The Valparaiso University tennis team pushed defending Missouri Valley Conference champion Drake to its limits on Saturday afternoon at The Courts of Northwest Indiana, but the visiting Bulldogs escaped with a 4-3 victory in the Valley opener for the Beacons. Valpo prevailed on three singles courts and one doubles court.
How It Happened
- What proved to be a pivotal doubles point went to the Bulldogs by virtue of wins at No. 2 and No. 3. The last doubles match standing occurred at No. 1 and was played to its completion with Olivia and Claire Czerwonka (Kenosha, Wis. / Saint Joseph Catholic Academy) earning a 6-4 victory over Liza Petushkova and Daria Walczak. The sisters broke each of Drake’s first two serves and held an early 3-1 lead before trading service points for the remainder of the match. Valpo served for the match leading 5-4 and didn’t drop a single point in the final game to solidify the 6-4 triumph.
- Drake owned a commanding 3-0 lead in the team score after winning each of the first two singles matches to finish – No. 1 and No. 5. However, each of the next two players to clinch victories were Beacons – Claire at No. 2 and Mia Bertino (Lockport, Ill. / Joliet Catholic) at No. 6.
- Claire was up 3-2 in Set 1 through five games with the set on serve before she earned a break against Drake’s Ines Stephani to take a 4-2 advantage. The two players exchanged holds to advance the score to 5-3, then Claire served for the set and converted to take Set 1 6-3. In the second set, Claire went up a break early but Drake got the set back on serve at 2-2 and eventually 3-3. Claire went up a break at 4-3, then the players traded games and Claire converted on her chance to serve for the match, winning Set 2 6-4.
- On the No. 6 singles court, Bertino rolled to a straight-set triumph over Kelsey Neville 6-3, 6-1. That helped Valpo get to within 3-2 in the team scoring. However, the Bulldogs secured the victory with a win at No. 4 singles.
- The final match in action was a marathon at No. 3 singles. Valpo’s Amanda Tabanera (Valencia, Calif. / Valencia) rebounded from a 6-3 defeat in the first set to win the second set 6-4 to set up a compelling third-set tiebreak against Daria Walczak. Tabanera broke on the first serve to go up 1-0, then converted on both of her serves to make it 3-0. Drake split its serves to advance the score to 4-1, then Drake broke to make it 4-2 as the players switched sides. Tabanera held to up her lead to 5-2, then Drake held twice to cut the deficit to one at 5-4. Tabanera held on both serves in a key sequence to build the lead to 7-4, then Tabanera broke the first Drake serve to make it 8-4. Drake won the next two points to cut the lead to 8-6, but then Tabanera held on her second serve to create match point. Tabanera broke serve on Drake’s first attempt to win the tiebreak and the match 10-6.
Inside the Match
- Drake won the MVC title and made an NCAA Tournament appearance last season. This was the closest Valpo has come to knocking off the Bulldogs since joining The Valley, a large step forward from a 6-1 setback last season.
- Claire and Olivia’s victory over Petushkova and Walczak came against two All-Missouri Valley Conference performers from a year ago as both of those Bulldogs were members of the MVC All-Select Team last season. Tabanera’s singles win came over a reigning MVC All-Select Team performer (Walczak).
- This marked Valpo’s fourth 4-3 match of the season as the Beacons fell to 2-2 in such contests.
- Claire has now won three consecutive singles matches and notched the 55th singles victory of her career on Saturday. She is in fifth in program history, three away from moving into a tie for third.
- Tabanera is up to 38 career singles wins as she continues to approach a spot in the program record book. Olivia is currently 10th in program history with 41.
- Claire extended her program record with her 69th career doubles victory, while Olivia was successful in doubles play for the 42nd time in her collegiate career, moving into sole possession of ninth in program history by surpassing Paige Heuer (2013-2017, 41).
The Beacons (8-9, 0-1 MVC) will hold Senior Day on Sunday at 8:30 a.m. vs. UNI as part of the final home match of the season, which will take place at The Courts of Northwest Indiana.