The men’s team had a very difficult first match against the University of Delaware. Due to inclement weather, the match had to be moved indoors on the campus of Old Dominion University, which hosted the tournament.
“We prepared for the weather by practicing indoors the day before, so having the match moved inside wasn’t really an advantage for either side,” Tricia Udicious, head coach for the men’s and women’s tennis teams, said. “I actually think it helped the top of our lineup in both singles and doubles on the women’s side.”
The ninth-seeded Dragons fell to the eighth-seeded Blue Hens 4-1.
“We knew we were in for a battle with Delaware,” Udicious said. “We played a tight match with them a couple of weeks ago.”
The only win for the men came with the return of standout Bryan Nguyen, who beat Nolan Gelman of Delaware 7-6, 6-4 in a singles match.
“Having Bryan Nguyen back in the lineup at CAAs was critical for us,” Udicious said.
The top match of the day pitted Drexel freshman and All-CAA Third Team honoree Badr Ouabdelmoumen against one of the top players in the CAA, Delaware’s Troy Beneck. Both men had been on singles winning streaks, but Beneck got the better of Ouabdelmoumen, defeating him 6-4, 7-6.
“Badr was playing against one of the toughest players in our conference and played well but just couldn’t finish out a tough second set,” Udicious said.
The rest of the day was tough for the Dragons, who could not get in a rhythm. Delaware was able to advance to the CAA quarterfinals for the eleventh consecutive year.
The women fared better than the men on the first day, as they were able to edge out Towson University 4-3.
“The women’s match started out with Sonja Stosic and Zeynep Mafa setting the tone with two great wins at one and two,” Udicious said of her top two singles players.
Stosic defeated Aandria Carr 6-1, 6-2, and Mafa beat Nani Lizana 6-0, 6-2.
Towson roared back to take the third, fourth and fifth singles matches. With the match on the line at No. 6 singles, freshman Nicole Pivonka showed poise beyond her years as she defeated Towson’s Ariel Burke 6-3, 6-2 to send the match to doubles.
The doubles pairings of Mafa-Stosic and Pivonka-Brook took two of three matches to give the Dragons the win and a spot in the quarterfinals. Mafa and Stosic won their match 8-1, and Pivonka and Brook beat Carr and Nisha Shah of Towson 8-4 in the deciding match of the day.
Udicious called the play of Mafa-Stosic and Pivonka-Brook “inspired.”
The Dragons faced Virginia Commonwealth University, one of the top teams in the country and the highest seed in the CAA, April 20. They were unable to take a match, as they were swept by VCU 4-0.
Ana and Alex Bara of VCU set the tone by taking the top two singles matches for the Rams. Although the Dragons were able to compete spiritedly with VCU, the Rams’ skill and experience were just too much.
“VCU is a perennial top-30 team in the nation, and if we want to compete better with those teams, we must consistently play our best tennis,” Udicious said. “We have some fundamentals that need to improve with some of our younger players and more match toughness right down the lineup in order to go deeper into the tournament next year.”
Although the men were bounced in the first round and the women struggled with VCU, Udicious believes the teams competed well and gained valuable experience.
“Overall, both teams had their ups and downs, but as a team they stuck together and pushed each other on every point, and as their coach I couldn’t have been more proud,” Udicious said.