It was all Crimson and Gold on day one of the Summit League Championships, as the top-seeded Pioneer women’s tennis team took care of #4 South Dakota 4-0 in the semifinals, setting up a date in Saturday morning’s finals.
“I feel like the luckiest coach in college tennis.”
Those were the direct words of DU women’s tennis coach Christian Bass after the Pios trashed Summit rival South Dakota 7-0, talking about the honor of coaching seniors Bianca Mok, Arisha Ladhani, and Hannah Templeton.
The match under sunny skies at Denver Tennis Park was a footnote, with no Coyote player winning more than 3 games off a Pio opponent. Coach Bass switched her doubles lineup to allow the senior co-captains (and roommates) Mok and Ladhani to play together in doubles in a 6-2 victory.
In a small-town rec center that apparently once played host to an exhibition match between Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver in the 1970s, DU women’s tennis (14-5, 4-0) put on a show of their own, crushing the Western Illinois Leathernecks 7-0 in Galesburg, IL.
The win keeps the #43 Crimson and Gold perfect in Summit League play and ends a two-match losing streak after two close losses last weekend against Arizona and Arizona State.
Looking to try different things ahead of rapidly-approaching postseason play, the Pioneers tried some different lineups in doubles. The normal #1 dubs team of Bianca Mok and Camille Verden-Anderson was split up. The super-senior Mok played with freshman Toni Nelson, while Verden-Anderson teamed up with fellow sophomore Anna Riedmiller.
“[The] girls took care of business,” associate head coach David Loewenthal said after the victory.
He wasn’t kidding. In the singles, Sophmores Camille Verden-Anderson and Hada Chang both served their opponents “bagel breakfasts,” winning 6-0, 6-0 in the #5 and #6 matches respectively.
The DU coaches also announced that due to a scheduling issue, the Pios match with Wyoming Wednesday has been canceled. That leaves just one regular season match, on Friday against South Dakota (rescheduled from March 16th, when weather prevented USD from making it to Colorado).
The team has a ceremony planned Friday to honor senior co-captains Mok and Arisha Ladhani, as well as Hannah Templeton (who has already completed her degree and is taking graduate courses).
“[The team] is excited and inspired about the upcoming senior week for both Arisha and Bianca, as well as Hannah,” Loewenthal said.
As for the November 1976 battle in tiny Galesburg between the “Rocket” and the “Ice-Borg,” Borg took down the much older Laver 6-4, 4-6 and 6-3. According to a local newspaper, each of the tennis stars were paid $7,500 for their appearance.
DU women’s tennis has spent tons of time in practice learning to be one thing: aggressive. And they know that’s what they’ll have to be if they expect to take down three Power Five teams from the Pac-12 in the coming days.
“Stay inside the blue” is a phrase you hear a lot at practice. Redirect your shots quickly, don’t let your rival know what hit them.
“It’s moving forward on everything, returning and coming in, serving and volleying coming in,” head coach Christian Bass said, after the #42 Pioneers upset #39 Utah 4-0 at Denver Tennis Park to win their fifth-straight (and play their first match outdoors at DTP). “Were doing formations, one ball and coming in, so we’re putting pressure on our opponents, not giving them the first high ball to be able to do something with”
The Pios (13-3, 3-0) captured the doubles point and fought hard in singles to get the sweep over Utah (11-6, 2-3). Bass says she knew doubles was going to be a battle, calling Utah very solid at poaching (where one player intercepts a return shot meant for their teammate in order to catch their rivals off-guard)
“They hit some very big first serves, and they were able to do a lot on their service game, and I thought we did a pretty good job moving forward off of returns and limiting the poaching,” Bass said.
In singles sophomore Camille Verden-Anderson again won first, crushing Whitney Hekking 6-0, 6-1 in the #5 spot. Team co-captain and #92 nationally Bianca Mok then took down her friend and familiar opponent Brianna Chisholm 7-5, 6-1 in the #1 singles position.
Mok’s fellow captain Arisha Ladhani struggled early, going down 4-1 at one point before regaining her composure to win the set 7-5 (that match was abandoned after claimed the fourth point). “When I was down 5-2, I was like I’m just going to go back to the basics, focus on my strengths, once I got that [set] to go 5-3 I was like let’s take this all the way,” she said after DU wrapped things up.
Utah was just the first step in a tough week for the team. They’ll travel to play the University of Arizona in Tucson Saturday before heading up the freeway to Phoenix Sunday to take on #44 Arizona State.