The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Matadors defeat Beach in emotional match

Yuliia Zhytelna lets out a scream after winning a point in her singles match on Friday, April 12 in Northridge, Calif.

Entering the match, Yuliia Zhytelna never wanted to be in the position to clinch. But she was.

The Matadors (11-5, 5-1 Big West Conference) entered the match against Long Beach State (11-7, 5-3 Big West Conference) on a three-game losing streak. They fell 4-0 to UCLA, and dropped a pair of close matches to Pacific and UC Davis, 4-3.

The match against UC Davis was their first loss of conference play, and put them behind first-place UC Santa Barbara, who’s undefeated, in the standings.

“I mean, we weren’t completely right, you know,” head coach Gary Victor said about those matches. “We weren’t as healthy and as strong as I think we had been in previous weeks.”

Yuliia Zhytelna (left) and Sasha Turchak (right) high five after winning their doubles match while their teammates clap in the background on Friday, April 12 in Northridge, Calif. (Edward Segal)

A win for the Beach would put them half a game ahead of the Matadors. The teams split the first two matches of doubles play, but redshirt junior Yuliia Zhytelna and graduate student Sasha Turchak broke the tie to give CSUN the first match point.

Considering they took the doubles point in the last two losses, the Matadors knew the job wasn’t done.

What separated this match from the last two was when sophomore Angela Ho swiftly won her singles match, taking both sets 6-2.

Up 2-0, the Matadors only needed two more singles victories to take the match.

Turchak’s struggles in singles as the number one continued, and after putting up a fight in a 7-5 loss in the first set, she fell in the second one, giving the Beach their first match point.

By this time, Victor could be seen standing between courts two and three, coaching Zhytelna and Victoria Santibañez Luna as they played every point. Both had won their first set, but found themselves down a game in set two. They both raced in front and looked to secure the win for the Matadors.

Santibañez Luna won the second set 6-4 after battling from behind, which made her 6-0 in singles within the conference. The Matadors found themselves one point away from snapping their three-game losing streak.

Emma Moratalla Sanz played a hard fought match on court four, but after losing 7-5 in the first set, she couldn’t pull off a comeback. Her loss made the score 3-2 with only two matches left. On court two, Zhytelna was locked in a back-and-forth second set, and on court six, freshman Elena Goodman took a big set two lead after dropping the first one.

Yuliia Zhytelna in the middle of a rally in her singles match against Justine Dondonay of Long Beach State on Friday, April 12 in Northridge, Calif. (Edward Segal)

Goodman allowed her opponent to get within a game but won before an extra one was needed, forcing a third set. Meanwhile, Zhytelna needed a tiebreaker, and her opponent, Justine Dondonay, had the edge.

Goodman’s third set started first, but Zhytelna quickly rushed out to a 3-1 lead. She was no longer playing on her heels, and started moving her opponent to regain control. Before she knew it, she was on the doorstep of victory.

Throughout Zhytelna’s match, her opponent’s family yelled and cheered in the middle of rallies, which the Matadors considered unsportsmanlike. They did that a couple times, and the referee didn’t issue a warning.

Once the match got to set three, Victor was there to help calm Zhytelna down when she lost a point and helped her refocus on the next one. Every time she won a point, she yelled and let out her pent up frustration. As she inched closer to victory, her screams got louder and louder, as did those of her teammates.

Santibañez Luna even told her Ukrainian teammate “yes, let’s go” in Russian.

Zhytelna took a 5-1 lead before allowing Dondonay to win back-to-back games. They continued going back and forth with the score 5-3 as CSUN’s redshirt junior tried to put an end to the Beach’s comeback hopes. When she finally got to match point, she was able to put the Beach away and her teammates swarmed her as they celebrated the victory. Zhytelna fell into her teammates’ arms as tears flowed from her eyes.

This was her first time clinching.

Yuliia Zhytelna’s teammates run to her after she clinched the victory against Long Beach State on Friday, April 12 in Northridge, Calif. (Edward Segal)

“I was like, whoa, because it’s the first time, like, I loved it,” she said of the way her teammates surged around her. “Like, honestly, it feels great, like, ‘oh my God, I did something.”

Despite the moment she had with her teammates, Zhytelna said she never wants to do that again.

“I don’t like clinching,” she said. “Honestly, it’s usually messing with my mind. I had opportunities in previous matches to clinch and it usually like, it just gives me anxiety in the match. So I would prefer not to clinch next time.”

To add icing to the cake, Goodman also won, giving the Matadors a 5-2 victory.

Zhytelna knew it wouldn’t have been the end of the world if she lost, but also wanted to make sure she stepped up as one of the leaders of this team.

“The thing is, I was like, she’s a freshman, so I gotta take care of it,” she said. “I’m a senior at this point.”

Victor said her leadership shows how much she cares about the team.

“Yuliia just, just works so hard and cares so much,” Victor said. “She’s just an unusual young lady who, she’s so sincere and so hard-working. She just wants everything for this team and, you know, we’re so lucky to have her.”

The Matadors are now 5-1 in conference play for the first time since 2008, and remain second in the standings, half a game back of UC Santa Barbara.

CSUN has three games left to finish the season. They’ll host UC San Diego Tuesday at 3 p.m., a game that was pushed back from Sunday because of the rain. Next weekend, they’ll travel to UC Santa Barbara Saturday, April 20 before hosting Hawai’i Sunday, April 21.

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