In what was its biggest test of the early season, the Cal State Northridge women’s tennis team fell short to the No. 45 Long Beach State 49ers in a 6-1 defeat at the Northridge Tennis Complex Feb. 15.
The first point up for grabs was taken by Long Beach, as the 49ers swept the three doubles matches. In the No. 1 doubles position, junior Silvia Gutierrez and senior YuYu Myinttun suffered the early 8-5 loss. In the No. 2 spot, sophomores Kanykey Koichumanova and Canna Furuta lost in a close 8-6 match, while junior Olga Yepremian and sophomore Ana Matijasevic suffered a similar defeat.
“We just kept coming up short,” said head coach Gary Victor. “This was the first doubles point we haven’t won.”
In singles, Matador No. 1 Gutierrez was unable to win a single game off 49er Hannah Grady, as she was upset in straight sets 6-0, 6-0. The loss dropped her singles record to 2-1 on the season.
“Grady is a really good player,” Gutierrez said. “Her rhythm was better than mine.”
Perhaps the biggest impression was left by CSUN’s No. 3 player Koichumanova, who rallied back from a 5-1 first-set deficit to defeat her opponent Stephanie Bengson 7-6(3), 6-3. By the time Koichumanova was beginning her second set, nearly all of the other singles matches had been decided. Even though the Matadors knew the overall meet had been lost, Koichumanova’s teammates all gathered around her court to watch, as she was determined to overcome the team shutout.
“Coach (Victor) always tells me that when I play I am representing my team,” Koichumanova said. “We still had a chance to show them we were fighters, and we did.”
Although Bengson hit the ball hard and flat, Koichumanova remained composed, utilizing her court-sense to outplay her opponent. Above all, her intensity resonated throughout the Northridge Tennis Complex. Bengson was recently ranked as high as 115 in the nation.
“I was so thrilled the way Kanykey fought,” Victor said. “We love her exuberance.”
Just as Koichumanova battled back to beat Bengson, Matador No. 5 Matijasevic demonstrated how passionate a player she is, losing in an emotional 7-5, 6-4 thriller to 49er Jessica Weeks. Weeks’ powerful forehand made it difficult for Matijasevic to place shots where she wanted.
“I was getting frustrated when I hit balls to the middle of the court,” Matijasevic said. “She was able to bang her forehand and be consistent with it.”
With the loss, Matijasevic endured her first defeat of the season, bringing her record to a team-best 4-1. Matijasevic said thoughts of a perfect season had crossed her mind, but the best she can do now is to come back stronger for her next match. In fact, Victor has made it clear of how important Matijasevic is to the 2006 Matador team.
“We want to build our team around people like Ana,” Victor said. “Her addition has by far made the biggest impact.”
Other scores for the singles matches include Matador No. 2 player Furuta, who was defeated by Katy Williams 6-1, 6-3. In the No. 4 position, Myinttun was beaten by 49er Sandra Rocha 6-1, 6-0. Matador junior Sonya Kumar suffered her first loss of the season to Rachael Porsz, rounding out singles play.
The Matadors next opponent will be the University of Hawaii today at 2 p.m. at the Northridge Tennis Complex. Prior to playing against the Matadors, UH faced Long Beach State and Loyola Marymount. Heading into those matches, the Rainbow Wahine held an 0-4 record. But if CSUN has plans to beat struggling Hawaii, the team will need to play at the top of its game.
“Everyone on this team feeds off each other,” Victor said. “If one player doesn’t bring their ‘A’ game, it affects us all.”
Matt Osias can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.