PROVO, Utah – The BYU women’s tennis team ended the 2020-21 season with a 15-9, 4-4 West Coast Conference record and a fifth-place finish in league play.
BYU finished the season with a win percentage of .625 — the highest win percentage in a full season played since 2007-08. The Cougars reached nine home wins for the first time since that same 2007-08 season when they also finished with a 9-2 record at home.
“Looking back to our first match and where we are now, we’ve come a long way," said BYU head coach Holly Parkinson Hasler. "And we have much to look forward to. We have three promising recruits coming in next year, we are fortunate to have two returning seniors and we have an eager group of current players ready to get back to work. Madeline (Wanlass) and Polina (Malykh) have bright futures ahead of them and we will definitely miss their passion for the game and fight on the tennis court."
The 2020-21 season was Hasler’s third as a head coach, and Dillon Porter’s third season as an assistant coach. Prior to a loss at Cal Poly in game six, BYU matched its best start to a season since 2005-06, at 5-0, after defeating Sacramento State, Fresno State, Dixie State (twice) and Weber State. BYU was clicking on all cylinders and had outscored its opponents 31-2 before dropping match number six to the Mustangs, 6-1.
BYU claimed 15 wins in dual match play, including notable victories over Washington State and Gonzaga. The wins came back-to-back and just two days apart. The Cougars jumped on top of Washington State early, clinching the doubles point with wins in the No. 2 and No. 3 positions. BYU’s Helen Jiao picked up the first singles match victory to give BYU a 2-0 lead, but Washington State charged back winning three of the next four matches. It came down to the match on Court 1 between Anastasia Abramyan and No. 86 Michaela Bayerlova. After winning the first set 7-5, Abramyan lost the second set 6-7 (4). Abramyan surged to take a 5-0 lead in the third set and was able to take down her nationally ranked opponent, 6-2.
Two days later, the Cougars dominated Gonzaga in a 6-1 rout at the Outdoor Tennis Courts. Like the match just two days prior, BYU’s No. 2 and No. 3 doubles teams gave BYU an early lead over the Bulldogs. The dominance carried into the singles matches with Kara Lin, Wanlass, Abramyan and Leah Heimuli each winning their matches to put the Cougars ahead 5-0. Emilee Astle picked up the sixth and final point of the match to earn BYU’s final win of the season.
Notable Preseason Achievements
Three returning Cougars from the 2019-20 season came into the year with WCC All-Academic Honors. Malykh made the WCC First Team All-Academic squad with a 3.87 GPA in the Public Relations program. Heimuli and Wanlass rounded out the academic recognition for the Cougars with each receiving honorable mention.
The following individuals competed in the six singles slots for the majority of the season:
- Anastasia Abramyan
- Leah Heimuli
- Kara Lin
- Emilee Astle
- Helen Jiao
- Madeline Wanlass
Competing in No. 2 singles, Heimuli finished the season with a team-high 15 wins to go with eight losses. While she competed in the No. 2 spot for most of the year, Heimuli competed in the No. 1 spot twice, going 2-0 with a 6-0, 6-1 early season victory against Dixie State and a 7-5, 6-0 victory against Sacramento State. Heimuli started the year with a perfect 5-0 record before stumbling on the road. She answered by winning 10 of her next 12 matches, including a run of eight straight wins which ended up being the second-longest win streak of the year for the Cougars.
Abramyan finished the season with a record of 12-8, winning six of her final 10 matches. Abramyan battled in the No. 1 spot all year for BYU and was the only Cougar to pick up a win against a nationally ranked opponent. That win, which ultimately clinched the match for BYU over Washington State, was a 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-2 thriller over then No. 86 Michaela Bayerlova, who finished the regular season as the 74th ranked player in the nation. Abramyan had a five-match win streak that started with a victory in the third set against rival Utah. She went on to win seven of the next nine matches, with only one of those seven matches going into a third set.
The following individuals competed in the three doubles slots for most of the season:
- Anastasia Abramyan and Helen Jiao
- Leah Heimuli and Madeline Wanlass
- Emilee Astle and Kara Lin
The Cougars had 13 doubles teams compete this year, but none had more success than Abramyan and Jiao. The two combined for eight wins and six losses while competing at the No. 1 doubles position. The season highlight for Abramyan and Jiao came back in February when they dominated No. 36 Taylor Melville and Hada Chang of the Denver Pioneers, on the road, in their only match against a ranked opponent, 6-2. They finished the season winning three of their final four completed matches and appear to be on their way to be the No. 1 doubles squad for the Cougars in 2022 once more.
All-West Coast Conference Honors
Three BYU players received All-WCC Honors for their play in 2021. For recognition in singles competition, Abramyan was named to the All-WCC Second Team Singles and Heimuli was named to All-WCC Singles Honorable Mention. Abramyan and Jiao were named to the All-WCC Second Team Doubles.
Wanlass came to BYU out of El Dorado Hills, California. Wanlass proved to be a winner over the course of her career, posting a record of 56-31 in singles matches and 33-25 in doubles. As a freshman, Wanlass won 16 matches and competed in every match of the regular season, including 11 matches in the No. 3 singles position. As a sophomore, Wanlass maintained an impressive record in singles going 21-10 and adding 18 doubles wins. Wanlass went on a 7-0 run in the middle of the season with three of her victories coming from an outstanding performance at the Metroplex Mania Tournament. As a senior, Wanlass started out on a tear, winning her first nine matches despite missing a month due to injury. Of the girls who competed in at least 10 matches this season, Wanlass held the best winning percentage at .733.
Malykh made the journey to BYU from Moscow, Russia. Malykh was a force to be reckoned with and improved every year at BYU. She finishes with a record of 44-23 in singles matches, highlighted by a 20-6 record during her junior season. Malykh also went 50-28 competing in doubles. As a sophomore, Malykh began the season playing in the No. 5 and 6 singles positions, but after winning 10-consecutive matches, she found herself battling in the No. 3 slot. As a junior battling at No. 3 singles, Malykh led the team with the most singles victories, holding a 15-3 dual match record. She won 14-straight, including victories in matches against teams such as No. 15 Washington, Utah, Utah State and San Francisco. She earned All-WCC Singles honorable mention honors following her junior season. As a senior, Malykh went 6-3 in the COVID-shortened season at the No. 3 singles position. Malykh also excelled in the classroom, earning WCC All-Academic honors three times.
Notable Returns for 2021-22
Due to the COVID-shortened year in 2019-20, an NCAA waiver was passed that granted players an additional year of eligibility. Two of BYU’s four seniors from this season will be exercising this opportunity: No. 1 singles player Abramyan and No. 2 singles player Heimuli. The Cougars roster also featured eight underclassmen, seven of which are expected to return. Freshman Elizabeth Tullis received a mission call to the Peru Lima West Mission and will miss the 2022 season.
With Hasler entering her fourth season as a head coach in 2021-22 and a vast majority of the roster returning, the Cougars will look to build off the momentum and confidence gained during the 2020-21 season to reach new heights in 2022.
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