Batavia's girls tennis team sure has taken a liking to playing in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division.
Participating in the UEC River for the third straight year since departing the now-defunct Western Sun Conference, the Bulldogs had yet to suffer a single defeat in 16 matches heading into Thursday's clash with St. Charles East in St. Charles.
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Make that 17.
It wasn't easy but Batavia (17-2, 5-0) kept the streak alive with a hard-fought 4-3 decision over the Saints (8-3, 4-1) in a match that broke the deadlock atop the UEC River.
"When we were on the bus today, we could tell that Coach (Brad Nelson) was getting nervous about the match," said Batavia junior Jenny Mizikar, who teamed with sophomore Amelia Cogan for a straight-set victory over St. Charles East's Kelsie Robertson and Haydyn Jones at first doubles.
"I'd say I was a little more nervous than usual," said Nelson, whose team hasn't lost a conference match since 2008 as a member of the Western Sun. "We've had the softer part of our schedule recently and I knew (St. Charles) East was a good team. They've had a good year.
"When you've won it (conference) a couple of times, everyone is out to get you. Everybody wants to beat you and they should."
The tandem of junior Mizikar and sophomore Cogan, who are now 18-3 after finishing 35-3 at second doubles a year ago, pocketed the Bulldogs' lone doubles win of the day.
"It's definitely different," Cogan said of playing in the top doubles spot this season. "The girls are a lot better and they hit it a lot harder. Communication is the key."
"We know how to talk to each other," added Mizikar. "We can yell at each other and not take it personally."
"Those two can really play with anybody in the state, I believe," said Nelson. "I really feel like they're peaking right now and doing some real good things."
Batavia swept the 3 singles matches behind the play of senior Miranda Grizaffi, junior Liza Fruendt, and sophomore Nora McClure.
Grizaffi relied on an array of finesse drop shots and a powerful backhand during her 6-2, 6-3 win over Saints junior Sarah Church.
"She played hard and Church played well but she was very consistent and held her off," said Nelson. "Liza definitely played a bit more aggressive today, and Nora played a very patient match."
Fruendt defeated junior Jamie Youngberg, 6-2, 6-1, while McClure beat Jaci Spoerl, 6-4, 6-0.
"They're very strong at singles though I have to say that Sarah (Church) played really beautiful tennis today," said Saints coach Sena Drawer. "She's getting there. She's probably one year away from finishing off a point but she has improved so much from last year with her shot selection, her stamina and variety of shots."
The Saints, who suffered a 7-0 loss to Batavia last season, received a strong effort from junior twins Alexa and Carly Huskisson, who combined for a 6-4, 6-4 win over Brooke LeFevre and Annie Maren at second doubles.
"I'm definitely relieved because we were real nervous going into the match," said Carly Huskisson.
"The second set was a tough one," added Alexa Huskisson. "We were winning 3-0 but then they started coming back. I just wanted to finish it."
"They're just very solid," Drawer said of the Huskissons. "They're quiet competitors."
At third doubles, Kellie Sciurba and Meghan Gauthier outlasted Batavia's Morgan Hess and Lauren Hermann, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3, while the Saints' Emmy Russell and Lauren McNally defeated Betsy Oroni and Courtney Hutchinson, 7-5, 6-1, in the fourth slot.
"We would have liked to have won one more," said Drawer.