Undefeated women's tennis upset at home, in first round of playoffs

The top ranked Santa Monica College women's tennis team suffered a shocking upset in the first round of the SoCal Regional Dual Team Championships yesterday as the 9-8 Riverside City College Tigers pounced at every opportunity, defeating the Corsairs 6-3.

"I don't think we played our best to say the least. I feel like we had a really long weekend with the Western State Conference tournament, it was a lot of tennis, about four matches a day. Like eight hours of tennis a day and I feel like that was really draining," said team captain Jessica Goldbeck. "I don't think we had as much energy as we should have, but they played well and I wish we would have played better, it's really sad."

Goldbeck was the only SMC player to win her singles match as the Corsairs were bested 5-1 in singles matches on the day.

Making the Corsairs lopsided defeat that much harder to deal with was the fact that they started their singles matches with a 2-1 advantage as doubles partners Goldbeck and Kaori Tsuda won 8-6 as did partners Izabel Nazdracheva and Thanapha Bencharongkul or "Bess" as she likes to be called.

"Doubles were good, it was a close one. But in the end we pulled out a 8-6 win," said Bess. "This season went really well. We were undefeated until the very end, so I'm really proud of the girls for that."

As the Corsairs began their singles matches, only Goldbeck and Nazdracheva would win their respective first sets, putting that much more pressure on the Corsairs' top two contenders, Mary Ashmore and Tsuda to come back and win consecutive sets in order to prevent an early playoff exit for SMC.

During the second set of her match, SMC's top contender Mary Ashmore or M.K. as she likes to be called, made it very interesting as she blew away Riverside's top contender Acacia Dettman 6-2 setting up a decisive third set.

Also having to play a decisive third set was Izabel Nazdracheva, who after holding a 5-4 lead in the second set and up 1-0 in the match, allowed her opponent to steal the second set 6-5, tying the best of three match 1-1.

As the third and final sets began for M.K. and Nazdracheva, it was clear they would both have to win in order to secure victory for SMC. This much was obvious after Tsuda and Victoria Mamatova each lost their singles matches in straight sets 2-0 respectively.

"We tried our best, but Riverside proved they were better today. It was very close, we came very very close today, extremely close, close but no cigar," said Mamatova.

Ashmore would make it as close as 3-2, but just as she seemed to be gaining momentum and perhaps was making a move on Dettman, the Tiger ace did not lose another set ultimately beating M.K. 6-2 and winning the match 2-1.

"Wow, the third set was really hard, because I was losing energy and getting tired and I was hitting weak balls," Dettman said as she tried to catch her breath. "But my coach, she said I needed to slow down, and by slowing down I got control of the pace, the points, and started winning."

Dettman who was nicknamed "The wall" growing up for her ability to keep everything in front of her, laughed as she divulged her secret to keeping her energy high late in the game. "I drink Powerade and I get a Clif Bar, that's what helps."

As far as Nazdracheva's third set, after her opponent stole the second, it seems that was the back breaker for Nazdracheva and the tipping point for her Tiger counterpart as her opponent would go up 4-0 and never look back, securing the last two sets, and winning 2-1.

Though it may seem like a heartbreaking end to a storybook season, this is not the end of the road, not by a long shot.

"I'm really proud of 'em, they had a great season, they fought every match, just got outplayed today," said Head Coach Richard Goldenson. "We still have a player in the (W.S.C) singles final, M.K., and two doubles teams in the semis, that's this Friday, so I think we're looking pretty strong in individuals. We're also sending five singles players and three doubles teams to the Ojai Tennis Tournament."

Although SMC will be able to avenge their first round loss during the WSC and Ojai singles and doubles tournaments in the upcoming weeks, the scale of their accomplishments this season are not lost on the young Corsair team. A realization usually reserved for players well beyond the college level.

"I think we did really well as a team, we finished first in our conference and we were undefeated until today," said Goldbeck. "I didn't see this coming, I didn't think we would lose today. But I think it's been an amazing season."