Women’s tennis fall in season opener

Bradley Piros, Assistant Sports Editor

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – The Western Illinois women’s tennis team was in competition for the first time this weekend to kick off their fall schedule. It wasn’t exactly a great showing from the Leathernecks, but there were some highlights and hope for the future.

Western traveled down state to the Southern Illinois University- Edwardsville where they took on Eastern Illinois University, Saint Louis University as well as the hosting Cougars of SIU-E.

The Leathernecks added five new freshmen to take over for the players that graduated last season. Among those players are Cary Milanes and Courtney Lubbers. Both of these women were reliable in their singles matches, and easy to get along with in doubles action as well.

Another player, who didn’t take the court last outing, was junior Natalia Bravo. Also, very consistent in singles, and usually Lubbers’ doubles partner, will be missed by the Leathernecks.

Only three women returned from last season, being junior Laura Ballesteros as well as Ana and Mary Bjelica. The sophomores are daughters of head coach Mirko Bjelica.

So, you could say Western is in a little bit of a rebuilding process here, and the SIU-E Invite was their first test to see what they’re made of.

After all was said and done, Western had played in 18 singles matches, only winning two of them, and six doubles matches, winning only one of those. By no means does that mean Western performed poorly. They were up against good competition and it’s hard on the road, but let’s break down what happened.

The first Leatherneck called to action was freshman Anouk Maajong. She played in three matches, however lost all of them two sets to none.

Next up was Ana Bjelica, who also played and lost all three matches. One of them was in two sets (4-6, 2-6) but she was able to take the next one to three sets. This was her best matchup of the day, but still fell short (3-6, 6-3, 10-8). She finished her singles action as she retired after one set, losing it 8-5.

Ballesteros only played one singles match and lost in two sets (6-2, 6-0). She later played in a couple of doubles matches, but ultimately, she had a short weekend.

A few contests later, and Mary Bjelica took the court for three singles matches. She lost her first one in two sets (6-1, 6-2) however got one of Western’s only singles wins next time up. She won her second bout in two sets, 6-4 and 5-7, but went down in her final matchup, losing in two sets (6-1, 6-3).

Next on the court for the Leathernecks was another freshman, this time Megan Tagoloa. She played threematches as well and lost all of them in two sets (6-1, 6-4; 6-0, 6-2; 6-3, 6-0).

Fellow freshman Camryn Rossa took to the courts next, losing her first two matches in two sets (6-4, 6-2 and 6-3, 6-4) but won her third and final match retiring the EIU player in one set 8-5.

Last but not least in singles competition was freshman Natalie Malone, who played two matches. She lost them both in one set (8-0) and three sets (6-4, 4-6, 10-8) respectively.

Next up was doubles action. First, the pairing of Tagaloa and Maajong would take the court but lost all three of their matches (6-2, 6-3 and 6-0). Following them were the Bjelica sisters, who got Western’s only doubles win 7-6. They would play another match but fell 6-4.

Ballesteros teamed up with Rossa and Malone for her matches but lost 6-2 alongside Rossa and 7-6 with Malone.

Nothing against all of these ladies, as they battled hard, many of them playing collegiate tennis for their first time ever. No one had a “bad” performance, it was just a case that the other sides were just a little better. Western will build on this experience, as Bjelica will most likely switch things around, as he tries to fine tune his squad for the season.

Next up on the schedule is the Quincy Invitational this weekend. Western does not have a home meet in the fall season, only seven straight away invites. They will look to come out stronger next weekend and hopefully pick up a few more wins.

Concluding the invite, head coach Mirko Bjelica had ths to say:

“It was two days full of tennis playing nine sets for each member of our team. That’s exactly what our team, mostly made up of freshmen, needed to begin our fall slate,” Bjelica said.

“With each match, everyone on our team got better and raised their level of play. We had some very tough and close matches, and some wins as well, and overall it was a terrific experience for our young crew.” Bjelica said.

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