Atawo earns first win

Cougars open 2022 dual-meet season in dominance



Then-freshman Savanna Ly-Nguyen reaches out to return the ball during her singles match against Arizona on Sunday at the WSU Outdoor Tennis Courts. The contest resulted in a 6-1 win for the Cougars.

AARIK LONG, Evergreen reporter

WSU tennis returned to the Hollingbery Fieldhouse for the first time since March 20, 2021, with a 6-1 victory over BYU.

The match marked head coach Raquel Atawo’s first dual-match in charge, bringing the former Auburn assistant to 1-0 in her career.

WSU has won three straight duals inside the Fieldhouse and six straight duals at home.

The Cougs got off to a hot start on Friday, securing the doubles point right out of the gate. They would sweep BYU in all three doubles matches. 

At the No. 1 spot, fifth-year Michaela Bayerlova and freshman Maxine Murphy defeated Anastasia Abramyan and Yujia Huang, 6-4. This is the first time WSU’s top player, Bayerlova, and the freshman have played competitively as a pair. 

Bayerlova has competed with a handful of doubles partners in her years sporting the crimson and gray, all amounting to a doubles record of 65-28. She is also 12-8 when competing in the doubles No. 1 slot.

Murphy came to WSU as one of the top doubles players in the west out of high school, reaching the doubles final of the Southern California Junior Sectional Championships and being ranked No. 1 in the Southern California U-18 girls doubles rankings.

Senior Yang Lee and sophomore Fifa Kumhom earned their fourth victory together this season, moving to 4-1 on the year. The duo defeated BYU’s Leah Heimuli and Jacque Dunyon, 7-5. 

Last season, Lee spent most of her time in doubles, split between partnering with Bayerlova and then-fifth-year Melisa Ates. Kumhom spent all but one match last season paired with then-sophomore Pang Jittakoat, who has since transferred to Fresno State. Lee and Kumhom played once together last season, resulting in a loss against BYU’s current No. 3 doubles pair.

That No. 3 team for BYU lost to the WSU pair of senior Savanna Ly-Nguyen and freshman Elyse Tse. 

Ly-Nguyen has consistently been one of the Cougars’ top individual performers during her time in Pullman but has rarely found her way into doubles matches. This win brings her career collegiate doubles record to 16-10.

That may seem like a lot of matches, but for perspective, the 2019-20 season marked her previous high in doubles matches with 10. With 22 dual-matches plus the Pac-12 Championships left to play this season, Ly-Nguyen has already competed in 12 doubles matches. 

While Ly-Nguyen has already proven herself at the collegiate level, her partner has been proving herself overseas. Tse came to WSU as the No. 2 girls junior in New Zealand, having won six national titles in her home country.

After earning the doubles point, WSU headed to singles action to try to maintain the season-opening victory. Bayerlova got things started with a quick two-set victory over Dunyon, winning the sets 6-1, 6-3. 

The win improved Bayerlova’s record to an impressive 78-23. In dual-meets, Bayerlova has never competed for the Cougars anywhere besides the No. 1 slot. In those matches, she is 67-21.

Ly-Nguyen followed at the No. 2 spot with a 6-3, 7-5 victory over Heimuli. This brings Ly-Nguyen to 62-27 in her career at WSU. It appears that she will probably spend most of this year’s campaign at the No. 2 spot, a position she took over last season. Her record at No. 2 is 13-15 all-time.

Murphy kept the wins rolling, defeating Abramyan 6-2, 2-6, 6-3. The victory made the overall match score 4-0, ensuring a WSU victory on the day. The five-star recruit, who was ranked No. 29 in the nation by Babolat, is now 4-5 in her debut collegiate season.

Despite having guaranteed a team victory, WSU did not take their foot off the gas. At the No. 4 slot, Tse picked up a 6-4, 7-6 victory over Huang to earn her first collegiate victory. Tse is now 1-3 during her freshman campaign.

Kumhom picked up the final WSU point of the afternoon with a 6-2, 6-3 win over BYU’s Madison Smith. The sophomore is now 8-6 this season and 11-26 in her collegiate career. Last season, she competed in just four dual matches, going 2-2. All four matches were as the No. 6 player. 

BYU did grab one point back at the end of the match, as Kara Lin earned a 6-4, 3-6, 1-0 victory over WSU freshman Stefaniia Mikhailova. 

Mikhailova signed with WSU in the fall from Krasnodar, Russia. In her home country, she had climbed as high as No. 137 in the junior rankings. The loss brings her to 0-4 on the season, as she hunts for that elusive first victory.

WSU will return to the court with an action-packed weekend. On Friday, the Cougars will host Montana before welcoming Eastern Washington and Idaho for a double-header on Saturday. WSU has never lost to the trio of weekend opponents, going 14-0 against Montana, 17-0 against Eastern Washington and 15-0 against Idaho.