With two conference foes coming from Iowa to battle against Bradley’s tennis team, the Braves beat the Northern Iowa Panthers last Saturday 4-3 but lost to the Drake Bulldogs the next day 5-2.
Bradley started out with two doubles wins against Northern Iowa with the junior-sophomore combo of Madalena Andrade and Kirstin Hailey victorious 6-4, followed by freshman Anna Belogliadova and junior Maria Bezmenova winning 6-2. Freshman Mariia Pukhina and junior Alex Hildreth couldn’t complete the doubles sweep, losing 6-4.
The Braves started singles with a 7-5, 6-4 win by Belogliadova while Andrade worked for her singles win as well, emerging victorious by scores of 7-5, 7-6. Pukhina won her first set 7-5 but surprisingly lost her following two sets 6-0.
“She had a bit of a back injury that crept up that held her back a bit, as well as the UNI girl playing better in that second set was a big difference there,” Bradley head coach Matt Tyler said of the sudden change in Pukhina’s performance.
Hildreth struggled in her first set, losing 6-0, and improved in her second set but still lost 7-5.
Bezmenova suffered a tough 7-6 defeat and it didn’t get much better in the second set, falling 6-3. Hailey lost a close first set 7-5 but learned from her mistakes by winning her next two sets 6-3, 6-2 and clinching a narrow victory for the Braves.
“I thought I still played really well in the first set, I came back knowing I could play well if I just came back into it with a good mindset,” Hailey said
Against Drake, Andrade and Hailey again won their doubles match by the same 6-4 scores as the day prior. The partners were named MVC Doubles Team of the week. The duo of Belogliadova and Bezmenova suffered the opposite fate by the same 6-4 score while Pukhina and Hildreth had a slightly less competitive defeat with a 6-3 result.
In singles, Belogliadova lost her first set 6-1 but came back in the second set to win 6-4, though it was in vain losing her third set again 6-1. Pukhina put up the same scores in both of her sets, losing 6-3. Hailey however, was victorious again by a score of 6-2, 7-5.
“I feel I have been playing a lot better and practicing a lot more, gaining confidence as I play more matches,” Hailey said. “We all try to play better towards the end of the season as it gets closer to conference, especially this season where only [six out of nine] teams make [the MVC Tournament].”
Her doubles partner Andrade didn’t have as much luck against the Bulldogs, losing both her sets 6-3, 6-3. Bezmenova came out on top in her sets, winning 6-3 then a closer 7-5. Hildreth didn’t have similar success after being defeated 6-1 but fought back for a closer second-set loss of 6-4, finishing out a 5-2 loss for the Braves.
“I think this past weekend we played a great game versus Drake, they are a great team,” Tyler said. “We had a lot of chances to win that match. I don’t think fatigue mattered in that match, it was more the team not capitalizing on opportunities rather than any physical fatigue.”
This weekend, Bradley has a match against rival Illinois State on Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Markin Tennis Courts.
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