UCSB spoils Matadors comeback quest in thriller


After squandering the all-important doubles point, the Cal State Northridge women’s tennis team nearly pulled off the upset against UC Santa Barbara, but a third set tiebreaker fell the Gauchos’ way, giving them the 4-3 victory March 5 at UCSB Tennis Stadium.

With the Matadors down 3-2, sophomore Ana Matijasevic kept CSUN’s hopes alive, outlasting UCSB’s Charlotte Scatliffe in a marathon 7-6(3), 2-6, 7-6(4) thriller. But Gaucho Leslie Damion rallied off six straight points to beat Matador senior YuYu Myinttun 7-5, 1-6, 7-6(5) in what was the deciding match of the contest.

“I worked every point and gave my all,” Myinttun said. “I’m just sad it didn’t go my way.”

“It was a great college tennis match,” said head coach Gary Victor. “It was electric and a ton of fun to be involved with. I’m proud of all my players for competing the way they did.”

In doubles, sophomore Olga Yepremian and Matijasevic defeated UCSB’s Damion and Mio Fukushima 8-3 in the No. 3 position, while sophomores Canna Furuta and Kanykey Koichumanova lost 8-2 to Marielle Gruenig and Chelsea Glynn in the No. 2 slot. The deciding match took place on center court, as junior Silvia Gutierrez and Myinttun fell in a close 8-6 match to Andrea Pintar and Scatliffe.

With the doubles point lost, CSUN needed to win four of the six singles matches. In the No. 1 position, Gutierrez bounced back from an early first set deficit to win the next two in dominating fashion 1-6, 6-3, 6-0.

“It was pretty easy to win once I figured out my strategy,” Gutierrez said. “I knew if I hit loopy balls to her forehand she would miss.”

In the No. 2 position, Glynn defeated Koichumanova in a tight three set match 3-6, 6-1, 6-4. In the final game of her match, Glynn hit a ball that looked to have sailed out wide. When Koichumanova called the shot out, the line judge overturned her ruling, which resulted in the Glynn victory.

The struggles continued for Furuta, who played in the No. 3 position, as she lost in straight sets 6-1, 6-3 to Pintar. The loss dropped her singles record to 2-7 on the year.

“Canna has played some pretty good players,” Victor said. “She hasn’t had one loss to a bad player. I just want her to forget about how to hit the ball and think about where to hit it.”

In the fourth position, Matijasevic competed in a match of epic proportions, as she managed to fight to the bitter end against Scatliffe. After closing out the first set in a tiebreaker 7-6(3), Matijasevic fell in the second set 2-6.

“She (Scatliffe) made some good gets all throughout the second set,” Matijasevic said. “I wasn’t finishing off points and that cost me.’

In the third set, however, both players avoided game-ending points to send the match to a second tiebreaker. After starting the tiebreak with a strong forehand winner, Matijasevic made three consecutive unforced errors, bringing the score to 1-3. But a pivotal backhand winner, followed by an awkward slice wide from Scatliffe tied it at 3-3.

Scatliffe’s momentum was soon drained dry, as Matijasevic nailed a crucial crosscourt forehand winner, giving her a match point at 6-4. After a costly missed first serve by Scatliffe, Matijasevic capitalized on the slower second serve by controlling the tempo, causing her opponent to miss a passing shot wide, resulting in the Matijasevic victory.

“Ana is an incredibly tough person and she has matured so much,” Victor said. “She has proven herself as our best competitor.”

The win improves her singles record to a team best 7-2. She is also undefeated when playing in the No. 4 position, with a record of 4-0.

“It’s disappointing our team lost the overall match,” Matijasevic said. “But individually, this was the sweetest victory I’ve ever had, especially having to win two tiebreakers to do it.”

In the No. 6 slot, Yepremian won her second match of the year 6-4, 6-2 against Fukushima, but the heartbreaking loss in the No. 5 position by Myinttun stunted the Matadors chances.

In Myinttun’s final set tiebreak, she garnered an early 5-1 advantage, but Damion fought to regain the lead and a match point at 6-5. During the ensuing rally, Damion hit a lob-like forehand deep to Myinttun, who mishandled it, sending the ball out-of-bounds, resulting in the Gauchos victory.

“My heart dropped as the ball sailed out,” Myinttun said. “I couldn’t believe it was happening. I was just trying to keep from breaking down.”

With the loss, the Matadors dropped to under .500 for the first time all season with an overall record of 4-5, 1-4 in the Big West Conference, while UCSB improved to 9-5 and 3-1 in conference. The Matadors are currently sixth in the Big West with just two conference matches left before the end of the year tournament in Indian Wells April 27-30.

“We have to take it one game at a time,” Myinttun said. “I know that we’ll bring it come conference tournament time.”

Prior to the Matadors narrow loss to UCSB, the team squared off against No. 60 Furman in Santa Barbara. The Lady Paladins evened their record at 5-5 with a 5-2 win over CSUN on March 4.

The only Matador victories were at the No. 1 slot, as Gutierrez downed Laura Gioia 6-4, 6-2 and at the No. 6 position Yepremian knocked off Natasa Manojlovic 6-2, 6-1.

In doubles, No. 1 Gutierrez and Myinttun lost to the nationally ranked tandem of Gioia and Marti Morris 8-6, while Jacqueline Eckert and Lauren Osborne defeated Furuta and Koichumanova 8-6 in the No. 2 slot. In the No. 3 slot, Yepremian and Matijasevic nearly won their doubles point against Bonnie Baird and Lauren Tomory, but fell 9-7.

In singles, Furman’s Morris beat No. 2 Furuta 6-2, 6-3, while Koichumanova was blanked in the second set, resulting in a 6-4, 6-0 defeat. In the No. 4 position, Myinttun dropped the first set to Shannon Moore 7-5, only to be defeated in the second 6-4. And lastly, playing in the No. 5 spot, Matijasevic fell to Baird 6-1, 6-3.

“Furman is a little more disciplined,” Victor said. “They used old school shots to beat us.”

The Matadors will start an eight game homestand beginning March 12 against San Francisco at 11 a.m. at the Northridge Tennis Complex.

Matt Osias can be reached at matthew.osias.26@csun.edu.