Home sweet home for women’s tennis
After a surprising 0-2 start to the season, the women’s tennis team rebounded with two straight home wins.
UNLV entered the weekend ranked No. 58 in the nation despite being winless, and the Rebels proved why by dispatching New Mexico State and Pacific on consecutive days.
The weekend didn’t start out well for UNLV. Early against New Mexico State things looked bleak. The Aggies came out of the gates on fire, winning the doubles point and taking control of singles play.
Aleksandra Josifoska trailed New Mexico State’s Ros-Polly Nguyen 5-0 in the second set after losing the first set 6-2.
“I was really negative, especially in the second set when I was down 5-0,” Josifoska said. “I almost gave up, because I was one game away from losing the match.”
On the brink of defeat, Josifoska kept the match alive and turned the tide. She said that when it was 5-1, Nguyen made a couple of mistakes and felt she was scared. “I told myself ‘you’re not going to lose this one’,” Josifoska said.
Josifoska reeled off seven straight points to capture the second set 7-5 and force a tiebreaker. Josifoska won the tiebreaker 10-7 and took the point.
“I’m happy that I won, but it’s just good for my teammates to see that even at 5-0 it’s not over,” she said. “Just keep trying and don’t give up. It’s good for them to see that everything is possible.”
Head coach Kevin Cory felt Josifoska’s win was more important than the single point it earned UNLV on Friday, and was a valuable learning experience for the younger players on the team.
“Until you see something like that when someone’s down 5-0,” Cory said, “you try to tell them to play until the last point, and the match isn’t over until it’s over, and that was a great example.”
The victory gave the Rebels the lead for the first time and they never relinquished it.
Lucia Batta, now ranked No. 29 in the nation, swept Susana Alcaraz in straight sets by a combined score of 12-1, and junior Santa Shumilina took care of Denise Van Der Ben in two sets 6-3, 6-4.
The Rebels followed that up with a close 4-3 win over Pacific on Saturday. UNLV won the doubles point, and then Batta, Shumilina and Iren Kotseva won their matches in straight sets.
The weekend triple-header was capped off with a 7-0 win over UC Riverside, who has started the season 0-6.
“It’s always nice to be home,” Cory said. “We lost to a couple of good teams on the road. Any time you have a couple of losses it’s nice to get back on the right side of the score.”
UNLV continues its theme of tough non-conference matches, as the Rebels play Pepperdine on Friday and Arizona State on Sunday in Malibu, Calif.
“Ultimately what you’re trying to do is prepare your team to contend for a conference championship and get into the NCAA’s and I think we’ve made a step in the right direction,” Cory said.