April 29, 2009
NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
2009 Year In Review Photo Gallery
The Cal State Northridge women's tennis team battled through injuries and adversity to finish 11-13 overall and 5-5 in Big West Conference matches during the 2009 season. Highlighted by outstanding doubles play, the 2009 season served as a testament to hard work and offered a bright glimpse of what lies ahead for Head Coach Gary Victor and the Matadors.
The season began with a challenging slate, as CSUN traveled to face several prominent teams, including defending NCAA champion UCLA, Pepperdine and both Pac-10 Arizona schools. Although the team started 0-5, they flashed glimpses of their potential in those contests and gained valuable experience.
"I go back to something assistant coach James Ciuffo said following our season-ending loss to Long Beach State: we overachieved this season," Matador Head Coach Gary Victor said. "To play the majority of the year without three of your starters and a line-up predominantly featuring freshmen and sophomores and grow as much as we did is a testament to the team's energy and camaraderie."
"I think our matches with UC Irvine and Long Beach State were evidence of how close we were as a team. We pushed both of those teams to the limit," Victor added. "To be as young and injured as we were, we had an amazing amount of resiliency. I feel very blessed to have been the coach of a team with so much character."
The Matadors broke into the win column on Feb. 10 with a 7-0 sweep over Cal State Fullerton. After the win against the Titans, the Matadors would rattle off eight wins over their next 11 matches, including a six-match winning streak. A win at UC Riverside on April 7 helped CSUN secure the fourth seed in the Big West Championships.
At Indian Wells, the Matadors put together an impressive 4-1 victory over Pacific in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, Northridge battled top-seeded and eventual champion Long Beach State in a five-hour match that the 49ers eventually won 4-2.
Three team members earned All-Big West honors following the season. Evgeniya Vertesheva received First Team singles and doubles awards, Brooke Doane earned First Team doubles and Nina Jaworowski received Second Team singles honors.
"If you look at our season, we did a remarkable job of responding to some adversity," Victor stated. "We matured and improved as a team and posted impressive wins over Pacific (twice), Memphis and San Francisco."
As a team, CSUN finished the 2009 season with a 40-30 overall record in doubles play. Leading the charge throughout the season was the tandem of Evgeniya Vertesheva and Brooke Doane. The duo finished the year at 19-2 overall and a perfect 10-0 against league opponents.
Their winning percentage (.905) for the season ranks second in school history and their 19 match victories tied the school record for the most by a pair in a single season. When Vertesehva missed the Dartmouth match on Mar. 25, Doane teamed with Whitney Paluch to stage an 8-4 victory. For Doane, the season improves her career doubles record to 38-4 overall, an astonishing winning percentage of .905.
In the course of their season, Vertesheva and Doane defeated teams from Pepperdine, Harvard, Columbia and Loyola Marymount in addition to the challenges of the eight Big West teams. They won both of their matches at the 2009 Big West Championships and now await an invitation to the NCAA Individual Championships, which occur in June.
"They are quite simply the best doubles team to ever play at Northridge and were clearly the best team in the Big West Conference," said Victor. "They complimented each other so well and had a maturity level off the charts for a freshman/sophomore team."
For the majority of the season, Nina Jaworowski and Nigora Sirojiddinova compiled Victor's second-seeded doubles tandem, finishing the year 11-11 overall and 5-5 in league matches. The duo wracked up impressive victories over Long Beach State (twice), Memphis and Columbia during the year.
Although injuries curtailed her season, Sandra Kukla was able to return late in the season and teamed with Whitney Paluch to form the team's No. 3 doubles tandem for the end part of the season. The duo finished 8-4 overall and 5-3 against league opponents and picked up a victory at the 2009 Big West Championships.
Paluch played with several teammates during the year in doubles competition. She teamed with Julie Onishenko to pick up a No. 3 win over Cal State Fullerton on Feb. 10. Ashley Macias and Amira Massi also saw time in Victor's doubles line-up during the season.
