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Tennis drops two in Missouri

Junior Sandra Maletin was named the MVC singles player of the week for the fifth time in her career. Photo via Bradley Athletics.

The Bradley tennis team (2-4) wrapped up a four-match road trip in Missouri with two match losses this weekend. After a 5-2 loss to UMKC, Mizzou swept the Braves 4-0.

On Saturday, Bradley once again failed to pick up the doubles point, only winning the No. 1 flight 6-1 against UMKC. Its two points came from a 6-3, 6-3 win at No. 1 by junior Sandra Maletin and a junior Nina Marjanovic 6-2, 6-3 win at No. 6 singles.

The Braves did put up a good fight against the Roos, however, with a close 6-4 loss at No. 2 singles by sophomore Bozana Lojpur. They also narrowly fell in two three-set losses.

Despite the losses, head coach Matt Tyler was content with how his team played. He said he believes the speed of play against UMKC played a significant factor in the Roos’ win over the Braves.

“[UMKC] played fantastic all the way through,” Tyler said. “Sometimes when you have tight matches, the courts can make a difference. The courts at UMKC were super fast. They definitely had a home court advantage.”

Doubles trouble continued on Sunday as Bradley failed to win any of the three doubles points. The No. 2 doubles pair of Lojpur and sophomore Nikki Perlwitz was ahead 4-3 before Mizzou clinched the point.

Since the match was already decided, the Braves abandoned the No. 1, No. 5, No. 6 singles. Notably, Maletin was up 4-0 in the third set when her match was discontinued.

The Braves picked up two singles wins, but that doesn’t discourage Tyler.

“I’m really happy with the way we’re playing singles,” Tyler said. “If we play that well for the rest of the season, more often than not, things are going to go our way.”

While the Braves struggled as a team this weekend, Maletin managed to continue her win streak at No. 1 singles. Maletin’s performance was recognized with her second Missouri Valley Conference Singles Player of the Week award of the season.

Before playing Mizzou, Maletin was aware of the challenge ahead of herself.

“I knew when I stepped on the court, they were going to be loud,” Maletin said. “I tried to absorb that energy and turn it into positive energy for me.”

While Maletin attributes her success to confidence. Her record speaks for itself: including the fall season, she is 12-1 in singles this academic year.

“I just think it’s practice and confidence,” Maletin said. “You have to be confident when you step on the court and just think you’re the best.”

Tyler expected this kind of start from Maletin, considering her work ethic.

“She stuck around Peoria in the summer,” Tyler said. “She worked camps for me and worked out hard. I think she’s seeing all that hard work pay off. She’s an amazing athlete. On top of that, she has an amazing work ethic.”

Looking ahead, Maletin touched on what her and her teammates’ focus needs to be.

“I kind of struggle with my backhand,” Maletin said. “I need to focus on technique. I think we need to do everything we can to stay healthy.”

Bradley returns to Peoria Sunday to face off against Milwaukee at the Clubs at River City.

“I would say we’re the better team on paper,” Tyler said. “For the last two or three years we’ve been that team on the rise. Where we’ve been the underdog. Teams are suddenly going ‘Wow, Bradley’s a good team and we need to step up,’ and I think that’s what’s happened thus far this season.’”

The Braves hope to continue their rise Sunday in Peoria at 11 a.m.

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