The I-74 rivalry went the way of the Redbirds this past Saturday, as Illinois State picked up a 4-3 win over Bradley Tennis. The Braves are now 5-5 on the season.
The two teams hadn’t played each other in 700 days, the longest gap between meetings since a 727-day separation from April 16, 1987 to April 12, 1989. Bradley now has a 10-43 all-time record against ISU, including four straight losses.
The match started off well for the Braves, clinching the doubles point with a 6-4 win at No. 1 and No. 3. The victory at No. 1 by junior Sandra Maletin and freshman Victoria Sanchez-Bronzetti earned them doubles team of the week from the MVC for the first time as a pair. This was the second time in the last three meetings that Bradley has taken the doubles point from ISU.
Despite losing in doubles last week, head coach Matt Tyler didn’t change how the team approached the contest in terms of lineup or preparation.
“I’ve been waiting for us to kind of hit that next level [in doubles], and I think we did that,” Tyler said. “All of the things that we’ve been working on all season long kind of came together for us and I fully expect that that’s going to be the way things work for us for the next four weeks.”
The MVC preseason-favorite Redbirds showed why they are so strong in singles, winning at No. 1 and No. 4 to start the individual bouts. A crucial victory was earned for Bradley by Sanchez-Bronzetti, who fought off a third set comeback at No. 3 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 to tie up the match at two.
“I just wanted to win and fight, playing for me and for the team and just grinding out every point,” Sanchez-Bronzetti said. “In my mind, I was thinking, ‘Every ball should be like it’s your last ball.’”
After a comeback victory at No. 2 by sophomore Bozana Lojpur 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-4 for her fourth straight singles win and a hard-fought loss at No. 6 by sophomore Nikki Perlwitz 4-6, 6-7 (4), the match was tied once again.
It all came down to No. 5, where senior Natalia Barbery was in her third set against ISU’s Penelope Abreu. Abreu won the set and clinched the match for the Redbirds, 4-3.
“Playing an MVC opponent is always going to be a high-energy, high-anxiety kind of match,” Tyler said. “I was super proud of the way we competed all the way through. We were right there, had some chances and it just didn’t go our way, unfortunately.”
Bradley will have its first road matchup of the season tomorrow against Missouri State at 11 a.m.