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Tennis season comes to abrupt end after missing out on MVC Championship

Bradley’s 2023-24 tennis team lines up during senior day. Photo courtesy of Bradley Athletics.

Bradley tennis had two opportunities to sneak their way into the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament; however, they came up empty.

“I thought we played really well,” head coach Matt Tyler said. “I’m happy with all the work that we put in this year, and I couldn’t be prouder of my team. They gave it their all.”

The Braves began by taking on Missouri State on Saturday. The Bears, who were 12-8 on the year, came to the Markin Courts looking to guarantee their spot in the MVC Tournament. Ultimately, Missouri State reigned supreme, but only by a score of 4-3. The Bears earned the doubles point, and then singles play was as even as it could get.

Senior Maria Bezmenova, sophomore Anna Belogliadova and freshman Andra Sirbu won their singles matches, with only one needing a third set. Bezmenova was honored during Senior Day on Saturday as this weekend consisted of her final regular season matches.

Unfortunately, the loss eliminated Bradley from the MVC Tournament altogether, as they needed to win their final two matches. Of course, that took a toll on the Braves.

“First of all, it’s a fast season,” Tyler said. “And at the beginning of the conference season you’re looking at the matches that you have to win. But I don’t really have any regrets [about] the season.”

“I think we competed really well all season long and just can’t quite get over the hump,” Tyler added.

The final match on Sunday didn’t matter for conference standings, but still impacted morale. The Braves took on the MVC regular season champions Murray State. Coming into this match, the Racers had not lost in conference play this season, clinching their championship status after a 6-1 win against Valparaiso the day before.

That hot streak continued as Murray State claimed a 5-2 victory. Once again, Bradley went down 1-0 to start after the Racers won the doubles point. They continued to win four out of the six singles matches, with Bezmenova and Sirbu grabbing Bradley’s two points.

“It’s hard when you know that’s going to be the last match,” Tyler said. “Having that motivation to come out and compete is a hard thing to find, but I think we did a really good job of it. We played them tough. I was proud of the way that we’re still getting those singles wins.”

As the season ends, Bezmenova and senior Alexandra Hildreth will be leaving and incoming freshmen will join the team next year. Tyler revealed the main focus for next season.

“Roster changes are what we deal with every year,” Tyler said. “Very rarely do you have all of your top six returning. [Our focus] is making sure that those freshmen or transfers are integrating well into the rest of the team and continuing to hopefully push our level forward, and making sure that everybody is connected and communicating well.”

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