really a testament to my team and how hard they’ve worked this season.”

Over the course of the tournament, UCSD got a good sense of its strengths and weaknesses while taking on teams from the University of Montana, Northern Arizona University, Loyola Marymount, UC Riverside and host UC Irvine. The Tritons finished the tournament with mixed results, performing extremely well in singles, but struggling in doubles. They combined to go 11-4 in singles over their two days of action, but could only win one of their seven doubles matches. Head coach LaPlante attributed the team’s struggles in doubles to a lack of preparation — something she plans to work on in detail over the next two months.

“I really feel we have three potentially great doubles teams, but they still need more time to work together,” LaPlante said. “We have so little time in fall to practice and we were spending more time practicing singles in the early going. However, I really intend to start stressing doubles more in January right before our spring season starts.”

LaPlante is confident the team will be able to turn doubles into a team strength over the next few months of practice.

“The doubles is very important to the outcome of the match, and I feel our teams will be stronger than ever,” she said.

Sophomore Natalie Varnay had a strong tournament, going 3-1 overall while participating in both formats. In singles, Varnay won both of her matches, defeating Kayla Moyse of Montana, 6-2, 2-6, 6-2 on Sunday and registering a 6-1, 6-2 over Regan Newman of Northern Arizona. Junior Anita Athavale finished with a 2-2 record, splitting her matches in singles and doubles, while serving as Varnay’s partner. Athavale dropped her first singles match, falling to Kim Van Ginkle of Northern Arizona 6-3, 6-2, but responded well on Sunday with a 6-0, 6-0 blowout win over Anna Higane of UC Riverside. In doubles action, Varnay teamed with Athavale to defeat a UC Riverside doubles team by an 8-2 score, which turned out to be the only doubles match the Tritons were able to win over the duration of the tournament. Varnay’s other doubles match also came with Athavale, but ended as a 9-7 loss on the first day of action.

The Tritons women’s tennis team walked away from the Anteater Invitational with a strong 11-4 showing in singles play with every match coming against an opponent from a Division-I school. (Erik Jepsen/Guardian File)

Sophomore Cindy Dao also had a strong debut in singles play, comfortably defeating Rebecca Bran of Montana by a 6-3, 6-4 score. Dao’s only other match of the tournament came when she joined sophomore Valerie Tang in a doubles match against the Northern Arizona team of Van Ginkle and Newman. The Tritons duo fell by an 8-6 score, but had one of UCSD’s stronger performances on the doubles side. Tang lost her other doubles tilt, teaming with senior Tessa Tran in an 8-4 setback. Tang and Tran had more success in singles, with the duo combining to win all four of their matches in that format. Tang won her first match in a decisive 6-2, 6-2, then followed with a gut-wrenching 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 win over Amanda Bran of Montana. Tran was the only Triton able to win both of her singles matches in straight sets, defeating Aimee Oki of Northern Arizona 6-4, 6-4 on Saturday and blowing by a UC Riverside opponent in a 6-0, 6-0 rout.

Senior Ina Dan, the team’s most experienced player, got off to a strong start in the tournament, winning her singles match 6-0, 6-3 over Martyna Nowak of Montana. Dan was winless the rest of the way, losing two doubles matches with sophomore Taskeen Bains and falling 6-2, 6-0 in her singles finale. Dan and Bains were defeated in their first doubles match by Edit Suhajda and Yumi Hasegawa of Northern Arizona in an 8-6 final score. The duo’s other doubles match wasn’t nearly as interesting as they fell 8-1. Bains was able to make amends in singles. In her first match, Bains overcame a 5-3 third set deficit during which she overcame three match points.

Freshman Katie Mulloy also had the opportunity to participate in the tournament, the only first-year player to compete for the Tritons. She went 0-3 in her matches, losing her first singles match 7-6, 6-1 to Kayla Moyse of Montana. In her only doubles match, Mulloy teamed with Tran, but the duo couldn’t find a rhythm, losing 8-1 to the Young sisters of UC Irvine. Mulloy dropped her final match by a 6-1, 6-4 score.

With their fall season now complete, the Tritons will be on hiatus until Feb. 2 when they will host Cal Baptist at the North Courts. During that time, LaPlante said her team needs to work on fitness, quickness and mental toughness. UCSD will open defense of its California Collegiate Athletic Association title and its 40-match unbeaten streak in conference matches when it travels to face division rival Cal State Bernardino on Feb. 11. The Tritons will be on the road for much of the month of February, but will open CCAA play at home when they face Cal Poly Pomona on March 11.