Valpo tennis fell to Illinois State 5-2 on April 8, but senior Demi Jhaveri’s singles win to clinch a team victory against Bradley on April 7 kept the team’s Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Tournament hopes alive.
In dramatic fashion, Jhaveri rallied back from a 5-2 deficit to win a tie breaking singles set and earn Valpo the point they needed to beat the Braves 4-3.
“In my four years at Valpo, that was probably one of the most incredible matches we have played. We were behind and it looked like we were going to lose that match and we pulled off a miracle, specifically, Jhaveri did. It was an incredible match, something that I was proud to be a part of,” said head coach Bob Modesto.
Without Jhaveri’s win, Valpo would’ve been out of range to qualify for the upcoming MVC Tournament.
“[Jhaveri] was down 5-2, and it looked like she was going to lose that match. She loses that match and then we’re really close to being done. For her to come back and win that, it was just incredible. To win 15-13 in a match tie break is even more incredible. It was just something, I just keep shaking my head like ‘how in the hell did we win that?’ It felt like a miracle,” Modesto said.
The team’s loss to Illinois State the following day made their next match against Missouri State do or die.
“On paper, we certainly should be favored [against Missouri State]. It’s a big match, we lose that match we don’t qualify for the tournament, we win that match we do qualify. There’s going to be a lot there and we anticipate having a lot of spectators for that match as well,” Modesto said.
Against the Redbirds, Valpo earned wins at the No. 5 and No. 6 singles spots. However, those would be the only points the team would secure on the day.
Hampering Valpo’s performance was an early injury to senior Olivia Czerwonka. Czerwonka suffered a wrist injury early in the day during doubles play that kept her from competing in her No. 1 singles match later on.
Still, Modesto remains hopeful that Czerwonka will be able to bounce back.
“[Czerwonka] sustained a wrist injury, she was injured during the [doubles] match and [Czerwonka and freshman Moira Silva] were winning before that injury so we all felt that had that injury not occurred we certainly could win on that first court,” Modesto said. “[If] that happens, winning also seems to be a little contagious so you win that court and you never know, it might’ve helped us on the other two courts as well.”
On another court, junior Mia Bertino picked up a win in the No. 5 singles match. The victory is Bertino’s 16th of the season and 37th of her career.
Fifth-year Eleanor Chapman also picked up a singles win at the No. 6 spot, 6-4, 7-6(2). Chapman’s win was her fifth at Valpo after joining the team as a midyear transfer.
“Illinois State is certainly probably the top program in the conference right now and for us to win in those two positions [No. 5 and 6 singles] bodes well for us. There’s a chance that we would see [Illinois State] again in the conference tournament and we all feel like we can compete with them. So it’s always a good feeling to go into a game or a match and know that you have a chance,” Modesto said.
Eleven of the Beacons’ 16 matches this season have been decided by scores of 4-3 or 5-2, a sign of the tough competition the team has faced.
“There’s a lot of parody in The Valley. We really feel like, and we’ve had this conversation with other coaches in The Valley, that any team can win the tournament. So, we feel pretty good about our chances,” Modesto said. “If we get to the tournament, we all feel like we can win against anybody on any given day.”
On April 15, Valpo took the court for their last home match of the season against Missouri State. The team took time to honor their five graduating seniors - Jhaveri, Chapman, Czerwonka, Amanda Tabanera and Allison McConnell.
“We will be celebrating our five seniors, our student manager [Andrew Walsh] is also a senior, so it will be a big day for us, a big celebration. It’s always nice to recognize the seniors who have been there for four years and we’re just looking forward to a great day,” Modesto said.
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