UC Riverside’s women’s tennis (1-4, 0-1) team picked up their first win of the season in convincing fashion, beating Hope International, 7-0 on Friday, Feb. 10 on the Student Recreation Center tennis courts.
The Highlanders benefitted from a Royals team who had to forfeit three singles matches and two doubles matches, as they were only able to bring four players to the match.
Early on, UCR freshman Sara Khattab swept her opponent, Jovanna Milosevic, in back-to-back 6-1 sets. Sophomore Tracy Van followed suit against Haley Robles with straight sets, 6-1 and 6-0, and notched a doubles win with junior Natalie Penner against Milosevic and Robles. Freshman Lauren Wolfe rounded out the sweep-fest for the Highlanders with a 6-1 and 6-0 straight set match against Jasmine Hyacinth.
Highlander Head Coach Mark Henry was impressed with his team’s play on Friday, especially in their aggression on set points. “That’s really been our goal all year,” stated the veteran coach. “We started on that in the middle of the fall. And I thought that’s really what we need to make up some ground against a lot of the teams we play.”
Friday’s match was a step in the right direction, as Henry saw improvement in closing out sets. “We won, and some of the sets everything just clicked and it went really well,” Henry said postgame. “Other sets we didn’t get what we expected and we were in positions where we really weren’t comfortable.” Ultimately, Henry believes the team’s focus has to be “trying to finish without trying to finish” rather than forcing plays that aren’t there.
Henry says he is most concerned with the women developing this piece of their game, especially with every player in the lineup returning next year. This will be a vital skill to have against Big West Conference opponents CSU Long Beach (3-1, 2-0) and Fullerton (7-0, 1-0), who he expects to be the toughest competition the Highlanders will face all year.
Despite the Highlanders being swept by Fullerton on Saturday, Feb. 11, Henry expressed to gohighlanders.com that he believed his team played their best matches of the year. The Highlanders will look to continue their improvement and hopefully earn a win as they are back in action Saturday, Feb. 18 against the West Coast Conference’s Loyola Marymount (2-1, 0-0).