The UC Riverside women’s tennis team (3-8, 0-2) returned to the SRC tennis courts on Wednesday, March 4 to battle against the Utah State University Aggies (4-3) after being rained out for the previous two games. Before the match delays, the Highlanders were on a two-game losing streak in which they lost to Long Beach State University (7-4, 3-1) and Villanova University (7-1, 1-0). Despite looking to end their string of losses, UCR dropped both matches against Utah, 4-0, and Ball State University, 4-3.
In the doubles bracket, UCR struggled to counter Utah and were only able to secure one game at both of the top two spots. At the No.1 spot UCR junior Tia Elpusan and senior Sara Khattab were defeated by Utah seniors Lucy Octave and Hannah Jones 6-1. Sophomores Mahli Silpachai and Hanh Pham were also defeated by the Aggies 6-1. The team of sophomore Lindsey Gelinas and senior Lauren Wolfe were able to clinch two games but eventually their match against Utah was left unfinished 5-2, with the doubles point going to the Aggies.
With the Highlanders already trailing, the singles side needed to make up lost ground. Despite their efforts, the Aggies continued their dominance and earned three victories in the singles bracket, sufficiently ending the match. Silpachai competed against Utah’s Octave and was defeated 6-1, 7-5. Gelinas and Pham faced losses as well with both losing 7-5, 6-3 and 6-1, 6-0 respectively.
“Overall, the way it ended especially was really good, we got off to a bit of a slow start. They (Utah) played good doubles and we couldn’t quite counter that. Even the singles again, just a little bit of a slow start but once we got into the match I thought we played really well,” commented women’s tennis head coach Mark Henry in an interview with The Highlander, “We got people coming in and out of being a little off because they’ve had injuries. So some of them haven’t been playing much but they did a nice job of competing and making it a nice match.”
On Thursday, March 5, the Highlanders went against the Ball State University Cardinals (10-2). The Highlanders refused to go down without a fight against the Cardinals. In the doubles bracket, UCR got off to a strong start with Elpusan and Khattab winning their match 6-1. However, the Cardinals were quick to rally back and won two consecutive victories to take the doubles point. Highlander doubles team Silpachai and Pham lost their match 6-2 and Ball State clinched a win against UCR’s Gelinas and Wolfe 6-4.
The singles bracket saw a much closer competition with the Highlanders and Cardinals splitting the singles points right down the middle. At the number six slot, Ball State’s freshman Emily Desai took the first singles win against Khattab 6-1, 6-0. UCR’s Elpusan and Silpachai led the Highlanders with two wins by scores of 6-3, 6-3 and 6-3, 6-4 respectively.
The Highlanders were briefly ahead of the Cardinals until Ball State responded with two wins of their own against UCR’s sophomore Natalie Shamma and Pham. For the last matchup in the singles bracket Gelinas went back-and-forth against Ball State senior Rebecca Herrington but was defeated 6-4, 5-7, 6-3. In the end, the Highlanders weren’t able to overcome the Cardinals’ early lead in the doubles and the win went to Ball State.
“We have to continue to get smarter about what we’re doing. We’re getting there but it’s taking us a little while. Right now, I think the singles are coming along nicely and we need to work more on the doubles. Also, trying to get off to that fast start so we can get those points and we don’t get behind from the beginning where it feels like we have to come back,” Henry stated.
On Saturday, March 7, the women’s tennis team went up against Colorado State University (3-5) at 11 a.m. and were defeated once more 4-3. The team continued on to play Youngstown State University on Sunday, March 8 here in Riverside at the SRC Tennis Courts. Their next home match is this Thursday, March 13 at 1:30 p.m. against Youngstown State University (3-7).