WOMEN’S TENNIS — The Tritons played their final match of the year on May 6, suffering a 5-1 loss to Hawaii Pacific University in the first round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division-II West Regionals.
UCSD came into the matchup ranked No. 15 in the nation, while Hawaii Pacific came in ranked No. 11.
The Tritons captured the No. 3 ranking in the region after taking their seventh consecutive California Collegiate Athletic Association title, but the Sea Warriors’ superior ranking earned them the rights to host the first round.
“[Hawaii Pacific] played really well,” UCSD head coach Liz LaPlante said. “It was a windy day, and we got behind in doubles, [so] it was too late. Hawaii is very strong; they were able to go all the way to the final four and lost to the winners, so they have a very tough team.”
The Hawaii Pacific squad made a respectable run all the way to the semifinals of the NCAA Division-II national championships after beating the Tritons last Thursday. However, they soon fell to eventual third-time champion Armstrong Atlantic University, who ended its season ended the season undefeated at 33-0.
May 6 was a familiarly difficult day for the Triton women: Hawaii Pacific knocked UCSD out of the postseason last year as well. UCSD fell behind early when the doubles teams struggled against their opposition. The team of juniors Taskeen Bains and Natalie Varnay lost 8-5, the team of senior Anita Anthavale and freshman Jacquelyn Davis lost 8-3 and the team of freshman Melissa Breisacher and sophomore Samantha Yeung lost 8-5 — putting the Tritons down 3-0 to begin the best-of-nine competition.
The only Triton who ended up scoring points was Varnay, who won her singles match 6-2 and 6-1. Junior Taskeen Bains was defeated 6-3, 6-2, while Davis lost 6-1, 6-2. With the victory over Davis, the Sea Warriors attained the fifth point necessary to snag the victory over UCSD with three singles matches left unfought.
Similar to previous seasons, the Tritons tasted success in conference play before struggling in the playoffs.
“We would love to get to the next round one of these years,” LaPlante said. “But I had a great season with great girls, and we all had a really good season.”
The Tritons dropped a much closer 5-4 decision to Hawaii Pacific on March 25. However, the Sea Warriors’ sweep of the doubles portion proved too much for the Tritons to overcome this time around.
Hawaii Pacific fielded a completely Eastern-European lineup — including two players from Bulgaria, two from Sweden, one from Romania and one from the Czech Republic.
After her first season as a Triton, Davis said she has noticed is a distinct contrast in the quality of teams in conference versus postseason play — a disparity she attributes to the difference in recruitment standards.
“In our conference, the competition gets high between two teams: Cal State Stanislaus and Cal Poly Pomona,” Davis said. “We really don’t have enough competition against teams like [Brigham Young University]-Hawaii and HPU. Those are the teams that we have to beat in playoffs, and unfortunately, we just fall short against teams like them. In our conference, most of the players are American. Outside of the conference, we face girls from Ukraine and China. It’s a different story outside of conference.”
Despite the early postseason exit, the Tritons’ season was by no means disappointing: This marks their 30th straight trip to the NCAA postseason (though they used to fall in Division-III), and their seventh straight conference title with a dramatic victory over Stanislaus on April 17.
As her 31st season as head coach of the women’s tennis team draws to a close, LaPlante said she is already looking forward to her 32nd.
“It is always sad to see the season end,” LaPlante said. “We have a few end-of-the-year activities, but now it is time to look toward next year. A lot of our girls are returning, and it is time to look to get things going again next fall.”
The Tritons will graduate only two of their players. Davis said she is optimistic about the more prominent role UCSD’s younger players will be able to fill next season.
“Even though were losing three players, I’m really excited for next year,” Davis said. “We have four freshman in the team this year, and they all improved a bunch over the season. I’m excited to see in them in the lineup next year.”
Readers can contact Wesley Cox at [email protected]