The America East tournament once again proved a daunting task for the Binghamton University women’s tennis team, as the Bearcats lost in the tournament finals to Boston University.
Although the end result was identical to that of the previous season, the means to that end were not.
The convenience of the hard-earned No. 1 seed led to the Bearcats being paired up against University of Maryland, Baltimore County on Saturday. Following the pattern of previous meetings between the two teams in which Binghamton has experienced success, the Bearcats were able to secure the victory, 4-0. After a win at first doubles, the doubles point was secured by key wins from the second and third spots. Junior Jillian Santos and senior Yulia Smirnova defeated Kim Berghaus and Emily Mannix by a score of 8-5. At third doubles, juniors Marina Bykovskaya and Emma Leibowicz tacked on an 8-5 victory over Heidi Danielsson and Josefin Stange-Jonsson. First doubles was taken care of by seniors Anna Edelman and Lauren Bates, who locked up a 7-5 win over Carmen Jackman and Julia Gragera-Cano, who were unable to finish the match.
At first singles, Edelman defeated Berghaus 7-6 (3), 7-0, while Santos secured a victory over Gragera-Cano at third singles 6-3, 6-0 and Smirnova defeated Danielsson 6-2, 6-2 at fourth singles. Singles play was also peppered with three DNF results at the second, fifth and sixth spots. Bates led Jackman 6-1, 6-3, Bykovskaya led Mannix 7-5, 1-5 and Leibowicz fell behind Stange-Jonsson 6-4, 5-4. With a win on Saturday, the stage was set for a rematch against Boston University the following day.
The weekend marked Binghamton’s seventh time making it to the championship round of the America East tournament in the past 10 years. Binghamton finished as runner-up each time, unable to win a title. Boston University, however, entered the weekend having won 17 in a row.
The Bearcats jumped out to an early lead thanks to the stellar play of Edelman and Bates, who notched an 8-5 victory over Stefanie Nunic and Vivien Laszloffy, and Santos and Smirnova, who locked up an 8-1 victory over Leonie-Charlotte Athanasiadis and Jessi Linero. Bykovskaya and Leibowicz fell to Monika Mical and Vanessa Steiner 8-5, but not before the Bearcats were able to secure the doubles point.
Despite the early momentum, the Bearcats were unable to split the singles matches, only winning two out of the six. Edelman defeated Nunic in three sets at first singles, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. At second singles, Bates fell to Vivien Laszloffy 6-1, 6-4, while Santos was defeated by Petra Santini 6-2, 6-4 at third singles. Leibowicz was defeated by Jessi Linero at sixth singles, 6-1, 6-0.
In the end, the match hinged on the final match between Bykovskaya and Leoni-Charlotte Athanasiadis, which went three sets. Athanasiadis was able to stave off a late second-set rally from Bykovskaya and secured the title by a score of 6-2, 6-7, 6-2 for a final of 4-3, an identical score to last season’s tournament final.
“It was an intense, excited atmosphere, and there’s nothing else like it,” Binghamton head coach Libby McGovern said of the deciding match.
Despite the loss, McGovern said she was proud of the team.
“[I felt] disappointment for my players,” McGovern said of the loss in the finals. “But I couldn’t ask for more … I was really pleased with the doubles play, we were very aggressive, and we had been practicing that for the last few weeks … There was a lot of energy going into singles.”
Moving forward, now with a full season under her belt as head coach, McGovern said she wants to “work on the teeny tiny things that you need in big games” in the future.
The loss marked the end of the careers of seniors Edelman, Bates and Smirnova. Smirnova and Bates finish their careers first and second, respectively, in the program for singles wins. Smirnova finishes with a record of 89-34, Bates with an 88-38 record and Edelman with a 77-19 record.