After dominating women’s tennis in the Big Sky Conference for over a decade, Sacramento State found itself on the losing side for the first time in 14 seasons.
The Hornets succumbed to the University of Idaho Vandals 4-3 in the Big Sky championship at Gold River Racquet Club in Gold River, California on Saturday evening.
The heartbreaking, decisive point came when Idaho’s Lucia Badillos overpowered Sac State’s Olivia Boija 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 in singles No. 6 to give the Vandals their automatic NCAA tournament berth. Boija was ahead of Badillos in the second set 5-2 until her opponent rallied to win the set and forced a third.
Last year, Boija found herself in the same situation in the conference final when she faced the University of Montana’s Laurence Pelchat in singles No. 4 and clinched the final point for Sac State’s 4-3 win and 13th consecutive title.
Director of tennis Bill Campbell spoke after the contest about the level of tennis both teams played at and the future of their program.
“I thought it was a really well contested match on both sides and they played slightly better at the end than we did,” Campbell said. “It was a really tough match for everybody. I’m looking forward to them [next season]. It’s kind of [beneficial] to have good competition.”
Idaho joined the Big Sky this season after leaving the Western Athletic Conference. Today’s championship was a rematch from earlier this season when the Hornets won on Feb. 13 on the road 4-3 against the Vandals.
Dima Hrynashka, the women’s coach, said both teams came out and played competitively, but the Vandals were able to pull off the upset and he acknowledged Idaho’s talent.
“It was a great match,” Hrynashka said. “It was great singles, doubles I think. It was really good on each court––the matches––all points and all sets looked really good. Idaho showed good tennis, and I congratulated them.”
Unfortunately, Sac State was unable to pull off a huge comeback like they did against Idaho earlier this year.
“It could have turned either way each match, [but] it happened this way,” Hrynashka said.
The Hornets were quick to pull out the doubles point in their match today. Juniors Boija and Jennifer Ong were paired up in doubles No. 1 against the Vandals’ Galina Bykova and Emmie Marx. They dispatched Idaho’s duo 8-1 in quick fashion to get the first doubles win.
Ana Loaiza Esquivias and Daria Savchenko followed with their 8-4 win over the Vandals’ Badillos and Rita Bermudez. At this point, Sac State was up 1-0 and earned the point under 45 minutes of play.
Singles proved to be difficult this time around for the Hornets. Redshirt freshman Anna-Maria Nau took the first loss for the women after losing 7-5, 6-3 to Marx. Nau was ahead in the first set 4-1 before Marx rallied to pull out the win in the first set.
In singles No. 4 Ong fell right after her teammate Nau to the Vandals’ Bermudez 6-2, 7-5. The junior did not participate in singles yesterday in the Hornets’ 4-0 win over Northern Arizona University in the Big Sky semifinal. She took Savchenko’s place in the lineup.
Matches on courts one, three, five and six were still in progress.
In singles No. 3, Bulatovaite finished off her opponent in straight sets 6-4, 7-5 to give the Hornets equal advantage in the match 2-2. However, Loaiza Esquivias could not hold on to her singles match in No. 5 and put the women at a 3-2 deficit after her 6-3, 0-6, 7-5 loss.
With the pressure on and the title in jeopardy, Soltanici made a remarkable come-from-behind 7-6 (7-5) win in singles No. 1 after being down 4-1 in the first set. The sophomore won the tiebreaker in the first set and dominated Bykova in the second, winning 6-3. This put Sac State back in the competition, evening the score at three-all.
“Unfortunately, we did not win our match, which is really sad because we fought really hard and we really wanted to win it, but not everything went as well as we wanted to,” Soltanici said. “I played really well, and I did a really good job. I lost to this girl earlier in the season, so this was very important to me to beat her. We were really close … they were good as well, they were good players and we need to work hard to make not this happen next year.”
The final point came down to the No. 5 singles match, with Boija not repeating her success of last year. Sac State will not move onto the NCAA tournament and ended its season with an overall record of 17-11 and a Big Sky mark of 12-1.