North Texas Daily

Tennis blows past UAB in first round of C-USA tournament

Tennis blows past UAB in first round of C-USA tournament

Senior Anastasiya Shestakova returns a serve from Central Arkansas. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Tennis blows past UAB in first round of C-USA tournament
April 21
21:29 2016

Torie Mosley | Staff Writer


The Mean Green women’s tennis team clinched a spot in the second round of the Conference USA championship tournament in a 4-1 victory over the University of Alabama at Birmingham today. Three of the team’s four points came from freshman players.

North Texas (12-9) entered the match ranked No. 71 in the nation and the No. 3 seed in C-USA against No. 14 seed UAB (7-15,) but fell behind the Blazers in doubles play to start the meet.

“UAB plays outstanding overall and they’re not bad at doubles at all,” head coach Sujay Lama said. “We started out slow and they came out firing.”

The freshmen duo of Maria Kononova and Tamuna Kutubidze dominated Pardis Kianoush and Elaine Simon 6-2 to win the first match of the day. UAB capitalized on the next two games with 6-3 and 6-4 victories against the Mean Green to capture the doubles point for the early 1-0 lead.

Two first-time conference players sparked momentum for North Texas as singles play began. Kutubidze jumped out to a 6-0 first set win against Simon, and Liang won her first set 6-1 against UAB’s Reghan Lynch. According to Lama, the early singles lead boosted the team’s morale, helping the squad start of four-point streak.

“That was really big for us early in the meet,” Lama said. “We weren’t doing too well at first, and Tamuna and Minying’s quick first set wins gave us our confidence back.”

Kutubidze would win her match 6-0, 6-1 and Liang finished her opponent off 6-1, 6-4.

“It felt so great,” Kutubidze said. “I was dominating today and got the job done. Now I have to forget about it and do the same thing tomorrow.”

Kutubidze said she didn’t let going down early affect her too much. The freshman said the team has gotten used to facing adversity during meets throughout the season.

“Maria and I played well in our match and the other two doubles were close so it wasn’t a big deal,” Kutubidze said. “We’ve been here before.”

Team captain and senior Agustina Valenzuela has been to the conference tournament a few times and fell behind in her singles match against UAB’s Sophie Dodds 6-2 in the first set. The senior said she felt worried about the possibility of ending her career with a loss after the early deficit.

“I missed some easy balls at first and the wind didn’t help,” Valenzuela said. “I was so nervous that I was going to lose my last match ever. That made me play even better and get back in the game.”

Valenzuela went 6-2 in her second set and 6-3 in the third to clinch the victory for the Mean Green – her first meet-clinching victory of the season.

“Clinching the win for the team was so exciting,” she said. “I never clinched all semester and I’m glad I did at the right time.”

The North Texas tennis season will be on the line again tomorrow as the Mean Green take on No. 6 seed Louisiana Tech University at 2 p.m. on Friday in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Featured Image: Senior Anastasiya Shestakova returns a serve. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

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