| March 24, 2018

W. Tennis: Twice Is Nice

Back-to-back Big Sky Conference champions is an impressive title to hold.

The Idaho women’s tennis team earned that distinction Sunday after a dominating performance in California over the weekend.

The Vandals entered the Big Sky tournament as the third seed behind Northern Arizona and Sacramento State.

Idaho head coach Mariana Cobra said the team’s seeding in the tournament meant nothing to the players, as she urged the Vandals to focus on what they could control.

Idaho did just that over the weekend, defeating three consecutive Big Sky opponents to claim the tournament victory.

The Vandals opened the tournament by facing No. 6 seed Eastern Washington in the first round of play. Idaho earned the doubles point with standout performances from freshman Marianna Petrei and sophomore Lucia Badillos, while freshman Maria Tavares and senior Rita Bermudez clinched the point for the Vandals.

In singles play, Tavares defeated Carolina Lopez 6-1, 6-1, but Eastern Washington answered with a win from Moira Hedberg over Bermudez 6-1, 6-3.

Petrei provided the Vandals with a boost on the No. 1 court, beating her opponent 6-2, 6-4 to improve the Idaho lead to two. Freshman Celine Koets finished off the Eagles with a 6-1, 6-4 victory to clinch the 4-1 victory for the Vandals.

Idaho’s win gave the team a berth in the semifinals against No. 2 seed Sacramento State.

The Vandals continued to excel in doubles, as Petrei and Badillos jumped out to an early lead, while Tavares and Bermudez fought their way to a 6-4 victory to clinch the doubles point.

“I kind of felt confident, once we won the doubles point,” Cobra said.  “The doubles point is the key for us right now. Getting that point early is massive for us. Earlier in the year, we lost the doubles point and we lost the match 4-3.  This time, we won the doubles point and we won the match.”

The early momentum for Idaho transferred over into singles play. Petrei dominated her opponent 6-2, 6-3, but the Hornets came back with a victory from Andie Mouzes over Belen Barcenilla on the No. 5 court.

Wins on the No. 6 and No. 2 court from Tavares and Bermudez respectively allowed the Vandals to reach the finals.

“Rita, one of our seniors, got the win for us,” Cobra said. “When I knew it was coming down to her, I felt very confident that she would get the job done.  She really stuck in there and battled and got us the point that we needed.”

On Sunday, the team squared off against No. 1 seed Northern Arizona.

Petrei and Badillos capitalized on a strong doubles chemistry to shut out their opponents, and a Northern Arizona injury on the No. 2 doubles court forced the Lumberjacks to forfeit the point to Idaho.

The Vandals rolled through singles play, as sophomore Ana Batiri claimed the first singles point with a 6-1, 6-2 win. Tavares followed by extending the Idaho lead to 3-0 after defeating Northern Arizona’s Livia Hollosy.

Koets added a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Jordan Denesik to clinch the conference championship for the Vandals.

“Celine finished it off, beating a girl that had been undefeated in conference, in straight sets,” said Cobra. “I think it just came down to how much we wanted it. We kind of wanted revenge, for what happened in the regular season. Props to the girls, they played like women today.”

Idaho will wait to hear the team’s seeding in the NCAA Tournament. The announcement will be made by the NCAA Tuesday afternoon.

Brandon Hill can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @brandonmtnhill 

(Photo Courtesy by Idaho Athletic Media Relations)

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