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Friday, April 19
The Indiana Daily Student

sports tennis

Magdalena Swierczynska’s comeback powers Indiana women’s tennis to victory over Cornell

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For more photos, see PHOTOS: Indiana women's tennis rallies in win against Cornell

Indiana women’s tennis freshman Magdalena Swierczynska raised her hand into the air, signaling that the ball was out. Moments later, she was swarmed by her teammates as the crowd roared, celebrating her victory.  

After the cheers subsided, Swierczynska returned to her bench, only to be greeted by the biggest of hugs from her head coach, Ramiro Azcui. 

“I told her at 6-5, ‘enjoy the moment,’” Azcui said after the match. “Sometimes you get wrapped up and you’re not really focused on what you’re trying to do, but you just gotta enjoy it. For her as a freshman, she’s gonna remember this match for a long, long time.” 

Swierczynska had accomplished something unprecedented this season— down 5-1 in the third set, the Poland native overcame the deficit to win the set 7-5 and grant Indiana the 4-3 victory over Cornell University.

Swierczynska’s performance was one of many comebacks Indiana had Sunday. The first deficit the Hoosiers were forced to overcome was the doubles point, which they failed to capture. 

Indiana started off hot with a quick win on the No. 3 doubles court. With graduate student Saby Nihalani sidelined due to injury, standout freshman Elisabeth Dunac took her place alongside graduate student Lene Mari Hovda. The duo dominated the match, quickly winning 6-1. 

The other courts were far less successful for Indiana. The freshman pairing of Sarah L’allier and Li Hsin Lin fell 6-4 to Cornell freshman Michelle Ryndin and junior Alexandra Savu, while redshirt junior Lara Schneider and sophomore Nicole Teodosescu suffered a nearly identical result, losing 6-4 to senior Lauren Stein and sophomore Emma Baker. 

Rebounding from the lost doubles point was critical for Indiana to win the match, and Azcui said the team was already aware the match would not be decided from just the doubles. 

“I told the team before we started the doubles that this match is not gonna be decided by the doubles point, it’s gonna be decided afterwards,” Azcui said. “I told them to fight from point one all the way to the end, and we did.” 

Despite Azcui’s advice, Cornell was quicker to begin the singles matches. Ryndin won a convincing first set 6-2, but Teodosescu displayed the effort Azcui wanted to see, fighting to make the second set 5-5. Ryndin proved to be the victor, however, as she ultimately won 7-5 and extended Cornell’s lead to 2-0. 

Indiana quickly responded with a victory of its own as Hovda won 6-4, 6-2 over freshman Victoria Zhao on the No. 5 singles court. The victory was the Norwegian’s first since Chicago State University on Jan. 21, and it broke a string of consecutive losses for the bottom two spots in the lineup. 

“We were struggling at five and six to be honest with you,” Azcui said. “I think [we were] 0-14 in those two spots, and for LM [Lene Mari] and for Magda to come and win, that’s the reason we won the match.” 

Dunac followed up Hovda’s victory with one of her own, defeating Baker 6-4, 6-4 on the No. 3 singles court. Once again, Azcui’s words rang true as the Cabin John, Maryland, native climbed back from a 4-1 first set hole, winning five consecutive games and the set.  

Lin was the next Hoosier to illustrate Azcui’s advice. Following a tight first set defeat, she won back-to-back sets, taking the match 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 and giving Indiana a 3-2 advantage. 

On the No. 1 singles court, Schneider was engaged in a close matchup against Stein as she attempted to secure the crucial fourth point for Indiana. The Hoosier had a firm grasp on the victory after a dominant first set, but close defeats in the second and third sets ultimately let that grasp slip away. The 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 loss evened the score at 3-3, and forced all the attention to the scenes playing out on court six.   

Swierczynska and Gia Graziano entered the third set tied 1-1, and carrying the momentum from her second set victory, the Cornell sophomore jumped out to a 5-1 lead. With an improbable path to victory, Swierczynska refused to give up, taking six consecutive games en route to the win.  

“I was so stressed because I knew that I was the deciding match,” Swierczynska said about being down 5-1. “I was trying to focus on fighting because I knew that I was able to win. … All of the IU fans, my coaches, my teammates were cheering and helping me so I just wanted to win this together.”  

Throughout the match, much of the support Swierczynska received was from Nihalani. The injury had eliminated her ability to play, but with Azcui’s encouragement, it had not eliminated her ability to coach.  

“I was just happy because she was a little bit depressed because she couldn’t compete with the team,” Azcui said. “I put her into the coaching mode just so that she could be involved in the match and obviously she did a great job. Really happy for her that she was able to help the team in some way.” 

The victory marks the end of Indiana’s non conference slate, and the win streak comes at no better time than right before it begins the formidable Big Ten regular season, which Azcui describes as “a different monster.”  

Iowa is the first team on the docket, with the match set to begin at 11 a.m. March 2 in Bloomington.  

“I’m really looking forward to playing Iowa next week,” Azcui said. “I’m not gonna worry about the people coming after that. We just gotta take care of Iowa.” 

Follow reporter Mateo Fuentes-Rohwer (@mateo_frohwer) for updates through the Indiana women’s tennis season.

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