MSU women’s tennis sweeps weekend, improves to 5-2 on the season

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Erin Grady

EAST LANSING – The Michigan State women’s tennis team had a successful three-match weekend at home, with a win against Toledo on Friday night and back-to-back victories on Sunday against in-state competitors Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan.

For their home opener on Friday, the Spartans started strong in doubles play, with sophomore Issey Purser and freshman Ria Bhakta on court three sweeping their competition 6-0 and being the first to finish. On court two, Junior Liisa Vehvilainen and sophomore Matilde Morais took down the Rockets 6-4 to secure the doubles point for MSU.

In singles, Bhakta earned another point for the Spartans as she defeated Toledo’s Shalini Tallamraju in two sets, 6-1, 6-1. Vehvilainen then defeated Sanjana Tallamraju 6-1, 6-2 to keep the win streak alive and put MSU ahead 3-1.

Senior Ayshe Can secured the victory for MSU, besting her opponent in two sets. The first set went into a tiebreaker but Can came out on top 7-6 (7-2), 6-1.

The Spartans defeated the Rockets 5-2 to win their first home match of the season, improving their overall record to 3-2 going into Sunday.

“We are in a good spot where we can win every match that we play,” said MSU head coach Kim Bruno. Bruno said that there were some ‘gutsy’ wins against Toledo, and she hopes to continue “moving forward here at home.”

After a one-day break, MSU was back at the Tennis Center on Sunday to take on Western Michigan. It was the Spartans and Broncos 40th all-time meeting and first meeting since 2017, with MSU leading the overall series 28-11 going into the meet.

On court two, sophomore Makenna Martinez and graduate student Nicole Conard took the first win of the day for the Spartans, winning in doubles play 6-2.

The other two doubles matches were tight, but ultimately it would be Purser and Bahkta on court three to take the doubles point for MSU, as they defeated Western’s Polina Khotko and Ariane Souligny 7-5.

“Even in some of the first sets, they were a little tighter and a little more nervous, but they stuck with it, and over the course of the match, there were a lot easier second sets,” Bruno said about the team’s performance.

In singles play, sophomore Marley Lambert earned the first point for MSU, winning in two sets 6-4, 6-0 against Bronco Audrey Smitek. On court four, Bhatka put the Spartans up 3-0 as she defeated Polina Khotko also in two sets, 6-3, 6-1.

Quickly after that, Morais finished her sets against Lindsey Ziegler, winning 6-2, 6-3 to seal MSU’s 4-0 victory over Western.

“I think the girls are business-like right now. They are just getting through their nerves, working through a lot of stuff, and just taking care of what’s in front of us,” Bruno said.

Later Sunday afternoon, MSU and Eastern Michigan faced off for the 52nd time. The Spartans had won the last 14 meetings against the Eagles and were looking to continue that win streak.

In doubles matches, Can and Conard dominated on the court to sweep their opponents 6-0 for their second doubles win of the season together. Once again, the other two matches were nailbiters. In the end, the Spartans would take the point as Martinez and sophomore Sarah Fazlagic won 7-5 in their first doubles match as partners.

On court three, Purser was the first to win in singles, beating the Eagles’ Andrea Quiroz 6-2, 6-2. Within minutes, Bhakta also defeated her opponent in two sets, 6-1, 6-1, for her fourth straight singles win of the season. Conard won a close set against Sabina Brichackova 7-6 (7-3), as it went into a tiebreaker. She then won 6-2 and took the final point for MSU to win 4-0 over Eastern.

“I think sticking with it over the course of time, the wins will keep adding up in our favor. We have a good group of girls, they’ve been working really hard and we just have to think of each match as the same,” Bruno said. ”I really think that the girls can accomplish a lot.”

The Spartans are now 5-2 overall and undefeated at home. MSU will face the University of Southern California in East Lansing on Friday for the fourth match of the six-match homestand.