Kicking off the conference slate last weekend, Bradley’s tennis team traveled to Springfield, Missouri and Murray, Kentucky for two matches against Missouri State and Murray State. The Braves won 4-3 against the Bears, and then lost 7-0 to Racers the following day.
Last Friday in doubles against Missouri State, the teaming of junior Madalena Andrade and sophomore Kirstin Hailey fell by a 6-2 final while the team of freshman Mariia Pukhina and junior Alex Hildreth won their match decisively in a 6-2 fashion. Hoping to pick up the doubles point, they needed a win in the final matchup.
Freshman Anna Belogliadova and junior Maria Bezmenova weren’t able to grab that point, as the duo suffered a close 7-6 loss.
“We were not consistent enough,” Belogliadova said after the loss. “I was not playing wide enough to avoid the net player on the base side [and] needed to work on my returns. Overall, we could have, and should have played more aggressively.”
When the Braves split up for the singles action, they found more success that carried them to the win.
Bezmenova cruised in her two sets with 6-3, 6-1 victories while Andrade took two close sets (7-5, 6-4) to give Bradley the 2-1 edge in the best of seven match.
Trying to take hold of the match, Pukhina reveled in a three-set finish where the freshman started off winning 6-1 but then lost 6-4. She returned to glory in the final set, winning 6-1 and putting Bradley one win away from victory.
Belogliadova captured that point despite losing her first set 6-1. She rebounded to win the final two sets by a pair of 6-4 wins. That clinched the win for the Braves to open conference play.
“I was pretty rough during my first set [even though] my opponent wasn’t extraordinary, I just had a lot of self-errors in the first set,” Belogliadova said of her clinching win. “I started to rally with her in the second set [and] I then saw opportunities to come to the net more so I did in the third set and it all worked out.”
The remaining finishes for the Braves were both losses as Hailey took her first set 6-4 but lost the following pair 7-6 and 8-4. Hildreth also claimed her first set with a 6-1 showing but fell behind in the final two 6-2, 6-4.
“Our goal is always to win the doubles point,” Bradley head coach Matt Tyler said. “We always tell our team that it’s one point though. We always try and get the singles points because we have managed to get multiple wins through the singles points without the doubles points.”
The following day the Braves got ready to do the same at Murray State. Unfortunately for them, the group was promptly swept by a 7-0 final.
Bradley did win the first doubles match 7-6 thanks to Andrade and Hailey but it went downhill from there. Belogliadova and Bezmenova lost 6-2 along with Hildreth and Pukhina who fell by the same score.
In singles competition, Belogliadova fell 6-2, 6-0 while Pukhina followed that up with a 6-1, 6-2 defeat.
Hailey won her second set 7-6 after a 6-2 first set loss, but fell 10-6 in the determining set. Bezmenova lost her sets 6-4, 6-1.
Already down 5-0, Andrade got close to getting Bradley its first point but couldn’t complete the third set losing 10-6. Hildreth closed out the action with similar 6-1, 6-2 defeats.
Afterwards, Tyler opened up about the contrast in matches and the effects of the travel.
“It was tough, Missouri State was high intensity and we were a little gassed after that match,” Tyler said. “The travel and physicality really took it out of us. But I still have to give Murray State a lot of credit.”
Bradley won’t have to worry about travel as they’ll take on Northern Iowa on Friday and Drake on Saturday at the Markin Tennis Courts.
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