Photo by: Derrick Tuskan
Anu Bhadada hung around before making her move in the second set, sweeping her singles match for the clinch.

Now Up to No. 22, UC San Diego Edges Concordia for Seventh Straight, 4-2

UC San Diego

LA JOLLA, Calif. - The University of California San Diego women's tennis program began the day Wednesday by moving all the way up from No. 37 to No. 22 in the latest Oracle/Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) national poll, as a winner of a season-high six consecutive matches.

UC San Diego ended the afternoon by notching a seventh straight triumph, 4-2, over visiting Concordia University Irvine at its own Northview Tennis Courts.

UC San Diego improved to 11-5, while Concordia fell to 9-10. This is the Tritons' longest win streak since beginning the 2017 dual-match campaign with nine successive victories. They are now 6-5 at home with one contest left in La Jolla. UC San Diego has won six in a row over Concordia, the teams having met for the fifth straight year.

UC San Diego and Concordia were rated No. 4 and No. 7, respectively, in the Oracle/ITA West Region poll back in January. The Tritons are trending toward a return trip to the NCAA Championship, with four teams qualifying from the West.

"It was a little closer than we would have liked," said UC San Diego head coach Liz LaPlante. "We knew it was going to be a tough match. We were prepared, but I think that whenever you’re supposed to win, it's always tougher. We always talk about it in the reverse, where if we're the underdog, we know the pressure is on them. I think the girls were feeling a little pressure, which is only normal."

Senior partners Madison Hale and Alexandra Weil eased past Samantha Schuster and Lisa Suzuki at No. 2 doubles, 6-2. Hale produced a clever dump at the net to break for 5-2 in front of her parents, in from Fresno, before the fourth-year duo served out the match. Freshman Shweta Kumar and redshirt junior Chloe Wight then defeated Haley Diefenbach and Taylor Lau at No. 3, 6-3, for the doubles point.

The pre-match arrangement between coaches was to play this one to clinch. Senior Ashley Chao (San Diego/Rancho Bernardo HS) and junior Becky Chou led 5-3 on the No. 1 court and 40-0 in the game with Chao about to serve quadruple match point, but that contest was halted there.

Moving on to singles, Chou had little trouble with Suzuki at No. 3, 6-0, 6-3, for her team-leading 12th singles victory. The 2018 ITA singles All-American is now 12-2 with six wins in a row.

Schuster got past Kumar at No. 5, 7-6 (9-7), 6-2, to put the visiting Eagles on the board, and the nation's 19th-ranked singles player, Ghazal Pakbaten, outlasted Chao at No. 1, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2, to pull Concordia even. Chao hung tough all match, rallying from a 5-1 deficit to make the first set interesting.

From there, Weil the veteran took care of business after splitting the first two sets, downing Lau, 6-3, 2-6, 6-2, at No. 2. True freshman Anu Bhadada (San Diego/Torrey Pines HS), inserted into the singles lineup at No. 6 following doubles as Wight was pulled from singles for precautionary reasons for a second straight contest, pulled out a dramatic straight-set victory over Ghada Al-ajeely through a pair of tiebreaks, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-2). The local product trailed by a game seemingly the entire second set before rallying.

"With Chloe (Wight) out of the singles, that put some extra pressure on the singles lineup, but I'm just so proud of Nu (Anu Bhadada) and the way she fought back," added LaPlante. “She hasn’t played that many singles matches, and you could just see, all of a sudden a more mature player out there, who was showing her confidence, which we haven't had the chance to see. It was really good to see that."

Junior Valeria Corral (San Diego/Mater Dei Catholic HS) was on the No. 4 court as a winner of nine singles tilts in a row. She had split the first two sets and was down 1-0, making Bhadada's comeback that much more significant. Corral's match was halted at 3-6, 6-1, 0-1.

The Tritons' jump of 15 spots in Wednesday's national listing was the largest of any team included. They are the third-highest-ranked team from the West Region behind No. 8 Academy of Art and No. 10 Hawai'i Pacific.

UC San Diego has one more important Division II West Region test remaining on the schedule, as it hosts Cal State LA in its home finale on Senior Day this Saturday, April 13. The action at Northview Tennis Courts on North Campus in La Jolla gets underway with doubles at 12 p.m. Parking and admission are free.

The match will mark the final home appearance of Chao, Hale and Weil.

"It's what we always want," concluded La Plante about this late-season run for her club. "We have one more huge match on Saturday. We have a lot of parents coming for Senior Day, so we just have to really focus on winning that match and having fun at the same time, to honor our seniors. We're looking forward to it. We're going to take the day off tomorrow to just recover, and we'll be ready to go Saturday."

#22 UC San Diego 4, Concordia (CA) 2
April 10, 2019 at La Jolla, CA (Northview Tennis Courts)

Doubles competition
1. Ashley Chao/Becky Chou (UCSD) vs. Johanna Keeline/Ghazal Pakbaten (CUI) 5-3, unfinished
2. Madison Hale/Alexandra Weil (UCSD) def. Samantha Schuster/Lisa Suzuki (CUI) 6-2
3. Shweta Kumar/Chloe Wight (UCSD) def. Haley Diefenbach/Taylor Lau (CUI) 6-3

Singles competition
1. #19 Ghazal Pakbaten (CUI) def. Ashley Chao (UCSD) 7-6 (7-5), 6-2
2. Alexandra Weil (UCSD) def. Taylor Lau (CUI) 6-3, 2-6, 6-2
3. Becky Chou (UCSD) def. Lisa Suzuki (CUI) 6-0, 6-3
4. Valeria Corral (UCSD) vs. Johanna Keeline (CUI) 3-6, 6-1, 0-1, unfinished
5. Samantha Schuster (CUI) def. Shweta Kumar (UCSD) 7-6 (9-7), 6-2
6. Anu Bhadada (UCSD) def. Ghada Al-ajeely (CUI) 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-2)

Match Notes
Concordia (CA) 9-10; Regional ranking #7
UC San Diego 11-5; National ranking #22; Regional ranking #4
Order of finish: Doubles (2,3); Singles (3,5,1,2,6)
T-2:33 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.

Follow the Tritons
For complete coverage and information regarding UC San Diego Athletics, follow the Tritons online at UCSDtritons.com and through social media on Twitter (@UCSDtritons), Instagram (@ucsdtritons) and Facebook (UCSDtritons). For more information on UC San Diego Women's Tennis, follow on Instagram (@ucsdwomenstennis).

#BigWestBound

More From UCSD
W Tennis