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Bradley tennis splits weekend games at home

Maria Bezmenova prepares for the return. Photo courtesy of Bradley Athletics

Bradley tennis split their matches against Northern Illinois and Western Illinois as they hosted for the first time this season. The latter match was a big moment for a team looking to find their footing. 

The Braves fell to Northern Illinois 4-0, with three of the six singles matches going unfinished. Freshman Andra Sirbu won her first 6-3 but then lost 6-1 in the second and third sets. As for doubles, two sets went to the Huskies and the other went unfinished, with Sirbu and junior Kirstin Hailey leading 6-5 before the match was abandoned.  

“I felt like we played really well,” head coach Matt Tyler said about the team’s performance on Friday. “We certainly had some chances in doubles, which I feel really good about. We just have to kind of get over that hump. I was optimistic about it. I think we played really well; it’s just they’re not going our way at the moment.” 

Bradley got back on the court the next day to play Western Illinois, whom they swept last year 7-0. The Braves repeated that success, sweeping the Leathernecks 7-0 again to claim their first victory since Jan. 27 against Omaha. 

The team didn’t give up a single set, and freshman Danielle Badman didn’t give up any point, winning 6-0, 6-0. In doubles, all three matches went  in favor of Bradley, with Hailey and Sirbu winning 6-2, senior Maria Bezmenova and sophomore Mariia Pukhina winning 6-2 and sophomores Anna Belogliadova and Alexandra Hildreth winning 6-0.  

Even though Bradley has had excellent results against Western Illinois over the years, Tyler said the team still practiced hard. 

“Felt pretty confident going into that one, but I tell my team every single week, ‘there’s no such thing as a bad Division I tennis program,’” Tyler said. “If we don’t have our heads on straight, any of these teams can beat us. Regardless of records against them, regardless of what their win-loss tally is this season, we have to go into all of those matches with the same kind of intensity.” 

As for how Bradley can build off of this win, Tyler believes that this is only the beginning. 

“I think, certainly, we’re starting to get that experience underneath our belt, and I see things starting to click,” Tyler said. “Practices have been really high quality and it sort of came to fruition on Saturday, which is good. We needed a win for sure. Felt like everybody, all the way through, played really well, and hopefully that bodes well for this coming weekend.” 

The Braves hope to start a winning streak this weekend, going up against Eastern Illinois today and Kansas City on Sunday. To add to this win’s confidence, Tyler says there are still things to work on. 

“I think one of the biggest things that we’ve been talking about of late has been smart shot selection,” Tyler said. “Making sure that when we’re hitting the ball back to the opponent, our targets are good, and that we’re not making mental errors in the moment.” 

“Doubles will forever be a focal point for us, too,” Tyler added. “It’s just something we have to work on day in and day out. I can see that confidence starting to grow, especially getting that win on Saturday. Everybody kind of feels better about things, and my hope is that carries over into the weekend.”

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