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Tennis’ season ends in MVC Championship first round

Kirstin Hailey returns a ball. Photo courtesy of Bradley Athletics.

Bradley’s tennis season ended in the first round of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament last Friday as they lost to Belmont 4-1. Despite exiting in the first round of the competition, Braves’ head coach Matt Tyler was proud of all the hard work and improvement that he saw from his team throughout the season.

“We grew a lot as a team,” Tyler said. “I think that will certainly continue and I think that will advance our on-court results.”

The weekend prior, Bradley hosted Belmont for the final game of the regular season, which the Bruins won 4-1. Both matches were very different, as the match in Peoria was played indoors due to bad weather in contrast to their most recent outdoor encounter. 

Tyler didn’t believe the mental game had impacted the girls. He believes that such a recent series against the Bruins gave them the mental confidence to compete against a tough team. After playing them so recently, they didn’t feel like a third-seed, but as an even opponent.

“I felt like we played them tough,” Tyler said. “Our team goes, ‘yeah, we were right there’. We had chances to do things that maybe would have helped us win.”

Belmont was ranked third in the conference entering the tournament while the Braves were the sixth seed. The top six teams made the tournament from the nine-team conference. The Braves knew they barely snuck in, and made sure that they weren’t going to be an easy opponent for their competitor.

The doubles portion of the day started with junior Madalena Andrade and sophomore Kirstin Hailey dropping their match 6-3. Following them was junior Alexandra Hildreth and freshman Madi Rogers dropping a similar match 6-3. Freshman Anna Belogliadova and junior Maria Bezmenova were tied 5-5 in their doubles match, but the match would not finish as the Bruins clinched the doubles point. 

In the singles portion of the day, three Braves finished before the match was clinched by Belmont, giving Bradley their seventh straight loss of the season. 

Belogliadova had a rough outing, losing her first set 6-1 and her second 6-0. Hailey didn’t fare any better as she dropped her sets 6-1 and 6-2. The final point needed to clinch the match was won when Bezmenova lost her sets 6-3 and 6-2. 

Hildreth won her first set 6-2, lost set two 5-2 and set three went unfinished. Andrade lost her first set 6-4 before dominating her second set for a 6-1 win. The third went unfinished as Hildreth and Andrade were the only two Braves to win a set.

Despite the disappointing end to the season, there were still some highlights from the Braves. Doubles partners Andrade and Hailey earned their fourth MVC Doubles Team of The Week after winning their doubles matchups against Drake and Northern Iowa.This will be the last that we see of this tandem as Andrade will be departing the Braves and heading back to Alabama State for her fourth year. 

Tyler is thrilled with his team, the work they put in and the effort they show him day in and day out. He believes his team took some big steps and that those stairs are leading towards a great season next fall.

“I was really happy with the season. Obviously our wins and losses weren’t what we wanted them to be, but we’re young, we’re really young,” Tyler said. “We have two freshmen that are playing in our top two spots which is always a tall order.” 

“I’m most proud of the way our team came together [and] worked hard,” he added. “Our team culture was fantastic all season long, and I think that will only pay dividends for us in the future.”

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