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Tennis prepares for season finale, rematch with Southern Methodist

Tennis prepares for season finale, rematch with Southern Methodist

Tennis prepares for season finale, rematch with Southern Methodist
April 15
12:00 2021

The tennis team is finishing up their regular season with a senior night on Saturday with a rematch against their storied rival, Southern Methodist University.

North Texas (6-11, C-USA 2-1) was defeated handily last time they went up against the Mustangs (19-9), who have had a great season so far with their upset over No. 50 Texas Christian University (9-10) pushing them to No. 48 in the country. The Mean Green was only able to secure a single point in their previous encounter, but head coach Sujay Lama believes the team has grown since their loss.

“I think we are more mature as a team, I think we know who we are,” Lama said. “When we played them the first time, we were still finding our spots and who was going to play what position.”

The largest unknown for this match will be the doubles point. During the first match, North Texas was unable to defeat any of the SMU doubles teams. However, Lama has completely switched the doubles lineups from the last time they played the Mustangs.

The pair of senior Nidhi Surapaneni and junior Lucier Devier was defeated by the Mustangs the first time around, but the new pairing of Devier and freshman Saki Oyama have shown the potential to be a strong No. 1 team.

In a previous match against the University of Tulsa (12-5), SMU failed to defeat Tulsa’s top doubles team, while Oyama and Devier managed a 6-4 win against the Golden Hurricanes top team.

Lama says the switch has bolstered the confidence in his doubles teams and he believes that every new team has the capability to beat any opponent.

“Are they going to win every single match? No.” Lama said. “There are variables, but at least now we know that we have three teams capable of winning their match regardless of the opponent.

Confidence is what Surapaneni believes is where the team has grown the most in the time period between matches.

“I’m more confident now than when we played SMU,” Surapaneni said. “Overall, confidence has increased in each person. Saki, Kexuan, they’re all playing with much more confidence.”

Junior Maria Ponomareva lost to their opponent soundly in the last match against their in-state rival, but she is determined not to lose to the same opponent again.

“I would really like to beat her because I do not like losing to people twice in a row,” Ponomareva said. “I will be focusing on my mental game because there is not much I can do with my tennis game because on this level I think we are all about equal. It is more about your mentality.”

For Surapaneni, she will be the lone senior who will be honored on Saturday’s senior night. It will be her last regular season match for North Texas.

“I’m super excited because, during my four years here, there has only been one senior day,” Surapaneni said. “Spotlight on me.”

Lama reflected on Surapaneni’s growth over the years, appreciating the journey she has been on and the way that he gets to see his players grow as players and as people.

“We coaches have this amazing job where we can […] influence players in a positive way,” Lama said. “It’ll be sad, but at the same time, it is a completion of her journey here.

Ponomareva also spoke glowingly about Surapaneni, talking about her leadership through a pandemic-stricken season.

“She’s a great player,” Ponomareva said. “She has brought a lot to UNT and she has been a great captain for UNT this year.”

In the end, Lama is not underestimating the Mustangs, who are 9-2 in their last 11 matches. Even so, he believes that his players are motivated enough to go out and make the opposition put in the work.

“This is not going to be a cakewalk, this is a really good team,” Lama said. “This is a confident team that is coming, but I know that our girls are motivated to go out there and do well.”

Courtesy North Texas Athletics

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Caleb Yum

Caleb Yum

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