After finishing the regular season winners of 12 of its last 13 games, the Cal State Northridge women’s tennis team continued its dominance, beating UC Santa Barbara in a 4-3 thriller of the 2006 Big West Conference Tournament quarterfinals, only to fall in the semifinals to Long Beach State, in another close match.
In 90-degree weather at the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens, and after losing the all-important doubles point, the No. 5 seed Matadors rallied back from a 3-0 Gaucho lead to win the next four points and secure the upset.
The deciding match rested on the shoulders of sophomore No. 3 Canna Furuta, who managed to hold off Andrea Pintar’s second set comeback attempt, winning 6-3, 7-6(5) in a tiebreaker to send the Matadors to the semifinals.
“It was awesome,” Furuta said after her pivotal victory. “I’ve been struggling with my game, so winning this match just made all the hard work worth it. It’s hard to describe the feeling.”
Sophomore Kanykey Koichumanova also came back from a set behind and 0-3 in the second, fighting off a foot injury to beat Chelsea Glynn 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 to even the match at three, setting up Furuta’s heroics.
Senior No. 5 YuYu Myinttun was the first to put the Matadors in the win column, beating Leslie Damion 6-1, 7-6 (7-5). The second point came at the No. 6 position singles, where the consistency of sophomore Olga Yepremian shined through, as she came back from a set down and 0-3 in the second to win 12 of the final 13 games, recording a 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 victory.
UCSB won the first two singles contests, however, jumping out to the early 3-0 lead. Gaucho No. 1 Marielle Gruenig dispatched the injured Matador Silvia Gutierrez who could not continue the match after losing the first three games of the initial set. At the No. 4 position, Charlotte Scatliffe gave the Gauchos their second singles victory, besting junior Ana Matijasevic 6-2, 6-1.
“We won at the biggest time possible,” head coach Gary Victor said. “We were so clutch and fought a senior-laden team. It was an amazing feeling.”
In doubles, the Matadors sole victory came at the No. 3 spot, where Matijasevic and Yepremian easily defeated Damion and Mio Fukushima 8-1. UCSB rallied to win both the No. 1 and No. 2 doubles contests 8-4.
The following day pinned the Matadors against the tournament’s top-seed and nationally ranked No. 27 Long Beach State 49ers (21-4). Although they lost the doubles point 2-1, the Matadors came close at the No. 2 position, as Myinttun and junior Kasia Krasinska prevailed over Katy Williams and Sandra Rocha 8-3.
“I thought we had a great chance at the other two shots,” Victor said. “But we had trouble winning the big point.”
In singles, the 49ers took a 2-0 lead, as Hannah Grady outlasted Gutierrez at the No. 1 spot 6-1, 6-2. The Matadors cut it to 2-1 as Myinttun defeated Jessica Weeks 6-4, 6-4.
“The way she played, I thought YuYu was the MVP of the tournament,” Victor said.
Long Beach State, however, won the next two matches to earn the 4-1 victory.
At No. 4, Rocha fought off a late second-set charge by Matijasevic to win 6-3, 7-6 (7-4). Matijasevic was down 5-0 in the second set and facing match points, only to win the next six games, but fell in the tiebreaker. At No. 2, Williams came back from a set down to beat Koichumanova 3-6, 6-1, 6-4. Yepremian and Furuta’s matches were called, as the 49ers secured the four points necessary to advance to the Finals.
“I think we showed that we handled the pressure better than any of the teams there,” Victor said. “We were the only team that actually competed with Long Beach. It was such a great accomplishment for CSUN.”
Matt Osias can be reached at email@example.com.