Winning conference matchups are more important than winning the non-conference ones, according to Bradley tennis head coach Matt Tyler. This past weekend, the Braves played like it, picking up their first two conference victories of the season over Drake and Northern Iowa to improve their record to 8-6.
“We talk about all season long [that] our non-conference play is really a tune-up for conference play,” Tyler said. “We put a lot of emphasis on trying to come up with as many conference wins as we can.”
The fun started on Saturday against Drake with a 4-3 win. The Braves clinched the doubles point by winning all three sets, headlined by junior Sandra Maletin and freshman Victoria Sanchez-Bronzetti at the No. 1 doubles spot with a 6-4 victory. This was the eighth time the duo has partnered up this season, and Maletin thinks their newfound chemistry contributes to their success.
“I think we’re playing great,” Maletin said. “I think if we keep playing and putting balls in court, we’re capable of winning the conference.”
Singles were not so cut-and-dry. Maletin and sophomore Bozana Lojpur won at No. 1 and No. 2, but three straight losses at No. 3-5 evened the match at three.
Building off her stellar performances last week, sophomore Nikki Perlwitz took care of business at No. 6 6-3, 6-4 to give the Braves their first conference win of the season.
The winning weekend finished Sunday with a 7-0 sweep of UNI. Bradley cruised to a victory in doubles, winning all three sets by a score of 6-3. Tyler thinks confidence was the key to the team’s bounce back in doubles last weekend after dropping their previous two points.
“A lot of it’s just belief and going out with that sense that we know we’re always gonna have a shot to win,” Tyler said. “[We are] going in with energy and that same sort of belief in ourselves, that we’re gonna be able to go get it done.”
The dominance in singles started with freshman Maria Bezmenova at No. 4, winning 6-1, 6-2. Senior Natalia Barbery won her first singles match since returning from injury at No. 5 6-3, 6-3, and Sanchez-Bronzetti celebrated her 20th birthday with a 6-4, 7-5 win at No. 3 to cap off the rout of the Panthers.
The Braves are currently fourth in the Missouri Valley Conference standings and will travel to Valparaiso on Sunday for the last conference match of the regular season.
“The Valparaiso match on Sunday is gonna be a big one for us,” Tyler said. “It’ll determine a lot as far as conference tournament seedings are concerned. An important week for us for sure, but we’re looking forward to it.”
Before taking on Valpo, Bradley will take on Saint Louis in a non-conference battle tomorrow at 11 a.m. at the David Markin Tennis Courts, weather permitting.