North Texas Daily

Tennis picks up momentum after slow season start

Tennis picks up momentum after slow season start

Tennis picks up momentum after slow season start
March 25
01:26 2014

Akshay Mirchandani // Staff Writer

The Mean Green tennis team won three of the last four conference championships in the Sun Belt Conference, but the switch to Conference USA, along with injuries and inexperience, challenged the team in its rough start this season.

The Mean Green (8-8) started the season with a 2-6 record, but the Mean Green’s record is 6-2 since then. Four meets remain before the conference championships.

“We just had to weather the storm and just stay focused on the task at hand and not get too frustrated with losses,” head coach Sujay Lama said. “We knew that once we got healthy we were going to get going. And experience, too. I think that’s helped a lot.”

The Mean Green began the season without the team’s two captains due to injuries. Junior Kseniya Bardabush suffered a grade-two ankle sprain (a partial ligament tear), while junior Franziska Sprinkmeyer was recovering from surgery on her Achilles tendon.

“I think our depth is now consolidated,” Lama said. “We’ve got eight people that can play, so now there’s more competition within the squad to try and play in the lineup. When there’s a little healthy competition, these kids know it.”

In addition, the Mean Green faced what Lama called one of the toughest schedules in the country to start the season, facing the University of Southern California, the University of Arkansas and conference rival University of Tulsa.

Tulsa and USC were among the top 25 teams in the country when UNT faced them, while Arkansas was in the top 50. UNT also has three freshmen on their roster.

“In the beginning we have a lot of freshman, so we weren’t that close,” sophomore Agustina Valenzuela said. “But now as the time is passing, we are very close now.”

Despite being one of the top teams in the Sun Belt Conference the past few years, UNT isn’t the conversation now as one of the favorites to win the conference. Despite the lack of attention, the team still likes its chances.

“I think it’s a tougher conference, but I think as a team as a whole we compete better against a higher level of players,” freshman Alexis Thoma said.

Though the team has flipped its record for the better, Valenzuela said there is still some room for improvement.

“We are very focused in our matches, but sometimes the energy is not that high, and I feel like when we have high energy is when we do our best,” Valenzuela said.

The Mean Green is currently coming off a win against Louisiana Tech University on March 22, Tech’s first loss in the conference portion of its schedule. UNT’s final four meets will all be in Denton.

“I don’t think any team will want to play us in the conference championships,” Lama said. “We’re going to be a lethal and dangerous team. Just because the kids are in the  right frame of mind, they are getting better and we are deep. When we are healthy, we are a deep team.”

Feature photo: Junior Kseniya Bardabush hits a forehand to Alexandra Starkova of Louisiana Tech during the game on Staurday afternoon. Photo by Zixian Chen / Senior Staff Photographer 

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