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Tennis splits matches in notable week

Nikki Perlwitz smiles during a match. Photo by Josh Schwam, Bradley Athletics.

It was a week of firsts for Bradley Tennis. The Braves, now 6-6, played their first road match of the season, the first broadcasted match of the season and the first time both No. 1 and No. 2 singles were left unfinished.

It started on Saturday at Missouri State, where the Braves dropped another conference bout, 2-5. It was the team’s first road match of the season, and head coach Matt Tyler felt it had an effect on how they played.

“I think that being our first road trip, there’s obviously an adjustment there,” Tyler said. “The courts were significantly different than what we’ve been playing on and it was a windy day as well. I don’t think we adjusted as well to that as we should’ve, either.”

The Braves fell behind early, losing the doubles sets at No. 1 and No. 3. Freshman Maria Bezmenova and junior Nina Marjanovic were able to clutch out a win at No. 2, 6-3, but the point was already decided. 

Singles was much of the same story. Junior Sandra Maletin won at No. 1 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 for her ninth singles win of the season and sophomore Nikki Perlwitz won at No. 6 7-6, 6-2, but the Bears won the remaining four matches to send Bradley packing.

“We lost a couple of deuce points that would’ve changed the match for us a lot,” Tyler said. “That [5-2] score is not indicative of the way we played.”

The Braves looked to end their three-game losing skid against Northern Illinois on Tuesday. The matchup was broadcasted live on ESPN+ at the outdoor David Markin Tennis Courts for the first time in program history. The team did not falter under the bright lights, clinching a  4-1 win over the Huskies.

The match started off slow for Bradley, which lost the doubles point once again. The only victory came at No. 3, where Perlwitz and longtime partner, sophomore Bozana Lojpur, picked up the 6-3 win. Perlwitz believes the duo’s outstanding chemistry is essential to how they play.

“Bo[zana] is my best friend on and off the court,” Perlwitz said. “I think playing with her, there’s nothing better.”

The team only needed four singles matches to clinch the victory over the Huskies, and they all came at the back end of the lineup. Numbers. 3, 4, 5 and 6 all won, headlined once again by Perlwitz at the No. 6 flight, as she delivered a 6-1, 6-2 beating. It’s her fourth win in her last six singles matches.

“I think it’s been a big difference that we had a whole last semester off,” Perlwitz said. “So it’s just been working together as a team during practices, working on our individual performance and doubles performance. It definitely helps to have my team.”

Both Maletin’s and Lojpur’s matches were left unfinished at No. 1 and No. 2, as the point was already clinched by the bottom four flights.

“So much of all sports, but I think especially tennis, is confidence,” Tyler said. “Tonight was a good performance from us from that standpoint. What I’ve been telling the team for the last two weeks is if we all play well together on the same day, we’re gonna beat anyone that’s in front of us.”

The Braves will have back-to-back conference matchups this weekend, starting Saturday against Drake at 11 a.m., followed by Northern Iowa on Sunday. 

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