The Golden Bears and Pandas tennis teams took on the UBC Thunderbirds last weekend with a trip to the Canadian University Nationals on the line.  Neither team disappointed. Both the Golden Bears and the Pandas punched their tickets to Nationals this summer with 5-2 wins over the T-Birds.  This was the 7th straight Western Canadian University Tennis Championship crown for both teams.

The Golden Bears started strong at the number 2 spot for the crucial doubles point. Jeff James/Ryan Townsend set the tone, taking their match 8-0 over UBC’s Braedon Beaulieu/Danny Wu. That’s when 3rd year veterans Daniel Henschel/Vuk Radovic took over their match. The pair sealed the 8-5 victory over T-Bird’s Martin Lorayes/Sam Walrond with Henschel hitting a massive ace down the tee to clinch the doubles point.

With the Golden Bears up 1-0 overall, the Bears needed at least 3 singles victories to win the tie. Vuk Radovic at the 3 spot sealed his straight sets victory 6-1 6-2 over UBC’s Braedon Beaulieu.  Then shortly after Ryan Townsend at the 2 spot won his match 6-0 6-1 to make it 3-0 overall for the Bears. Daniel Henschel pulled off a tough 6-2 6-4 victory over Barak Jacobs of UBC to clinch the 4th win, booking the Golden Bears a ticket to Nationals.

Coach Russ Sluchinski had this to say after the match:

“The Bears started strong quickly winning two doubles matches and securing the important doubles point and then carried the momentum into the singles play. UBC is a very good team and it took a very solid performance by the entire team to achieve the victory.”

The Pandas had a very different path to their Western title, although the final tally was the same. All three doubles matches went game for game with not much separating the two sides. It was the 1 spot that finished first with veteran Pandas Kristina Sanjevic/Alina Jurca defeating Jessica Silva/Yizhen Song of UBC 8-5. Not even 3 minutes later at the 2 spot, UBC’s Abigail Heninger/Luna Crawford defeated UofA’s RJ Gan/Maki Oba 8-4.  This left it up to the Pandas 3 spot to win the crucial doubles point for UofA. At 7-7 in the match, it went to a 7-point tie-breaker to decide the doubles point. Riyo Tomita/Eve Hobart held on to win the breaker 8-6 and win their match 8-7 (6) to win the key doubles point.

From there, the Pandas soared to a 5-2 overall victory over UBC. With convincing wins by Kristina Sanjevic (6-2 6-1) at the 1 spot and RJ Gan (6-0 6-1) at the 2 spot, the Pandas took an early 3-0 lead overall. Riyo Tomita at the 6 spot clinched the Pandas’ a ticket to Nationals with a 6-3 6-2 win over UBC’s Nina Erdevicki. Veteran Alina Jurca at the 3 spot also had a tough two set win (7-6 6-2) to earn the Pandas their fifth point.

Coach Ivan Quintero had this to say after his Pandas clinched Westerns for a 4th straight Western crown:

“I feel that our team becomes very united when it comes to the pressure of competition. They commit to the task and make it happen on court. It was nice to play at home, that was a key factor in our win. Our #1 (Kristina Sanjevic) had a remarkable performance to help the team get the win. I was very impressed by Riyo and Eve who scored 2 straight points under the pressure of it being 6-6 in the tie-breaker to secure the doubles point. UBC is getting better every year and is always a challenge to play against, so I’m happy our team was able to pull it off.”

The Golden Bears and Pandas tennis teams travel to Toronto and Montreal (respectively) to play in the University National Championship during the Rogers Cup August 11-12, 2018. They will do battle with the Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic regional winners for National supremacy.

Featured photo by Don Voaklander

This article was written by Chad Molzan