Sierra College, led by two players from Russia, dominated the Big Eight Conference tennis championship matches Saturday at Santa Rosa JC.
Daria Kulbikova, who enrolled at Sierra in January after starting college in her hometown of Ufa in Russia, dashed the hopes of the Bear Cubs’ Monica Borowicz in both singles and doubles.
The Montgomery High grad lost the singles match 6-1, 6-1, and hoped to get revenge in doubles. However, it was no contest. Kulbikova and her partner, Jaimie Miller, defeated Borowicz and Kelsea Thomas, 6-2, 6-0.
Anton Saranchoukov, from the former Russian province of Kazakhstan, was equally impressive. He dispatched American River’s Andrew Amor 6-1, 6-0, and in doubles, he and Cameron McCallister handled Amor and Nick Krebs 4-6, 6-2, 10-5 (tiebreaker).
Kulbikova took control of the baseline and consistently hit ground strokes and drop shots for winners. Throughout the day, her footwork was impeccable. Every time her opponent made a mistake, she was in position to capitalize.
The first set against Borowicz took only 15 minutes and the match lasted 45 minutes.
Now 19, Kulbikova began playing when she was seven and has attended tennis camps in her homeland. She is ranked in the top 300 by the International Tennis Federation. At Sierra, she hasn’t lost a match and hopes to get a Division I scholarship.
As usual, Borowicz’s backhand was her best weapon.
“I just couldn’t get it going,” said the Montgomery High alum. “I played better early in the tournament than I did in the finals.”
Borowicz played in nine matches in the three-day event and afterwards, she felt it.
“My shoulder hurts,” she said as a trainer applied ice. “I’ve never played this many matches in such a short period of time.”
Kulbikova owns a 4-0 singles record against Borowicz and the two might meet again the first weekend in May as both will be in the NorCal Regionals draw. All singles and doubles players who make it to the Big Eight quarterfinals receive an automatic berth to the tournament in Santa Clara.
Saranchoukov, like Kulbikova, is hoping for a college scholarship.
He played professionally in Europe and was ranked in the top 350 by the ITF. He attended Justine Henin’s academy and also played for the national Kazakhstan team.
Sierra assistant coach Dmitriy Drozdov was instrumental in getting the two to Sierra. “I came to this country and played two years for Sierra,” he said. “Both wrote to me and I put them in contact with our head coach Brad Harris.”
Six Santa Rosa players will compete in the Regionals. Representing the Bear Cubs will be: Tom Ou, Jason Duenas, Gienna Gonnella, Nika Juricic, Thomas and Borowicz.