North Texas Daily

North Texas tennis kicks off 2017 with mixed performances at SMU Invite

North Texas tennis kicks off 2017 with mixed performances at SMU Invite

January 17
14:08 2017

Cesar Valdes | Staff Writer

In its first action in nearly two months, the Mean Green tennis team participated in the SMU Invite and picked up key wins during the three-day event.

The tournament served as a tune-up for the team before they begin the regular season against Oklahoma State University.

Saturday 1/14/17

The Mean Green struggled out of the gate in their first action since November, but managed to salvage the day with a strong performance from freshman Haruka Sasaki. The Japan native won a singles match before teaming up with senior captain Alexis Thoma in a doubles win over Rice University.

Sophomores Laura Arciniegas and Minying Liang started off the invite with a quick loss to Rice senior Alison Ho and junior Priya Niezgoda in a 0-6 sweep. That loss was followed up by another with Maria Kononova and Alexandra Heczey falling to Lindsey Hodge and Wendy Zhang in a 3-6 match.

The bright side of the doubles round against Rice was the dominant preformace from Thoma and Sasaki. The duo helped guide the Mean Green to the team’s only doubles win against Fernanda Astete and Savannah Durkin.

North Texas continued their struggles into singles play with Liang losing 3-6, 7-5, 1-6 and Arciniegas, Ivana Babic, and Thoma losing straight sets.

Kononova won a back-and-forth battle against SMU freshman Sarai Monarrez. After winning the first set 7-6, Kononova took full control of the tiebreak 7-2. She closed out Monarrez with a hard fought 6-4 finish.

Heczey and Sasaki added North Texas’ single win total to three by winning in straight sets.

Sunday 1/15/17

In the second day of the invite, it was Kononova who shined for the Mean Green. The sophomore knocked off Rice’s Lindsey Hodge – a 2016 First-Team All-Conference USA singles player – in a hard fought match.

In addition to Kononova’s big win, the Mean Green saw Sasaki step up again.

Sasaki kept her winning streak rolling after she took down Rice sophomore Fernanda Astete 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.

“Just unbelievable,” head coach Sujay Lama said of his freshman. “Unbelievable. The character – she’s so coachable. She shows up every single day like that, so, you know you’re going to get your best from Haruka.”

The freshman credited her success to Lama, who has played a big role in the strong start to the 2017 leg of the season.

“[My coaches] really helped me out and I’ve worked hard every day,” Sasaki said. “Coach Lama gives me a lot of positive [feedback] and brings a lot of energy. I love it.”

Kononova and Babic capped off the day with singles wins. Kononova overcame Rice junior Lindsey Hodge 3-6, 7-5, 7-5. Babic clinched her first win over SMU freshman Sara Jamal 6-0, 7-6.

Monday 1/16/17

Thoma closed out the three-day invite with the team’s eighth singles win, knocking off Brigham Young University’s Natella Nabieva (6-4, 1-6, 7-5).

But despite the success in singles action, North Texas didn’t stand much of a chance against SMU in doubles play, as it was easily swept 0-3 by the Mustangs. The losing continued into the doubles round as the Mean Green fell to BYU 1-3.

Lama said the team still got some positive playing time out of the day, as sophomore Laura Arciniegas caught his eye.

“Laura is a very smart player, especially in doubles,” Lama said. “She uses the angles, she uses the touch, she uses the drop ball. Indoor [is] a little different because it’s a little more power game and sometimes she doesn’t get the time, but I thought she did a real good job today with Haruka.”

Next up: North Texas will travel to take on No. 5 Oklahoma State in Stillwater, OK beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday.

About Author

Reece Waddell

Reece Waddell

Reece Waddell was the Editor-in-Chief of the North Texas Daily from May 2017 to December 2017. He previously served as the Sports Editor and Senior Sports Writer. Reece also worked at The Dallas Morning News and WFAA-TV.

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