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LIU-Brooklyn women’s tennis falls to Miami in NCAA Tournament

Blackbirds ousted from NCAAs

May 15, 2018 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
LIU-Brooklyn’s Anna Grigoryan, the best player in the Northeast Conference for the past two years, was unable to knock off the No. 3 overall singles player in the nation, Miami’s Estela Perez-Somaribba, during Friday’s NCAA Tournament opening-round match. Photo courtesy of LIU-Brooklyn

Sweltering heat combined with next-level competition proved to be the undoing of the Long Island University Brooklyn women’s tennis team, which saw its season end last Friday afternoon with a 4-0 loss to 15th-ranked Miami in the opening round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament.

Though the Blackbirds, back-to-back champions of the Northeast Conference and heavy favorites to three-peat next year, fought valiantly against the talent-laden Hurricanes for most of the day, they fell short of their dream of pulling off one of the biggest upsets in the history of collegiate tennis.

“Yes, it was a very positive experience overall. We held our own with them in doubles and got up a break on court two,” reigning two-time NEC Coach of the Year Anthony Davison told the Brooklyn Eagle after his squad suffered its second first-round elimination in as many years.

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“Our Number 1 and 3 team were also hanging with them and playing great tennis, but a few errors at crucial times and Miami capitalized very well.”

This was the expected result for a Long Island University team that ran roughshod over the NEC with a perfect 8-0 record this season, including dropping just one set during the league championships, en route to a brilliant 17-5 overall mark this year.

But Miami, which is seeded 16th overall in the ongoing NCAAs, advanced beyond the first round for the 23rd consecutive year behind the top-flight singles play of Estela Perez-Somaribba, the No. 3 ranked player in the entire nation.

And on Saturday, the Hurricanes clinched a Sweet 16 spot for the 12th time in the past 13 years by rallying past state rival University of Central Florida, 4-3, while the Blackbirds were packed and headed back to Downtown Brooklyn.

“I was happy with what I saw today,” Miami head coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews said after her team eliminated the game, but ultimately overmatched Blackbirds.

“We were working on some things in both singles and doubles, and I was happy with the way that they executed those things.”

Perez-Somaribba took out two-time NEC Player of the Year Anna Grigoryan, 6-0, 6-1 in top-flight singles, and was part of the tandem that beat Grigoryan and teammate Ana Leonte, 6-2, in No. 1 doubles action.

Daniella Roldan beat sophomore Sasha Bollweg, 6-1, 6-2, to make it 3-0, and the match was clinched shortly thereafter, when nationally-ranked Sinead Lohan (No. 69 in the nation) defeated Brooklyn’s Jessica Brzozowska, 6-1, 6-1 in the No.2 singles spot.

With temperatures in the high-80s and the humidity adding to the heat index, Davison’s squad looked strong out of the gate but began to wilt a bit as the Hurricanes poured it on at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center.

“One factor which hurt us was the heat,” Davison admitted. “We dealt with it well for the first hour, but we started to fade towards the end and we could tell Miami [was] used to the conditions.”

In the No.2 doubles spot, Bollweg and Brzozowska were trailing 4-2 when the point was clinched and the match suspended, cutting short the best showing the Blackbirds produced in doubles.

But it was the singles play of Jennifer Gogova that provided the shining moment of the team’s brief NCAA run.

The sophomore took Ulyana Shirokova to a tiebreaker in No. 5 singles before dropping the set, 7-6. She was denied a shot at equalizing when Miami clinched the overall match.

“In singles, Miami showed their class and played some great tennis,” Davison said.

“Our number five, Jennifer Gogova, played a fantastic first set losing in a tie break. Overall the team fought very hard and lost to the better team.”

Last May, the Blackbirds were also swept out of the first round by then-No. 13 Pepperdine in Malibu, California, but did made some strides despite an identical result in Miami as they try to build toward an unprecedented third consecutive NEC crown and NCAA appearance.

“We will take a lot from it and come back next year having learned what we need to improve to shake a team like that in the future,” Davison noted.

“We plan to strengthen our schedule since we have nobody graduating and as long as we stay healthy and motivated it should be another exciting season in 2019.”

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