After nearly two and a half hours of endless fighting, it was over. The tennis ball hit inside freshman Isabelle Tanjuatco’s court just outside of her reach and the Cardinals had officially been swept, losing all seven of their opening-day matches against Purdue.
“I knew scheduling in a team like this was gonna be tough, but I think there were more positives then there were any negatives,” head coach Sachin Kirtane said.
Kirtane cited that his team was unsure of themselves, but that getting the opportunity to play a team like the Boilermakers has more positives than negatives. He reiterated that his goals for the team are to progress and make as much improvement as possible before conference play begins.
With essentially just five days of practice coming out of winter break, Kirtane said he could not be more proud of his team, and how they fought under pressure.
Along with this, Kirtane emphasized that he and his team have built themselves up during the off-season while trying to adjust to their new positions and create a more cohesive team.
After a head coaching shift and a loss of some key players, this Cardinals looked completely different from last season. Regardless, Kirtane believes they can continue in the team's footsteps and long legacy of success.
“I think today it was more about them being a little unsure of themselves more than anything and with more matches, more reps, and opportunities to play success will come,” Kirtane said.
Even with a loss, Ball State performed well and came out strong, winning most of their first game sets if not the first game in general.
In total, Ball State played 106 games but won just 33, which is just over 31 percent.
Freshman Sarah Shahbaz fell after fighting for a combined 19 games, nine in the first and 10 in the second, winning seven. Her opponent, sophomore Kennedy Gibbs, who collected a 5-4 record last year against Big Ten opponents in singles alone, proved to be too experienced.
“Obviously, it didn't go the way we wanted it to,” Shahbaz said. “I was a little iffy because I haven't played singles in a while.”
Shahbaz said that regardless of the outcome, she is still proud of her first-ever performance as a Cardinal, citing her team’s atmosphere and support as motivation.
“I think overall, the energy was so nice. I love playing next to these girls,” Shahbaz said. “I never felt alone at any point.”
Shahbaz also participated in a doubles match with fellow first-time Cardinals Tanjuatco.
Sophomore transfer Sydney Hrehor played doubles with fellow sophomore Annika Planinsek. At Hrehor's former school, she primarily played doubles with varying success. Today, she and Planinsek came together well, taking four sets over their opponent's three before the match was called.
Junior Ella Hazelbaker also participated in doubles with longtime teammate junior Elena Malykh. Here, the team's only juniors lost in a single set 6 games to 2.
Hazel Baker continued to play a singles match, winning seven of her 20 games played. Up against Indiana native, sophomore Ashlie Wilson, Hazelbaker came in as the more experienced player, yet struggled to find her footing like her teammates.
Fighting to make the first game tied at 5 in the first, she lost two games in a row to lose the first set 7-5. In the second, Hazelbaker was only able to secure two game wins.
“I’m really excited moving forward and I think we have a lot of potential,” Hazelbaker said. “Overall, even though it was a loss, it was a step in the right direction.”
Across the board, Kirtane is pleased with the Cardinal’s performance today on the road against Purdue. Highlighting the fact that this is a learning experience for his young team.
“It's encouraging because I can see they understand what they need to do and I think as long as they stick to that, we're going to be playing our best tennis when conference season starts,” Kirtane said.
This understanding is felt across the team, with Hazelbaker and Shabaz each echoing their coach's statements about improvement and taking this road loss as something much more.
“Now that I've lost, I want to win," Shahbaz said.
With the desire to bounce back and better themselves, Ball State will head back to Muncie and defend home court for the first time this season Saturday, Jan. 27th at 1:30 p.m. against Cleveland State University.
Contact Trinity Rea via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on X@thetrinityrea and Lauren Graham at email@example.com.