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Tennis opens 2023 with strong showing

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

The Bradley tennis team looked to start their 2023 season off strong at the Cougar Invitational this past weekend, and they had plenty of high points over the two-day tournament.

In the first singles competition on Friday, Bradley faced Eastern Illinois with sophomore Alexandra Hildreth completely shutting out her opponent, winning both of her sets 6-0.

The sophomore duo of Anna Belogliadova and Mariia Pukhina took their first match into tiebreakers but secured the win. Freshman Andra Sirbu made her collegiate debut at this tournament and started her career off with a bang, winning her first two sets 6-3, 6-2.

Junior Kirsten Hailey and senior Maria Bezmenova also won their first matches of the tournament in two sets, completing the sweep against EIU and giving Bradley momentum heading into the rest of the tournament.

During the second day of competition, Bradley faced SIUE where Sirbu continued her strong debut, winning her match in two sets. Her teammates Pukhina and Hildreth also maintained their momentum, as Hildreth won both of her sets 6-4, 6-2 while Pukhina sent her match into a tiebreaker once again, but was victorious with her sets of 6-7 (3), 6-0 and 11-9.

The other three Braves were not able to win in their matches against SIUE, but Hailey and Bezmenova came back strong after their tough losses by winning both of their sets against St. Louis to secure Bradley two match wins against the Billikens.

Sirbu, Hailey, Bezmenova, Pukhina and Hildreth finished the singles portion of the tournament with a record of 2-1 while Belogliadova finished 1-2.

On the doubles side, Bezmenova and Pukhina teamed up to win both of their matches against SIUE and SLU in two very close, hard fought matches on Friday. On Saturday, the teams of Hailey/Sirbu, Bezmenova/Pukhina and Belogliadova/Hildreth swept EIU once again to end the tournament on a high note.

Bezmenova and Pukhina went undefeated in the doubles side of the tournament, while the duos of Hailey/Sirbu and Belogiadova/Hildreth went 1-2.

Overall, the Braves went 5-4 in the doubles portion and 11-7 in singles, sparking joy in their head coach.

“I was very happy with how we competed this past weekend,” head coach Matt Tyler said. “I thought the entire team played a level up from where we were last season which is super positive especially with it being our first time out in the fall.”

With how great this first tournament went for the Braves, the team is excited about what the future holds as they head into their 2023 season.

“I think we are in a really good spot at the moment,” Tyler said. “A lot of things can happen between now and January where we are competing in that championship season, but if we continue to play the way that we have played, I am cautiously optimistic about what we can do this next season.”

The team looks to keep their momentum up as they head into their next tournament on Sept. 29, where they will compete in the Redbird Invite.

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