The UCA tennis team (13-6, 5-1 SLC) spent the weekend doing some home-court housekeeping, hosting guests — the Southeastern Louisiana Lions and the McNeese Cowgirls — which the Bears cleared out in equal measures at 6-1 on March 29 and 31.
The Lions (5-9, 2-4 SLC) came in March 29, only to be dominated during both doubles and singles play.
After a brief rain break during doubles, sophomore Yada Vasupongchai and freshman Mei Ishimura won 6-3, senior Marli Van Heerdan and freshman Fuka Nonoyama won 4-1 — after SELU sophomore Ximena Yanez suffered a shoulder injury and was forced to forfeit — and seniors QiLi Ma and Rada Manataweewat played at 4-3, unfinished, to earn UCA the doubles point.
For singles play, Van Heerdan set UCA’s winning streak in motion, defeating SELU freshman Flory Bierma, 6-0, 6-1.
“She played amazing,” Bierma said. “I did a great job. She just hit one more ball every time.”
As a senior, Van Heerdan has plenty of training and experience; however, she also said the team has been working with behaviorists to learn the importance of training one’s brain to correct the body’s muscle memory.
“For tennis players, routines are very important,” Van Heerdan said. “You don’t want to be doing different things every time because the more you train your brain to do the same thing ritual-wise, the less you have to think about that… Instead of focusing on what you have to do, you can now look at [your opponent’s] game and analyze.”
The Bears continued to gain points left and right in singles, bringing them to 4-0 before two tiebreaker battles ensued on the remaining courts.
Xin played against SLC Player of the Week, SELU freshman Putri Insani from Indonesia, earning UCA its fifth singles point.
Insani won the first set, 6-3, and Xin won the second set 6-4, before they entered a tiebreaker round for the ages. The set climactically built to a 14-12 win for Xin, who remained focused even after defeating her competition.
The last match to finish was the duel between Ishimura and SELU senior Ceci Mercier, the second tiebreaker battle of the day. Mercier and Ishimura each took a set at 7-5.
However, Mercier refused UCA the clean sweep by defeating Ishimura, 10-8, in an intense finish that left Ishimura overwhelmed with disappointment, even though UCA did win 6-1 overall.
Yanez wasn’t the only SELU player weakened by injuries during the competition. SELU freshman Vicky Scholz also suffered a back injury during doubles.
She managed to finish her doubles match but didn’t play in singles. SELU freshman Bernadette Dornieden was still recovering from knee injuries that she suffered over a month ago, but she still managed to complete her singles match.
“If we had the winning lottery ticket, we’d leave it in our jean pocket and wash it,” SELU head coach Jason Hayes said, making light of his team’s luck this season.
The Cowgirls (7-8, 2-4 SLC) came to town March 31, meeting nearly the same exact fate as the Lions had two days prior.
In doubles play, Van Heerdan kicked off another winning streak. The Bears went 6-0, 6-2, 4-3, unfinished, earning the first point for UCA.
In singles play, Van Heerdan continued her dominance against McNeese sophomore Sofia San Jose Moreno, earning 6-0, 6-2, and bringing UCA to 2-0; however, Ishimura faced another upset, losing to McNeese junior Marija Mastilovic at 6-3, 6-3.
Ma finished next with a win against McNeese freshman Dalia Ahmed at 6-1, 6-3, followed by Xin who won against McNeese senior Giovanna Fioretti at 7-5, 6-2.
Nonoyama entered into a tiebreaker with McNeese senior Charoline Erlandsson, which Nonoyama won at 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, before Vasupongchai rounded out play by defeating McNeese freshman Carlotta Romito at 7-5, 6-2, bringing UCA to 6-1 overall for a fourth straight win.
The Bears will head to Texas April 5-7 to face Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches and Sam Houston State in Huntsville for continued conference play.
“You never know when your last time to play the game might be, and I’d hate to overlook the importance of each game I get to play right now.”