Photo by: Derrick Tuskan
Senior Alex Weil defeated 41st-ranked Kara Hilton at No. 2 singles Friday in La Jolla.

No. 18 Tritons Edged in Season Opener by No. 13 Azusa Pacific, 4-2

UC San Diego

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LA JOLLA, Calif. - The No. 18 University of California San Diego women's tennis team dropped a 4-2 decision to No. 13 Azusa Pacific University in its 2019 dual-match season opener at Northview Tennis Courts on Friday afternoon.

UC San Diego (0-1) had been swept in the 2018 season series against Azusa Pacific (1-1), which began its campaign with a 4-3 home loss to No. 4 Hawai'i Pacific on Wednesday morning. The Cougars have now taken the last four meetings overall.

APU is third and UC San Diego fourth in the year's initial Oracle/Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) West Region poll.

UC San Diego surrendered a very difficult doubles point. While senior Chloe Wight and freshman Shweta Kumar, making her college debut, were falling 6-3 at No. 3, the Tritons were up 5-2 at No. 2 and 4-2 at No. 1. The Cougars came storming back, however, as fourth-year seniors Madison Hale and Alexandra Weil were edged 7-5 at No. 2. With the doubles point being clinched, the contest at No. 1 was halted at an even 5-5 for senior Ashley Chao (San Diego/Rancho Bernardo HS) and junior Becky Chou against the nation's 19th-ranked tandem of Kara Hinton and Jacky Wagner.

"We had a really good start, and then unfortunately there was a momentum change," said Liz LaPlante, who officially began her milestone 40th campaign at the UC San Diego helm. "I think we got a little bit tight there, and the other team was loose because they were behind and decided to play better. We had already gotten a little tight and it was hard to get it back. Credit to Azusa for coming back. They didn't have a good start, but those are matches that we should have won, definitely."

Wight was originally slotted in at the No. 6 position in singles, but coming off a slight injury that kept her out of all three of the Tritons' exhibition tilts last month, and having just rejoined practice in full on Wednesday, she was pulled out for precautionary reasons. That enabled Anu Bhadada (San Diego/Torrey Pines HS), like Kumar a true freshman, to take her place and make her official collegiate debut.

Bhadada went ahead and notched her first career win while she was at it, 6-2, 6-4 over fellow freshman Audrey Stewart. Weil accounted for the other Triton tally, downing fellow senior Hinton 6-1, 6-4, at No. 2. Hinton is ranked No. 41 in the NCAA Division II. Chao lost 6-2, 6-2, at No. 1 against 27th-ranked Petra Ivankovic.

Wagner dispatched Kumar at No. 4, 6-1, 6-2. When Cougar sophomore April Wong finished off a 6-3, 6-1, defeat of Triton junior Valeria Corral (San Diego/Mater Dei Catholic HS) at No. 5, the result was clinched. Chou's battle at No. 3 with Anna Savchenko was thus halted at a set apiece, 6-1, 5-7.

"That was awesome," added LaPlante about Bhadada's winning debut. "It was a real last-minute (decision). We decided Chloe (Wight) wasn't feeling very well, so we stuck her in there and she did great."

UC San Diego continues a season-long seven-match homestand on Saturday, Feb. 9, and Sunday, Feb. 10, against future Division I and Big West Conference rival Cal Poly, and top-ranked reigning Division III national champion Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, respectively. Both contests are scheduled to begin at 12 p.m., weather permitting. Parking and admission are free on North Campus in La Jolla.

#13 Azusa Pacific 4, #18 UC San Diego 2
Feb. 8, 2019 at La Jolla, CA (Northview Tennis Courts)

Doubles competition
1. Ashley Chao/Becky Chou (UCSD) vs. #19 Kara Hinton/Jacky Wagner (APU) 5-5, unfinished
2. Anna Savchenko/April Wong (APU) def. Madison Hale/Alexandra Weil (UCSD) 7-5
3. Petra Ivankovic/Audrey Stewart (APU) def. Shweta Kumar/Chloe Wight (UCSD) 6-3

Singles competition
1. #27 Petra Ivankovic (APU) def. Ashley Chao (UCSD) 6-2, 6-2
2. Alexandra Weil (UCSD) def. #41 Kara Hinton (APU) 6-1, 6-4
3. Becky Chou (UCSD) vs. Anna Savchenko (APU) 6-1, 5-7, unfinished
4. Jacky Wagner (APU) def. Shweta Kumar (UCSD) 6-1, 6-2
5. April Wong (APU) def. Valeria Corral (UCSD) 6-3, 6-1
6. Anu Bhadada (UCSD) def. Audrey Stewart (APU) 6-2, 6-4

Match Notes
Azusa Pacific 1-1; National ranking #13; Regional ranking #3
UC San Diego 0-1; National ranking #18; Regional ranking #4
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2); Singles (4,2,6,1,5)
Season opener for UC San Diego
T-2:40 A-50

About UC San Diego Athletics
With 30 national team championships, nearly 150 individual titles and the top student-athlete graduation rate among Division II institutions in the United States, the UC San Diego intercollegiate athletics program annually ranks as one of the most successful in the country. The Tritons sponsor 23 intercollegiate sport programs that compete on the NCAA Division I and II levels and, in summer 2020, will transition into full Division I status as a member of the Big West Conference. UC San Diego student-athletes exemplify the academic ideals of one of the world's preeminent institutions, graduating at an average rate of 91 percent. A total of 80 Tritons have earned Academic All-America honors, while 36 have earned prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships. In competition, more than 1,300 UC San Diego student-athletes have earned All-America honors.

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