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Caroline Daily / Staff Photographer

Columbia women’s tennis comes out on top against Washington State University in a hard-fought match at the Dick Savitt Tennis Center on Feb. 23.

Columbia women’s tennis built on its six-game winning streak on Feb. 23 with a decisive win over Washington State University, nationally ranked No. 34. The Lions finished the grueling match with a 4-3 win at the Dick Savitt Tennis Center.

It was a day of tight battles for the Lions, punctuated by multiple tiebreakers. One particularly close match was sophomore Melissa Sakar’s, who played at No. 3 singles for the Light Blue. After swiftly claiming the first set 6-1, Sakar fell 7-6 in the second. However, Sakar utilized well-placed volleys early in the third set, which helped her claim the first game. Two games later, she saved a breakpoint after a long rally that sent both players from line to line. After breaking her opponent’s serve and then holding her own, Sakar enjoyed a 4-1 lead. She would go on to win 6-3 to help lift the Light Blue over the Cougars.

The matches extended late into the afternoon, with three of the six singles going into the third set. Junior Jennifer Kerr’s decisive victory was the first singles win of the day, and Kerr kept her opponent running with lofty groundstrokes. On the next court over. sophomore Akanksha Bhan, who is ranked No. 65 nationally, fought hard but fell to Washington State’s Michaela Bayerlova 6-4, 6-4.

Head coach Ilene Weintraub discussed the team’s performance against the Cougars in terms of their progress rather than outcomes.

“We’re really focusing on the process this season, and because of that we expect the results to take care of themselves, and this was an example of that,” Weintraub said.

It was a busy week for the Light Blue, with three matches in the past week.

“We played two very solid teams. On Friday we played Syracuse, which is ranked 25 in the country right now, and today’s team is ranked 34, so they were two excellent wins,” Weintraub said.

Weintraub attributed the day’s win to mental resilience.

“It really came down to mental toughness today,” she said. “This match could have gone either way––credit to Washington State for how well they played and how well they fought.”

The last match to conclude was first-year Julia Haynes’, who was down 5-4 in the third set before managing to tie the score. Haynes lost the next two points before claiming the next three straight, the last being an excruciating rally that seemed to endure for minutes. Haynes converted a deuce point into a 6-5 lead before losing the next game to even the score once again.

Teammates, coaches, and families alike watched the final tiebreaker with bated breath. Haynes found herself behind 3-2 before knotting the score. By the time she reached 5 points, her opponent had not scored again. At 7-4, Haynes’ teammates swarmed the court, screaming, to celebrate the win.

“Our team has really set a high standard for themselves. They have taken it upon themselves to have high team expectations, and they have great chemistry, and this win is a direct result of that,” Weintraub explained.

The Lions will next match up against St. John’s and Rhode Island at 11:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., respectively, this Friday, Feb. 28 at the Dick Savitt Tennis Center.

Senior staff writer Mackenzie George can be contacted at mackenzie.george@columbiaspectator.com. Follow her on Twitter @kenziegeorge22.

Staff writer Grace Bradbury can be contacted at grace.bradbury@columbiaspectator.com.

women’s tennis Ilene Weintraub Washington State University tennis Melissa Sakar Akanksha Bhan Jennifer Kerr Julia Haynes
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