In singles action, Jaworowski and Sirojiddinova shared the team lead with 14 victories on the season. Jaworowski's development was especially impressive, as she moved from the No. 6 player her freshman year to the second spot for the Matadors in 2009. She finished 14-8 overall and 5-5 against league opponents, winning 10 of her final 13 matches of the season. She is 26-13 in her two seasons as a Matador.
"Nina led the charge for us this season with her spirit and competitiveness," added Victor. "She made quite a jump to move from the six seed to the second and her effort and motivation became infectious for the entire team. I can't say enough good things about the leadership she provided as a team captain."
In her rookie season, Sirojiddinova proved to be a reliable player for Victor, primarily at the No. 5 draw. She finished the year with a 14-10 record and a team-best 7-3 mark in conference matches. She also ended the year on quite a roll for CSUN, taking 10 of her final 12 matches of the season, including a pair of singles wins at the Big West Championships.
"I don't think I have ever seen a person grow as much in one year as Nigora has," Victor said. "I think we were all a little skeptical about her in the fall, but in the spring, she really began to understand the entire process, from conditioning to practice. Eventually, her smile came out and she played at a very high level towards the end of the year."
For the majority of the season, Vertesheva occupied the No.1 draw for Victor and the Matadors. She finished the challenging slate with an 11-12 overall record and a 4-6 mark against league foes, earning All-Big West Singles First Team honors. She recorded impressive victories over UC Santa Barbara, Memphis and Harvard during her rookie season.
"Evgeniya was a bit shell-shocked at first at the size and power of her opponents, but around early February, she started gaining confidence and became one of the top players in the league," Matador Head Coach Gary Victor said.
Just like Jaworowski, Doane made quite a leap in her sophomore year, assuming the No. 3 singles duties for Victor for most of the season. She finished the year with a 10-11 overall record and a 5-4 mark against league foes. She helped the Matadors secure a 4-3 victory over UC Davis on Feb. 15 and also recorded wins against Pacific (twice), Memphis, Dartmouth and UAB.
"Brooke had a solid year at No. 3 for us, including a pivotal victory against UC Davis that helped us build our confidence," Victor added. "She battled through injuries all year and really persevered. That performance against UC Davis helped us get to the four seed in the conference tournament."
At No. 4, Paluch finished the year 8-15 overall and 3-6 against Big West rivals. After appearing in only two matches during her freshman season, Paluch stepped up for Victor and appeared in all 24 matches during her sophomore year. She posted a five-match winning streak during the season that saw her record victories over Memphis, Pacific and Columbia.
"Whitney made a huge jump for us this year, moving from out of the line-up during her freshman season to a consistent, reliable player who appeared in all 24 matches in 2009," Victor said. " She is always working hard to get better and is a great example of doing things the right way."
The sixth position saw several players compete for the Matadors. Kukla returned in early March and finished the year with a 1-7 record, picking up a win against UC Riverside in the regular season finale. Onishenko played six matches at No. 6, winning her first career match against Cal State Fullerton on Feb. 10 to finish the year 1-5.
Macias appeared in the first six matches of her career, playing four times at No. 6 during the year. Finally, Amira Massi played three times for Northridge during her rookie season, facing Arizona State, Arizona and Columbia.
"It took a lot of courage for Sandra to come back from her injuries, and yet she never missed a rehab session," said Victor. "She is all about perfection, both in the classroom, where she boasts the highest GPA of any female student-athlete, or on the court, where her attitude served as a motivation and made our team stronger."
Injuries curtailed the season of junior Kristy Fournell, who did not play after the end of January and suffered what is believed to be a career-ending injury.
"Kristy a fantastic competitor who I nearly had to pull of the court at Cal Poly when she got hurt," Victor said. "She was a driving force in our national ranking two seasons ago."
The future certainly looks bright for Victor and the Matadors. The team loses Kukla, but returns nearly all of their starters. Doane, Jaworowski and Paluch will all be juniors, prepared to handle the responsibilities of team leadership. Coupled with an incoming recruiting class has Victor believing next season could be a memorable one for the Matadors, Northridge is poised to build off the trials and tribulations of its 2009 campaign.
"This turned out to be a great year on so many levels," Victor concluded. "It was full of great life experiences and is a season I will definitely remember as a coach. These were special times."