Women’s tennis shines in league play, struggles in nonconference matches

Patricia Carpenter

It’s a tale of two seasons for the Sacramento State women’s tennis team as the Hornets are establishing strong momentum in Big Sky Conference play, but are struggling against opponents in the squad’s nonconference schedule.

The team was able secure a win over a ranked team for the first time since April 12, 2012 when they defeated No. 46 Long Beach State 4-3 on Feb. 27. Despite knocking off the undefeated 49ers, ranked opponents have edged the Hornets out 3-1 and the women obtained a 2-6 record against nonconference teams this spring. They’re current 3-0 in the Big Sky.

On Saturday, the women will face their third consecutive ranked team, No. 73 UC Santa Barbara (5-5), fresh off a road loss to No. 64 Saint Mary’s College (5-5) where the Hornets were swept 7-0.

Coach Dima Hrynashka said the team needs to recreate their dominant performance from the Long Beach State match moving forward in order to top their tougher opponents.

“The women are working hard,” Hrynashka said. “They just have to keep up their level of game [and] they need to continue to play at that same level of tennis.”

After their match against the Gauchos, the women will go on the road Sunday to face No. 62 Fresno State (9-3). They will have five contests remaining against non-Big Sky competition after this weekend.

“In past matches, some women have been on and off, and up and down,” Hrynashka said regarding the women’s performance this spring. “I think for confidence and for some future matches they can see that they can compete against really good teams [after defeating LBSU].”

Junior captain Olivia Boija’s season has taken a hit compared to her last, and she commented on her 4-7 singles record in position No. 4 for Sac State and how important it was for the team to get the victory over a ranked team.

“I felt good,” Boija said. “I’ve been struggling a little bit this semester, so that win [against Long Beach State] was very important for my confidence.”

Her singles match in position No. 4 helped the Hornets hold onto their lead over the 49ers.

In her sophomore season Boija amassed a total record of 16-8 in singles positions two through six for the Hornets and dropped only two singles matches in Big Sky action (8-2). This year she has primarily stayed in position No. 4 for the squad. Her record in that spot last year was 5-4.

The women will continue Big Sky competition on March 11 against Southern Utah University in Sacramento with their remaining eight conference matches scheduled at Rio Del Oro Racquet Club. Hrynashka said this will be an advantage for the team because they will be comfortable finishing their season at home.

“It’s important for them to play on courts they practice on and know,” Hrynashka said. “[Playing at home] will bring in more confidence, … the women show well and they love playing at home, and I hope they will share that same level in future matches.”

They’re 2-2 at home and last season they finished 9-5.

“Being at home makes us really excited,” Boija said. “We have a lot of home matches now, so I’m super excited for the rest of the season.”

The team has bettered its mark from last year (1-7) with their overall 5-6 record and are still hoping to salvage a ranking themselves despite their injury setbacks again this year. Hrynashka said shuffling the lineup has contributed to some of their previous losses but knows the other players are capable of stepping up.

Injuries have plagued the women again with Sac State’s former No. 1 singles player, Jennifer Ong, still adjusting to live matches after returning from knee surgery. Junior Daria Savchenko has been battling tendinitis in her right shoulder.

While Ong and Savchenko have been rotating in and out of the singles portion, Deimante Bulatovaite, Ana Loaiza Esquivias and Anna-Maria Nau have filled in for her as she nurses her knee back to full strength. Together they’ve combined for a 13-17 singles and 6-13 doubles record.

“Usually some women, they have some injuries, some problems, so we’ll see what happens,” Hrynashka said. “We have some other women who can play.”

Nau said the experience she is receiving with Ong’s absence has been crucial for her and the rest of the squad. The redshirt freshman compiled a 4-6 record, playing in singles No. 2 and No. 3 for Sac State. In doubles she’s 1-1.

“I definitely have more experience now,” Nau said. “I’ve had lots of close matches and I was losing them, but now I’ve been winning. I think the team energy is good right now and we’ll be good for the next few matches. I’m looking forward to it.”

The women have a remainder of six matches on the road. All are nonconference contests.