The Bradley tennis team opened Missouri Valley Conference play against rival Illinois State this past weekend. The Redbirds were down a player, which gave the Braves an early advantage. However, Bradley was unable to capitalize as they were defeated 5-2.
Head coach Matt Tyler thought his team played well, but he had to “tip his hat” to the Redbirds.
“It was a tough match for us,” Tyler said. “Obviously, we always want to beat Illinois State; that’s a big rivalry for us. Quite frankly, they just beat us. I actually felt like we played pretty well; they just had a great day. There were a lot of tight matches that could’ve gone our way but just didn’t … They came out and played some great tennis.”
Playing shorthanded, Illinois State forfeited the No. 3 doubles match, giving Bradley the opportunity to clinch the point with just one victory. Illinois State rallied, though, earning a 6-1 win at No. 1 doubles and a 6-2 victory at No. 2.
With ISU forced to play shorthanded again in the singles matches, the Braves won the No. 6 singles match by default and needed to earn just three wins to clinch the match. However, Bradley was unable to exploit ISU’s shorthanded lineup as the top four Braves failed to earn a victory. Junior Alexa Brandt was the lone Brave to earn a victory on the day, winning her match 0-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the No. 5 spot.
Tyler said he doesn’t believe the women took their foot off the gas knowing they “had two free wins in their back pocket.” Rather, it made Illinois State more aggressive in their play.
“I think Illinois State realized being down a player, their backs were up against the wall, and that energized them,” Tyler said. “Like I said, there were about three matches that could have gone our way, so it was such a tight match that maybe we eased up a bit, but I can’t say that was the determining factor.”
Brandt’s win over ISU moves her up in Bradley’s junior wins column, as she is now tied for seventh place with 15 wins. Her play also earned her an MVC Player of the Week nomination.
History will not be on the Braves’ side as they continue conference play next weekend with two dual matches.
Bradley will travel to Evansville Saturday and Southern Illinois on Sunday. Bradley is 1-9 all-time at Evansville, and Southern Illinois owns a 27-4 lead in the all-time series against Bradley, including a 10-0 home mark.
Tyler said he is not worried about the past, however, and he said the team will plan for these matches like they do any other.
“We try and approach every match the same,” Tyler said. “We go into the practice week the same, just trying to work on things to get better. Obviously, when you have history against teams, there’s maybe some pressure that’s added, but that can either be positive or negative. “Going into this weekend, we’re energized and ready to turn things around, especially after that loss on Saturday. I think we will be. We’ll do a great job of turning the page and having short term memory heading into Saturday.”