Women’s tennis emerges victorious in CUNYAC championship

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Players and coaches celebrate following the Baruch women’s tennis team’s first CUNYAC championship in nearly 20 years.

On Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015, the Baruch women’s tennis team captured its first CUNYAC championship title since 1997.

The team’s long-awaited return as conference champions marked just its fifth time in team history that the Bearcats accomplished such a feat. Baruch wasted no time finishing off the Hunter College Hawks in the finals.

They swept the doubles competition 3-0 and took the first two singles matches en route to their perfect 5-0 victory. First-year player Daria Vasekina earned the tournament’s coveted MVP award after going 12-0 in singles action and 13-0 in doubles this season including the CUNYAC tournament. The junior from Vladivostok, Russia, was a star from the get-go and undoubtedly played a significant role in the team’s success all throughout the season. Baruch’s victory also qualified the Bearcats for a spot in the NCAA tournament, which is set to take place next May.

Prior to their finale with the Hawks, the Bearcats squared off against the Brooklyn College Bulldogs in the second round of the tournament. Baruch’s first-place finish in the regular season gave them a first-round bye for an automatic placement in the semifinals, giving the team a chance to rest its players for an extra day. Despite the crucial matchup, head coach Florin Giuglescu stayed poised and turned to his reliable duo of Allie Jackson-Hing and Vasekina in first doubles. The two players played exceptionally alongside each other since the beginning of the season and led their team with the most doubles wins as a pair heading into the game. Jackson-Hing and Vasekina started things off with an 8-4 rout over the Bulldogs to record their ninth win together. Isabel Arias and Dzhessika Bishenkevich kept the momentum rolling with a solid 8-0 win in second doubles. Brooke Severance and Hayley Bester wrapped up the doubles play with an 8-0 win of their own to give Baruch a comfortable 3-0 lead going into singles.

The team grinded out two singles wins, almost effortlessly, with a stellar performance by its rookies Vasekina and Arias to close out the game. Arias finished her match unscathed, going 6-0 in both sets, and Vasekina was right behind her taking her match 6-1, 6-0. The victory helped Baruch advance to its first CUNYAC championship since 2010 and 13th overall in team history. In the other semifinal matchup, the Hawks took down the defending champions, the College of Staten Island Dolphins, in an exhilarating finish that came down to the last singles match of the game. The Hawks took a narrow 5-4 victory, but it was still enough to set up a rematch of last year’s semifinals.

The Bearcats entered the championship game with a bitter memory of losing to the Hawks 3-5 in the tournament last year. Although Baruch had already staved off Hunter earlier in the season 7-2, the Bearcats knew well enough that this time around it was going to be a different fight. Both teams headed into the tennis courts of Queens College on Tuesday afternoon, in hopes of bringing the CUNYAC title back to their schools. However, just like they did so all season long, the Bearcats trampled the Hawks to another exciting victory. The Hawks proved to be no match to the Bearcats, who left them in their dust with a 5-0 shutout. Baruch executed the win in the same fashion as they did so in the semifinals, staying with the same pairs in doubles play then followed by a quick singles victory from Vasekina and Arias. Jackson-Hing and Vasekina led the charge once again to cap off their undefeated season as a duo for their 10th win together and did so by retiring their opponents in the opening match. The Bearcats took the remaining two doubles matches 8-4 each and soon enough the team found itself just two wins away from being crowned CUNYAC champions. Arias and Vasekina dismantled their competition 6-2, 6-0 and 6-1, 6-1 respectively.

The team’s 10-0 record in the CUNYAC tournament this season is a testament to the dedication and leadership from both its coaching staff and players. The contribution from the younger members of the team was a key factor that helped the Bearcats cruise through the tough season with ease and also proved that the team was in a class of its own.

It is hard to say that the Bearcats were ever in serious trouble this season, but in the past, the team had fallen short in competitions in similar situations and could not afford to make the same mistakes again. Although the undefeated regular season alone was a huge accomplishment, especially after finishing with a losing record last season, winning the title was the perfect ending for the perfect season.

Now, the Bearcats have their eyes set for May, where they hope to make a long run in the biggest stage of Division III sports, the NCAA tournament.

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