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Tennis sweeps SDSU in spring opener

Senior Ariel Dechter is close to adding two more records to her already impressive career after leading Bradley tennis to a 7-0 sweep in the team’s season-opening match versus South Dakota State.

By teaming with junior Aimee Manfredo for a 6-3 win at No. 2 doubles and taking a three-set win at No. 1 singles, Dechter tied Bradley’s records for both doubles (58) and singles (73) career wins.  Dechter now owns or shares 18 Bradley women’s tennis records and was also named MVC Women’s Tennis Athlete of the Week.

“As a team, we’ve been practicing really hard ever since we got back,” Dechter said. “Some of us might also have had some pre-match jitters, so it was nice to be able to work those out and come away with a win in our first match. As for the records and awards, it’s really special because I had some goals of what I wanted to accomplish written out before I came to school, and it’s nice to see some of them already being achieved with still a whole season to go.”

However, Dechter’s dominance was only a part of the Braves’ team victory. Junior Alexa Brandt and sophomore Malini Wijesinghe started the tournament off with a 6-3 win at No. 3 doubles, and Dechter and Manfredo followed with a 6-3 win of their own in the No. 2 spot.  The Braves then clinched the team victory by taking straight-sets wins at Nos. 6, 3 and 5 singles.

Wijesinghe put Bradley ahead 2-0 with a 6-0, 6-3 win at No. 6 singles while freshman Natalia Barbery pushed the lead to 3-0 with a 6-1, 6-0 victory at No. 3 singles. Manfredo secured the team victory with her 6-2, 6-1 win at No. 5 singles.

“I thought it was a good match for us,” head coach Matt Tyler said. “I thought we were a little tight, but I would be concerned if we weren’t. The first match back when you haven’t competed for a couple of months is a tough one. To be able to work through it and come away with the win is the goal there, and that’s what we did.”

With a hot start, coach Tyler said he has high aspirations for this season and is looking forward to watching his team compete.

“The ultimate goal is to win a conference title,” Tyler said. “I think we’re as close to that goal as we’ve ever been as a program. Team cohesion is really good, and the girls are working hard out on the court.”

The Braves return to action hosting rival Eastern Illinois at 1 p.m tomorrow at the Clubs at River City.  Bradley will be trying for its first 2-0 start since 2009 and will be attempting to end an eight-match losing streak against the Panthers.

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