The Cardinals returned to their home court with one goal, win by any means. The team began the fight to achieve this goal immediately.
Freshmen pairing of Isabelle Tanjuatco and Sarah Shahbaz won their first doubles match of the season in six straight games. The match only lasted for 16 minutes, meaning the duo had to have won almost all of the points within the set.
Their teammates copied the freshmen' lead, battling to secure victories in their doubles matches. Sophomores Annika Planinsek and Sydney Hrehor won their match in a tiebreak.
At the same time, juniors Elena Malykh and Ella Hazelbaker brought their match to a score of 6-6 before doubles play was halted.
The wins here resulted in Ball State's first doubles point in a meet across the entire season.
“I mean, just to go out there, it's just fun... The fact that we were able to get it done like really quickly today was really good,” Tanjuatco said. “It was really good for us to just go in there and put a good foot forward, I mean super exciting.”
Headed into singles play with a 1-0 lead, the momentum remained with Ball State.
Malykh and Hazelbaker started their singles play with 6-1 sets with Hazelbaker also taking the second frame 6-1 earning the first singles point of the meet for the Cardinals, putting them up 2-0. Malykh would go on to win her second set easily with a score of 6-2.
“I mean, we have been playing really good teams so we’ve been taking what we've learned from those matches and [are] implementing it,” Hazelbaker said. “We've been working hard since fall up until now, so it's really good to just see all of our hard work finally pay off.”
Tanjuatco and Hrehor battled to win their first sets, with Tanjuacto fighting for a 6-4 win and Hrehor coming out on top with a 7-5 win. The next set did not come easy either, with both Cardinals fighting to win their second frames.
Tanjuatco came out on top 6-3 after facing a 3-3 score, while Hrehor cruised to a 6-2 win.
At this point in the match, the Cardinals were up 5-0. Head coach Sachin Kirtane said that lead meant everything to his team.
“That's part of college status. I mean, it's ups and downs,” he said. “I think today was a big step because honestly, every single player faced some adversity, and most of the time came out on top.”
This is the first time all season they’ve scored more than one point in a match and the first time they’ve held their opponent below six points in a meet.
“This is going to be the first one of many and I'm excited to keep working with this team to keep the momentum moving forward,” Hazelbaker said.
Planinsek would lose her singles march in the third set, after fighting in the first and winning 6-1 in the second. Shahbaz lost her singles match similar to Planinsek, losing in the first, winning the second, but losing in a tiebreaker in place of a third set.
Overall, Kirtane is proud of how his team showcased themselves on the court and what it means for the rest of the season.
“ All I can preach is effort, and they give me effort every single time,” Kirtane said. “You're going to face adversity… they're learning and I'm happy about the progress.”
Ball State next plays Friday, Feb 16. in Muncie against Youngstown State University at 5 p.m. On Saturday, Feb 17. the team will compete in a doubleheader. First against the University of Colorado at 2 p.m. then against Indiana University at 6 p.m.
Kirtane said the key to success this upcoming weekend, and for the rest of this season, is all about mentality.
“I mean, it's just one match. Whether we win or lose, we have to go back to doing what we've been doing,” he said. “Sure, it's great to win because I think it gives them a little bit of affirmation, that they're doing the right things. But again… I mean, these nonconference wins are great, but I want to prepare them for March when we start conference play.”
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