Wichita State sophomore Lucia Kovalova faced deuce more than 10 times in each of her two sets against Southern Illinois’ Anita Lee Saturday.
Sometimes, Lee took the game, but Kovalova maintained her composure in the long match, to finish with the win 7-5, 7-5 and advance to Sunday’s first-place match in the second flight singles bracket of the Missouri Valley Conference Women’s Tennis Individual Championship at WSU.
“It was a tough match. I had to hit such hard balls because she was running so well,” Kovalova said. “I had to be positive mentally, and I think that was a big role in my play, because sometimes when I was negative I lost two games in a row.”
Only a few hours before her singles victory, Kovalova and doubles partner Veronika Blaskova experienced a disappointing 8-6 loss to Evansville’s Natasha James and Kelsey Costales in the second round of the first flight doubles bracket. The WSU pair was ranked No. 32 nationally prior to the match.
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“(Kovalova and Blaskova) had a couple of games early in the match that really could have created some separation and given them a lead,” WSU coach Colin Foster said. “They kind of let the team hang in there a little too long, and once you get in to a tight match anything can happen.”
Although Kovalova and Blaskova won the third-place match 8-1 over Creighton’s Jennie Hartjes and Anna Kirshenbaum, that wasn’t good enough for the two who have been playing doubles together for years even before coming to WSU.
“I was really disappointed. My partner and I won another one, but you can’t even compare third-place and first-place matches,” Kovalova said. “We aren’t going to lose anymore, we don’t want to, and if we play good, we shouldn’t.”
Blaskova faced challenges in her first round singles match as well, when she lost to Southern Illinois’ Melanie Delsart 6-3, 2-6, 3-6. Blaskova finished fifth in the first flight singles bracket.
“I lost in three sets, I could have won but it wasn’t my lucky day yesterday,” Blaskova said. “Luck is a small factor, but it still helps when the luck is on my side not on the other side.”
WSU was the favorite heading in to the tournament, and despite losses in the first flight of singles and doubles, WSU will play in six of the 10 championship matches Sunday.
“We come into this tournament expecting to do well. Last year we won seven out of the 10 flights, and tomorrow we’ll be in six out of the 10 finals,” Foster said. “We’re expecting to give ourselves at least the opportunity to win every one of those matches.”
Four WSU players will compete in the singles championship matches, and two WSU teams will compete in the doubles matches, including freshman Rebecca Pedrazzi and Carla Venticinque — a new doubles team for WSU.
“We’ve got a strong team; we’ve won the conference the last four years,” Foster said. “We’ve certainly got that target on our back which puts a little extra pressure on our players, but that’s a good thing.”