Women’s tennis starts fresh after dropping 112-match winning streak

State Hornet Staff

At the beginning of the season, not many would have predicted that the Sacramento State women’s tennis team would finish third place in conference, let alone drop three matches to Big Sky teams.

The program boasted accolades of 112 consecutive Big Sky Conference wins and 12 conference titles, which is said to be the longest streak in NCAA Div. I tennis history.

This historic accomplishment came to an end on April 11 when the University of Montana was able to pull out a victory over the Hornets at 4-3. Sac State women’s tennis received its first loss since 2001.

The women proceeded to drop their final two conference matches on the road to Montana State and Northern Arizona, leaving them with a 7-3 Big Sky record.

Head coach Dima Hrynashka said the women are hoping to move past those conference losses and are determined to keep their NCAA appearance streak alive.

“The girls are practicing well and are trying to stay positive,” Hrynashka said. “They’re prepared to show their best tennis.”

The Hornets cruised by conference opponents this season until injuries to starting players Katharina Knoebl, Jennifer Nguyen and Alina Soltanici plagued the team.

No. 1 singles player Nguyen has been shut down for the rest of the year after sustaining an injury against UT Arlington on March 18. The sophomore tore her meniscus and two ligaments in her right knee.

Nguyen did have surgery to repair her injuries and will be able to practice in the fall, but will not be able to compete in a match until January.

Knoebl, the senior captain, has been battling inflammation throughout her right arm and has been out of the lineup since April 6. The senior is waiting on test results to confirm if she will be capable of playing on Friday.

“(Knoebl) has practiced a little bit and I hope she will be able to play (in the tournament),” Hrynashka said. “She feels much better and she makes a big difference in our lineup.”

Soltanici has sat out of competition after spraining her ankle in her singles match against Montana. The freshman took over the No. 1 singles position after Nguyen went down and has combined a 3-3 thus far.

Soltanici re-aggravated her ankle in the match against Northern Arizona and has been placed on rest until the conference championship.

Director of Sac State tennis Bill Campbell said Soltanici will be able to contend in the upcoming match, citing she has had enough time to recover from the injury.

“I think there is a good chance that we are going have everybody (except Nguyen),” Campbell said. “They’ve had a great attitude all year and they’ve had a lot of hardships with the injuries.”

The women said they felt disappointed about breaking their streak, but are determined to start a new one starting with Northern Colorado in the Big Sky Championship quarterfinal April 25.

“I feel really confident (about the tournament), but it’s going to be tough without Jennifer,” said sophomore Olivia Boija. “If everyone is fine except Jennifer then we can beat (Northern Colorado).”

Boija has been lucky to avoid injury this year and has appeared in every match for the Hornets in singles No. 3-6 with a 13-7 record.

“The harder you fall the higher you bounce (back),” Boija said in regards to breaking the streak. “It is important to win a tournament and I really want to win so we can keep our NCAA tournament appearance streak (going).”

The already youthful squad is potentially looking to three of its freshmen to replace injured starters if necessary to compete at the quarterfinals.

Deimante Bulatovaite, Emily McColl and Andie Mouzes have taken over the singles No.5-6 and have rotated starts in the remainder of their matches this spring. The freshman combined have collected an overall 8-11 singles record in those positions.

Hrynashka said the finalized Hornets squad heading into their first match will include seniors Sophie Lohscheidt and Knoebl, sophomores Boija and Daria Savchenko and freshmen Bulatovaite and Soltanici. The alternates will include McColl and Mouzes.

“I think we are a tough team (to face) in our conference,” Hrynashka said. “It doesn’t matter if we lost some matches.”

He said the women are practicing extra hard and thinks the pressure of preserving the streak is off of their shoulders.

The Hornets will be hosting the championship at Gold River Racquet Club April 25-27. Sac State (9-16, 7-3) will be seeking its 13th Big Sky Conference title.