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Saturday, May 18
The Indiana Daily Student

sports tennis

Weekend defeats leave Indiana women’s tennis still in search of first Big Ten victory

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The net rippled once, then once more as Nicole Teodosescu smacked her racket in anger. The sophomore had just lost the first set tiebreaker to her Penn State opponent, and the net was the recipient of her hostility. 

Teodosescu’s reaction epitomized the frustration emanating from the Indiana women’s tennis program after weekend losses to Ohio State and Penn State, sending the team to 6-13 on the year. Despite the negative team results, head coach Ramiro Azcui still saw some positives over the two-game stretch. 

“When we were on spring break, we didn’t compete very well,” Azcui said after the match Sunday. “I think we actually did that well against Ohio State, even though we had some injuries. Today, competing against Penn State was the same thing; we competed and that’s all you can ask for.” 

The weekend began March 23 with a marquee matchup against No. 13 Ohio State, a team spearheaded by No. 12 graduate student Irina Cantos Siemers and No. 118 junior Sydni Ratliff. Conversely, Indiana was forced to compete without its star player — redshirt junior Lara Schneider — who was sidelined due to injury.  

Ohio State wasted no time gaining an advantage as Cantos Siemers and Ratliff defeated Teodosescu and graduate student Lene Mari Hovda 6-3 in the No. 1 doubles spot. Before long, the Buckeyes attained their second doubles victory with a 6-4 win on the No. 3 court, and Indiana was almost immediately facing a 1-0 deficit. 

The situation continued to deteriorate for the Hoosiers as Ohio State won three matches in straight sets. Cantos Siemers headlined the victories with a 6-1, 6-1 demolition on the No. 1 singles court, and she was accompanied by Ratliff and graduate student Akanksha Bhan as both players triumphed with the same scoreline, 6-2, 6-4. 

With the Ohio State match in the rearview mirror, Indiana turned its attention to Penn State — a team entering the match with a 2-11 record and losses in eight of its last nine. The matchup seemed to be Indiana’s best shot at securing its first conference win until the end of the season, considering all its future opponents hold a record of .500 or better. 

Penn State began with a dominant 6-2 victory on the No. 3 doubles court, but Indiana graduate student Saby Nihalani and freshman Li Hsin Lin responded with a 6-3 win of their own. With the pivotal match on the No. 1 court, Teodosescu and Hovda jumped out to an early 5-3 lead, only to see it wither before their eyes into a 7-5 defeat. 

With the doubles point advantage, Penn State set out to capture the three necessary singles victories and return to Happy Valley with its third win of the season. However, Indiana didn’t let that happen easily. 

Across the top three singles matches, each set was forced into a tiebreaker, although only Indiana freshman Elisabeth Dunac prevailed. Shortly before Dunac’s first set victory, Lin and Hovda obtained their own first set wins, 6-1 and 6-4, respectively. For a moment, Indiana had a realistic path to rallying back and winning the matchup. 

But that moment was fleeting. 

After her first set tiebreaker defeat, Teodosescu was unable to remain close in the No. 1 singles match, losing in straight sets 7-6 (7-5), 6-1. Nihalani followed up her own first set tiebreaker defeat with a close but unsuccessful second set, losing the match 7-6 (7-3), 6-3. 

Freshman Magdalena Swierczynska was the final defeat for Indiana, losing 6-4, 6-3 to Penn State senior Alinea Lebedeva. The loss marked Indiana’s sixth consecutive, only one shy of their season high of seven earlier this year. 

Indiana’s lone victory on the weekend came from Dunac, who finished off her opponent 7-6 (7-3), 6-4. The win brought the freshman to double digit singles victories — the first Hoosier to reach that mark this season — as well as snapped a five-game losing skid after an impressive 9-1 start. 

With many factors attributed to Dunac’s losing streak, the most prevailing was the young freshman’s jump to the second spot on the singles lineup due to injuries. The transition coupled with her lack of confidence sent Dunac in a downward spiral, but her latest victory has appeared to help her escape that rut. 

“This match was really important for my confidence levels because those were struggling a little bit with my jump up to two,” Dunac said following the Penn State match. “I felt like I was playing back to the same level I had.” 

The win may bring more confidence to Dunac, but Azcui believes that time will be the freshman’s greatest advantage — she still has three years remaining in her college career. 

“She’s starting to find herself a little bit more comfortable,” Azcui said. “I think she’s starting to learn, and I think she’s starting to embrace [her role]. Better things are coming for her.” 

With the search for its first Big Ten victory still in progress, Indiana faces an imposing five-game road trip over the next three weeks, with the first stop featuring a trip to Ann Arbor against Michigan — the No. 2 team in the country — on Saturday. 

“It’s not going to get easier for us and now we’re on the road,” Azcui said. “We’re going to have to keep finding a way to scrap [and] be relentless. It’s going to be a big test for us to see how we can overcome every single match.” 

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

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