Last Thursday morning my team and I flew down to San Diego to play the West Coast Conference – the last tournament of the season, and what we prepared for since January.
We were all quite excited, ready to give our best and show what we had, even though we had some pressure thinking that we had to play Santa Clara – that was seated one rank above us – again for the first round.
We arrived early in the afternoon under a cloudy and threatening weather, rented a van, and went directly to the tennis club to practice for one and a half hours. Then, we went to the hotel, took a shower and had to rush to attend the WCC opening banquet with all the other teams – men’s and women’s.
When we got back to the hotel, we had a meeting in one of the rooms where coach Hilary Somers told us we had to think about our best match this year, and think about the way we had played to reproduce that the next day. She also told us to believe in ourselves and in each other, and to have a better cohesion.
The fight to win the doubles point was very tight and stressful. Contrarily to their last doubles, the pair Jenni Heinser-Melinda Akerbrant (#1) did not play vey well, committing a lot of unforced errors against a Santa Clara team that probably played one of its best doubles matches. My teammates ended losing 2-8. In reverse, doubles team #2 – Cecilia Gratian and Julia Wartenburger – gave a good fight, were smart and played very well, so they won 8-6. After a really strong beginning where they were up 5-1, the pair Alana McMahon-Yurie Hashigutchi lost their focus, made more mistakes at crucial points and lost 5-8.
The whole team was frustrated, but coach Somers told us to stay in the present and to fight for the singles because she thought we were better individual players than them.
McMahon (#6) played her singles match really well, being patient and killing the point when she had the opportunity; she won it 6/2-6/1. Even though she felt very stressed during her match, Heinser (#1) stayed focused and was experienced enough to win it 6/2-6/2. Wartenburger (#2) lacked self-confidence and loosening that paralyzed her foot work and affected her entire game before a solid and complete opponent; my teammate lost 3/6-1/6. Playing singles #4, Akerbrant made a lot of unforced errors and said she felt like her strengths had not worked well and prevented her to give the best she usually can, so she lost 4/6-3/6. Gratian (#3) played well and used smart strategies, but her opponent played a little better and used her aggressiveness efficiently; Gratian lost 3/6-3/6.
At that point, Santa Clara had won the game so the referees stopped Hashigutchi’s match that was in a good shape as my teammate was up 6/3, and there was 4-4 in the second set.
Everyone was very disappointed and frustrated for the best we could do at that point was to finish fifth – which was worst than last year with a better team. “I’m disappointed because I thought you did not play your best tennis today and you did not believe in yourselves while you are better players than them. This season has been up and down, but I thought that with the meeting we had yesterday and because it’s WCC, everyone would rise up together and that you would all play well,” Somers said.
But we had to put our frustration aside, and be focused, determined and ready to play Loyola Marymount the next day, and try to finish fifth at the end of the weekend.