Even though the Bradley women’s tennis team lost to Illinois State 5-2 last Saturday, junior Ariel Dechter technically became the best player in Bradley tennis history.
Dechter edged ISU’s Veronika Golanova for her 116th career victory as a Brave in a game she almost didn’t partake in.
“I actually didn’t know if I was going to play this weekend because I had a really bad eye infection and upper respiratory infection, so I had to go to the doctor every day,” Dechter said.
She said she was so ill, she had to skip her classes and practice that week.
“Its called blepharitis,” Dechter said. “Starting Tuesday I couldn’t even open my eyes.”
Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids that affects the eyelashes which makes it hard for the afflicted person to open their eyes, let alone see.
Still, Dechter won, but in an unorthodox and fitting fashion.
“I was down 5-2 [in the first set], I didn’t know if I should finish,” she said. “I ended up winning the first set, and I was up 2-1 in the second and she ends up retiring.”
The illness wasn’t new for Dechter, as head coach Matt Tyler said she’s been dealing with it for two months.
“The fact that she was able to win as many matches as she has to this point with not being 100 percent and not feeling well is really amazing,” Tyler said. “She hasn’t felt good since February.”
Dechter even got sick on one of the team’s spring break road trips, but still played through.
“Spring break I got really sick in Texas,” Dechter said. “My coach didn’t want me to play one of the matches, but I was like, ‘I want to play it.’ I ended up winning that one. Just take me to the doctor after.”
However, breaking the overall wins record set by Teri Chan from 2003 to 2007 wasn’t enough to fend off the Redbirds, who dropped the Braves to 9-9 overall.
The only other Brave to record a point was freshman Malini Wijesinghe, who won her match at No. 6 singles as Bradley dropped their Missouri Valley Conference opener.
Tyler said ISU grabbed the momentum in the match with an early doubles point, which he said he believes has implications to the rest of the match.
“We lost a really close doubles point,” Tyler said. “When you lose that doubles point, especially when it’s as emotional and close as we were to winning that doubles point, I think it can carry over in a positive way or you can feel really down about it.”
Dechter said the Redbirds were playing above what their 10-7 record might imply.
“The other girl I know at No. 2, she’s a super streaky player at ISU,” Dechter said. “She just had a really ‘on’ day. Any other day, our No. 2 [would’ve won].”
Even with the stinging loss to the Redbirds, Tyler said Dechter breaking the wins record was a positive implication not only for the team, but for the team’s future as well.
“Through that, we’re changing the history of the tennis program all around,” Tyler said. “The team aspect, from the individual aspect.”
Tyler also said Dechter’s success is a sign of the team moving toward its ultimate goal.
“I hope it means we’re chasing MVC titles,” Tyler said. “A couple years from now, I think we’ll be in consideration for being a top-75 team.”
Bradley tennis stays home this weekend, playing against Southern Illinois Saturday and Evansville Sunday at the David Markin Tennis Courts.