Fifth-year senior Claire Czerwonka (Kenosha, Wis. / Saint Joseph Catholic Academy) celebrated her birthday in victorious fashion on Sunday evening at The Courts of Northwest Indiana.
Claire rolled to an easy victory in doubles alongside her sister Olivia before battling her way to a three-set win in a lengthy singles match. Her performance highlighted a competitive evening of tennis that saw visiting Northern Illinois escape the Hoosier State with a 4-3 victory in Valpo’s final match prior to its spring break trip.
How It Happened
- The first three games at No. 1 doubles were on serve as Claire and Olivia led 2-1 before breaking serve to go up 3-1. The sisters went on to take the remaining three games including the final game with four straight points to win the match in lopsided 6-1 fashion. Valpo won five straight games to close out the match, which came against the NIU top doubles tandem of Erika Dimitriev and Anastasia Rakita.
- Shortly after Valpo pocketed the victory at No. 1 singles, the Huskies leveled the doubles score by finishing off a win at No. 2.
- All eyes turned to a compelling No. 3 doubles match that saw Valpo’s Demi Jhaveri (Westlake, Ohio / Westlake) and Allison McConnell (Westland, Mich. / Churchill) engage in a battle with NIU’s Fernanda Naves and Christy Robinson. Jhaveri and McConnell erased a 4-2 deficit in the match, coming up a with a key service break at 4-3 to put the match on serve at 4-4. The two teams exchanged holds to make it five-all, then Valpo came from down 15-30 to take the next three points and hold serve to make it 6-5, putting the pressure back on NIU. The guests responded by taking the set to force a tiebreak.
- When the No. 3 doubles tiebreak got underway, it was all Beacons. Valpo won the first six points and dropped only one point in the tiebreak to take the match 7-6(1) and garner the doubles point for the team.
- Mia Bertino (Lockport, Ill. / Joliet Catholic) turned in a sound performance at No. 5 singles, topping Fernanda Naves 6-2, 6-3 in straight sets.
- In the opening set at No. 1 singles, NIU won a key deuce point in the third game to go up a break at 2-1. That served as a turning point in the opening set as the Huskies pulled away to win that set 6-1, but Olivia came battling back in Set 2, jumping out to a 4-1 lead. However, Dimitriev won the next three games including two breaks to put the set back on serve at 4-4. Olivia went right back up a break by breaking serve to go up 5-4, but NIU eked out a victory on a deuce point to extend the set at 5-5. The next game also came down to a deuce point and Dimitriev won a long rally to go up 6-5, then she broke serve to take a compelling set 7-5 and clinch the match.
- The Huskies also had victories at No. 3, No. 4 and No. 6 singles, assuring NIU the team triumph. However, the No. 2 singles match had already started its third set when the team result was secured, so Claire and NIU’s Diana Lukyanova duked it out in a lengthy deciding set. Claire had won the opening set 6-3 but dropped the second 6-2.
- In the aforementioned third set, NIU broke serve at 1-1 to go up 2-1, then held to make it a 3-1 advantage. Claire rolled to a win in the next game to make it 3-2, then the two players exchanged holds to make it 4-3. Claire came up with a key break to tie the set at four, but NIU followed with a break to make it 5-4 and Lukyanova had a chance to serve for the match. However, Claire broke serve to make it 5-5, then rolled to a win to hold serve and go up 6-5. NIU fought off two match points in the next game, but Claire converted on the third such point to win the long set 7-5 and keep her birthday a happy one.
Inside the Match
- Claire and Olivia extended their lengthy doubles winning streak to 12 and hold a 10-0 record in dual matches this season.
- Olivia won her 40th career doubles match, while Claire extended her program-record win total to 67. Olivia’s total ranks 10th in program history and she is now just one doubles success away from tying Paige Heuer (2013-2017) for ninth.
- In terms of career singles wins, Claire now owns 52. With her singles victory on Sunday, Claire has moved into the top five in program history, joining a tie for fifth with Kate Kollarova (2000-2002) and Whitney Chada (2003-2007). Claire went to a third set for the third time in her last five matches and gained her first three-set win of the spring season.
- McConnell and Jhaveri notched their seventh doubles win of the season, while Bertino lifted her season win total to nine and climbed over the .500 mark in singles play.
- The Beacons played their second 4-3 match of the season and first since a Jan. 29 win over Saint Louis, dropping to 1-1 in matches decided by the slimmest of margins. This was the second straight year Valpo and NIU played a 4-3 match as the Beacons prevailed by that score last year in DeKalb. Sunday marked Valpo’s first 4-3 defeat since March 4, 2020 vs. Grand Valley State.
Valpo (6-5) will play three matches in the state of Florida this week beginning on Wednesday at Barry University in Miami Shores. The match is slated to begin at 9 a.m. CT / 10 a.m. ET with links to live video and stats courtesy of Barry Athletics available on ValpoAthletics.com.