North Texas Daily

Tennis hopes to get back at Old Dominion for 2018 tournament loss

Tennis hopes to get back at Old Dominion for 2018 tournament loss

Tennis hopes to get back at Old Dominion for 2018 tournament loss
March 06
23:38 2019

The North Texas tennis team (8-5, 3-1 Conference USA) made it to the quarterfinals of the 2018 Conference USA Tournament before falling to Old Dominion. On Friday, they will have a chance to avenge that loss when the 11-2 Monarchs come to Denton for a rematch.

“You always wanna get back against the team that knocked you off,” head coach Sujay Lama said. “It was a great match and they had that home court advantage. This time around we’ve got the home court.”

Last year’s tournament was in Norfolk, Virginia, where the Monarchs usually play in the regular season. The match was played outdoors, while Old Dominion typically plays indoors. The Mean Green hope to use their environment at Warranch as an advantage this weekend.

“It’s a huge advantage,” Lama said. “We played them twice last year. The first time was indoors and they killed us. We played them outside [in the conference tournament] and it was razor thin.”

Old Dominion won every match in singles and doubles in that 4-0 “killing” just weeks before the conference tournament rematch. Every singles match in that contest was won in straight sets.

“The first one was a complete disaster,” senior Maria Kononova said.  “When we got there we just lost pretty fast. It was way better in conference but they also had [home court] advantage.”

With three matches remaining in the conference tournament, North Texas was tied 2-2. The opportunity was there for the Mean Green to grab the upset victory as they held leads at one point in all of their final matches, but they fell short.

“I don’t think we played to win,” Lama said. “It was like we played not to lose. You can’t protect leads against good teams and I hope that’s what we’ve learned from that match.”

Despite the tough loss, there were some bright spots for the Mean Green. The team saw Tamuna Kutubidze win in her doubles match on court No. 3 with Haruka Sasaki and get the team’s only singles win.

“For me, that day was probably the highlight of my whole [junior] year,” Kutubidze said. “I knew Old Dominion had an amazing No. 3 doubles [pair]. I played with Haruka and I was seriously getting ready mentally for like three days to play that team. I remember we kicked their butt.”

Kutubidze and Sasaki won the doubles match 6-1. Kutubidze notched both of her wins while also battling a severe migraine.

“I was having migraines because I don’t think I was taking care of myself well enough at that time,” Kutubidze said. “I remember I had to go to the hospital and have this blood test and everything. It was not a good time but I played well.”

Kutubidze will be playing in Friday’s match and will swap singles opponents from last year with Kononova. The two hope they can use their experience with each other’s opponents to give their partner an edge.

“I know how they play,” Kutubidze said. “So I can tell [Kononova] for example play on her back end side more cause it’s weaker.”

Old Dominion is currently ranked No. 29 in the nation with a .846 win percentage. Kutubidze and Kononova will lead the Mean Green in their attempt to get back at the Monarchs, but the entire team knows how important it is for everybody to be playing their best tennis on Friday. For Lama, getting the entire team on the same page will be the key to their success.

“My big focus is that all seven kids can come here and be at their optimum level of performance,” Lama said. “I think that’s our biggest challenge. When we do that it’s a given that we have a chance against anybody.”

Friday’s match will start at 3 p.m. at Waranch Tennis Complex in Denton.

Featured Image: Watching the ball fly over the net, senior Tamuna Kutubidze scores a game winning point at the match on Feb. 15, 2019 at the Waranch Tennis Complex. Image by: Kara Dry.

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Caleb Akpan

Caleb Akpan

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