Matadors women’s tennis clashes with Pac-12 and Big West


Nicholas Martinez

Sasha Turchak prepares to hit the ball during her singles match against the Santa Clara Broncos Giulia Hayer at the Matador Tennis Complex in Northridge, Calif., on Wednesday, March 27, 2021.

Edward Segal, Sports Editor

CSUN women’s tennis struggled carrying over the success from their first three events into battle against tough opponents at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Southwest Regional. They managed one singles win and four doubles victories throughout the event, unable to advance past the round of 16.

Sixteen universities, including four teams from the Pac-12 Conference and seven from the Big West Conference, battled in brackets that featured 50 duos and 101 players in singles.

The Matadors brought six of the 12 players from their roster to the event, and elected to go with a group made up of mostly veterans. Angela Ho was the only first-year player at the event representing the Matadors. Sophomores Jasmine Tolmoyan and Jacqueline O’Neill also took the week off.

Jolene Coetzee, Victoria Santibañez Luna, Yuliia Zhytelna and Sasha Turchak played in the singles tournament, with Ho and Cindy Ung joining them for doubles action.

Coetzee played her first singles match since her wrist surgery last spring, losing in two sets to Isabella Tcherkes-Zade of Loyola Marymount University.

The scores for each Matador in the singles portion of the ITA Southwest Regional, held on Oct. 20-22, 2022, in San Diego, Calif. (Edward Segal)

“Going into it, I did not have any expectations for myself because it was my first match since surgery,” Coetzee said. “My goal was to do everything I’ve been practicing for, tennis wise.”

She continued, “I knew the real challenge going into this tournament was mental toughness and not tennis. I didn’t have a game plan, but I had a goal of having the right mindset throughout the match, which includes forgiving my mistakes, not being so hard on myself, and giving everything I have.”

Coetzee kept the first set tight, winning four games, but eventually lost 6-1 in the second set to fall out of the singles bracket.

Zhytelna was the only Matador to claim a singles victory in the first round. She beat Cydney Yamamoto of UC Irvine in the round of 128, winning 6-3 and 6-1 to secure the match in two sets.

“I was expected to play against these teams, so mentally I was ready. But being on the court and playing is different,” Zhytelna said. “The thing is, when you play against [the] Pac-12, you just need to do your best and play your game until the end. So I was preparing myself to play until the end, and show my best game that I’m capable of.”

Zhytelna faced Eryn Cayetano of USC in the second round and lost 6-3 in set one, but fought to force an extra game in the second set, losing 7-5.

The other two singles matches for CSUN went to three sets before both Matadors were eliminated.

Santibañez Luna forced a third set against Parker Fry of the University of Arizona, taking a 6-3 loss in the first set before winning by the same score in set two. Fry found her rhythm in the extra set and pulled off a 6-1 victory to knock Santibañez Luna out of the tournament.

Turchak similarly forced three sets against Nathalie Rodilosso of USC, fighting for a 7-6 victory in set one. Rodilosso also found her rhythm, winning the next set 6-4 before shutting out Turchak in the winner-take-all.

“In my match against USC, I kept my expectations low and standards high,” Turchak said. “I went into it just thinking of trying my best, which helped me relax and be able to have a competitive score against her.”

The scores for each Matador in the doubles portion of the ITA Southwest Regional, held on Oct. 20-22, 2022, in San Diego, Calif. (Edward Segal)

Doubles were a different feat for the Matadors, as each duo pulled out at least one win before being knocked out.

Ho and Coetzee made the round of 16, shutting out a pair of UC Irvine players and pulling out an 8-6 victory over a duo from UCLA to get there. Their run ended when they dropped a tight match to Solymar Colling and Claudia de las Heras of the University of San Diego, 8-6.

“Jojo and Angela are two of the best athletes anywhere,” CSUN head coach Gary Victor said. “They are also great teammates and compliment each other so well. A win over a very good UCLA team is a great sign of things to come.”

Ung and Santibañez Luna fought two close battles in their branch of the bracket. They edged out Mariia Nikitash and Megan Tagaloa from division rival CSU Fullerton, but lost in the round of 32 to Elizabeth Goldsmith and Kailey Evans out of the University of San Diego, both by a score of 8-5.

The Matadors were not able to avenge their loss against USD, but took down two players from the University of California, San Diego when Turchak and Zhytelna beat Rachel Wagner and Lu Chen 8-6 in a close contest.

“We have good chemistry on and off the court, and that’s a big part of why we are able to play to be successful,” Turchak said. “We have good communications and our playing styles pair well.”

Arizona State University players Domenika Turkovic and Patricija Spaka knocked out Turchak and Zhytelna in the round of 32, putting an end to their tournament with a clash that finished 8-5.

The Matadors only have the CSUN Fall Invitational left before the spring season kicks off, wrapping up the semester with their only home event of the fall. The tournament will be played from Friday, Nov. 11, to Sunday, Nov. 13, and will feature a multibracket format similar to that of the first two tournaments.