North Texas Daily

Midseason review: Tennis looks to maximize slew of home games down stretch

Midseason review: Tennis looks to maximize slew of home games down stretch

March 03
20:29 2016

Courtney Anderson | Staff Writer

@CPaigeA23

With 12 games under their belt so far this season, members of North Texas tennis team say they’re right where they want to be.

Out of the three times the Mean Green (5-7, 1-0) has played at home this season, they have yet to lose, including an upset win over then No. 36 University of Oklahoma.

But playing away from Denton has been a different story. With nine away or neutral games only two have produced a victory. Head coach Sujay Lama said he isn’t too worried about the disparity because six of the team’s final eight matches are at home.

“I wanted us to hit the road early on,” Lama said. “It gives the girls time to really bond as a team, especially since half of them are freshman.”

From having four freshman on the team coming from all over the world, to having three seniors also from different countries preparing for their final matches in a North Texas uniform, Lama said he’s confident in what the women can do.

The Mean Green are ranked No. 68 in the most recent ITA polls for Division I women’s teams. The only other Conference USA schools in the poll are No. 40 Rice University, No. 48 Florida International University and No. 63 Old Dominion University.

Freshman Laura Arciniegas returns a serve against Central Arkasnsas. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Freshman Laura Arciniegas returns a serve against Central Arkasnsas. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

With only eight games left in regular season, Lama and the team aren’t worried about missing a spot in the C-USA tournament. Still, improving their doubles play is one item on the team’s checklist.

“We’ve been changing a few of the [doubles] lineups around to see what works best,” senior Augustina Valenzuela said. “The only two we’ve kept consistent has been Maria [Kononova] and Tamuna [Kutubidze]. They’re the best we have in my opinion.”

The duo has notched six wins and two losses in their doubles matches while not finishing three matches, making them a key component to the team’s success down the stretch.

Kononova, a freshman, said the biggest difference since coming to UNT has been teamwork. She said she is excited to see how the team improves throughout the rest of the season and beyond.

“When you’re playing by yourself, it’s easier to give up,” Kononova said. “But when you’re playing for a team, you keep each other motivated and want to stay on the court fighting for each other.”

With North Texas heading into its final stretch, Lama doesn’t want to look too far ahead and instead has his eyes set on the immediate challenges.

“We can only go one match at a time,” Lama said. “We’re focusing only on Sunday at the moment. No one else matters right now.”

The only C-USA team the Mean Green has faced so far this season was Louisiana Tech University last month. The only other conference team North Texas is scheduled to play in regular season is at home against the University of Texas at San Antonio on April 3rd right before they go back on the road to face cross-town rival Southern Methodist University.

And while the schedule may have been taxing early on, Lama said it will only help his team when crunch time approaches.

“We have played some of the toughest teams in the country on the road,” Lama said. “It’s not a soft schedule. We can only improve from here, and we’re on track of being a championship team.”

Featured Image: Junior Alexis Thoma practices baseline drills during practice. Meagan Sullivan | Visuals Editor

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