Natalie Muñoz has been nothing but clutch for the Long Beach State women’s tennis team this season. Her point in the third singles match against University of Pennsylvania sealed the 4-3 victory Tuesday at the Rhodes Tennis Center.
The sophomore delivered for LBSU (5-5) similar to the way she pushed BYU to the brink of defeat in the last set of a home match on Feb. 9. It came down to an intense and long final singles match as she bested Quakers (5-7) sophomore Ashley Zhu in three sets 5-7, 7-6 and 6-3.
“It was a tough match,” Muñoz said. “There were a lot of ups-and-downs. I never felt secured and my opponent always tried to come back.”
Long Beach disputed a tight match and did well overall to come up on top.
“It is a team effort,” Muñoz said. “If we would not have gotten the doubles point, my win would not have mattered. I am just glad I could finish up the effort that everyone did today.”
The 49ers began the match winning the doubles point despite a change in the initial line up. Muñoz played her doubles alongside freshman Lalita Devarakonda instead of with her regular partner this season, senior Lena Pacholski.
“We worked out in doubles, we decided to shake up some things. We wanted to have two returners this game and also help the freshmen play with some players that they can learn from.”
Devarakonda and Muñoz defeated Penn´s seniors Lina Qostal and Ria Vaidya 6-2. Pacholski, alongside freshman Sadaf Sadeghvaziri, overcame Quakers’ junior OJ Singh and freshman Jimena Rodriguez-Benito 7-5 to clinch the point for Long Beach.
Penn head coach Sanela Kunovac endorsed her team’s effort despite the away loss.
“It was a great battle,” said Kunovac. “We definitely anticipated a tight match, we knew it was going to be a long day. We expected to be pushed to the edge and knew Long Beach was a good team.”
LBSU started by losing five of its six first sets of the singles matches. A stroke of inspiration as well as the leadership of Muñoz was key in turning things around.
“We started slow in singles in a number of spots,” said Long Beach head coach Jenny Hilt-Costello. “It is tough to come back when you lose five first sets but we showed a lot of courage out there. It was a solid fight but for the next games we have to get a faster start in singles.”
LBSU will host Furman for the second time in history at 12 p.m. Friday at the Rhodes Tennis Center.