Women’s tennis fails to reach Big Sky finals

Angel Guerrero

Sacramento State’s postseason has been ended by the Idaho Vandals for the second straight year following a 4-2 loss in the Big Sky Conference women’s tennis semifinals on April 30 in Gold River, California.

Saturday’s loss to the defending Big Sky tournament champions, Idaho, will mark the first time since 2001 that the Hornets will have failed to reach the conference tournament finals.

The Hornets fell behind early, losing the doubles point against Idaho after sophomores Anna-Maria Nau and Emily McColl lost 6-2 against Lucia Badillos and Marianna Petrei, and juniors Alina Soltanici and Deimante Bulatovaite were ousted by Rita Bermundez and Maria Tavares, 6-4.

“First of all, it’s kind of tough to start a singles match after you lose the doubles point. It’s tough, disappointing, but that’s how it is,” Soltanici said. “Some of us played better than we usually play, and some of us played kind of worse, so that’s how it is. I guess the season is already over for us.”

The team deficit increased to 0-2 as Nau lost (6-1, 6-2) to Tavares in No. 6 singles play, but junior Andie Mouzes put Sac State on the scoreboard with a 6-5, 6-0 conquest over Belen Barcenillia at No. 5.

“I lost [6-0, 6-2] to her [Barcenillia] during the regular season really bad, and I knew going in I would play the same girl. I just had to be mentally tough; that was the only key,” Mouzes said. “She didn’t have a better stroke, she didn’t have a better game. It was just mentally, I had to stay calm, and I think I did pretty well.”

Soltanici also squared off against a familiar foe, Petrei, who went undefeated (11-0) in Big Sky regular season play and lost 6-2, 6-3 at No. 1, which put the Hornets in a 3-1 hole and one loss away from elimination.

“She is very consistent, especially on the baseline, so I knew it was going to be very tough, and that’s how it was. I feel like this time she played even better than last time,” Soltanici said. “She was a lot more consistent, she was a lot more confident. I feel like that’s because she won all her matches in the conference, and she came to this match full of confidence, and I think that’s what helped her a lot.”

Sophomore Ana Loaiza Esquivias, who also went 11-0 in Big Sky competition, kept Sac State alive with a win (6-3, 6-4) over Ana Batiri at No. 3, but senior Jennifer Ong was unable to hold off Bermudez, as she lost 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 in the No. 2 spot.

“I think I was very up and down in tight points and didn’t play the best on those important points. I was up in a lot of the games, and I ended up losing them, and that was the big difference,” Ong said. “They’re really tough in tough situations. They’re definitely a good team.”

Ong finished her time at Sac State with a 24-3 career record in Big Sky regular season singles play and did her best to keep things in perspective after a loss that clinched a 4-2 victory for Idaho.

“I’ve been really happy to be a part of this team. It was definitely a great experience,” Ong said. “It was unfortunate that we couldn’t get the win today, but I enjoyed my time, and I’ve had ups and downs, but it was a good experience either way.”

The co-Big Sky regular season champions end their season on the downside, but co-captain Soltanici is already focused on bouncing back from this defeat.

“We’re going to start working again, and I’m pretty sure what we have to do is forget about this match, take some lessons from it: what we did right, what we did wrong, and we just have to do our best to not repeat those mistakes again. … We’re going to be ready for the new season again, because these matches come and go,” Soltanici said. “You can’t focus on one lost match all the time, because then your game is not going to be as good, so I feel like we just have to take our lesson and let it go and just keep working harder.”