North Texas Daily

UNT tennis wins third SBC title in four years

UNT tennis wins third SBC title in four years

April 22
22:04 2013

Caitlyn Alvarado / Staff Writer

The nationally-ranked No. 60 Mean Green tennis team brought home its second consecutive Sun Belt Conference Championship this weekend as it swept through the Sun Belt Conference tournament in Lafayette, La.

UNT defeated No. 9 seed University of Arkansas-Little Rock, No. 4 University of South Alabama and No. 2 Georgia State University to capture the title.

Despite the ups and downs of the tournament, head coach Sujay Lama said a late night team meeting was the defining moment of the tournament.

“The biggest moment for us was at our meeting on Saturday night,” Lama said. “Everyone had a chance to speak and talk their mind. We came to a calm place, and Dané [Joubert] said a prayer for the team. That was a defining moment for us. There was a sense of calmness. And after, we stepped up and were relaxed and ready to go.”

Because the team was the No. 1 seed in the tournament, it was awarded a bye for the first round.

In its first match, the Mean Green swept the UALR Trojans, 4-0, taking the doubles point and winning three singles matches. Senior Valentina Starkova finished the match, as she defeated UALR freshman Kamilla Galieva.

“We were just playing how we play,” Starkova said. “I just realized this could be our last tournament so we had to push past all the pressure.”

UNT took the win over South Alabama on Saturday. The match was tied at 3 and came down to senior team captain Barbora Vykydalova. She secured the dramatic win with a three-set thriller over sophomore Mariya Krachok.

“I was so nervous,” Vykydalova said. “I didn’t play my best, but it still was enough. I was glad it was me because I stay calm in it. You just want to win for them.”

UNT clinched the finals and took the championship in its match with Georgia State, winning 4-2 on Sunday. After taking the doubles point, the final singles match came down to Vykydalova and GSU sophomore Masa Grgan. Vykydalova fell short in the first set 5-7, but came back in the final two sets to give the Mean Green its third SBC title in four years.

“I looked next to me and saw [freshman Agustina Valenzuela] was still playing,” Vykydalova said. “So I knew I had to be the one to finish. I didn’t want to put all the pressure on her so I had to step up now.”

Starkova and senior Ilona Serchenko and were named the 2013 Sun Belt Championships Women’s All-Tournament team and Vykydalova was named the Most Outstanding Player and All-Conference second team in singles. Sophomore duo Kseniya Bardabush and Franziska Sprinkmeyer were named All-Conference second team in doubles. Bardabush also took All-Conference first team in singles.

The Mean Green is one of 64 in the nation that will compete in the NCAA tournament. Brackets will be announced later this week.

The team joins Mean Green soccer as a UNT athletics team to win back-to-back conference championships before the university’s move to Conference USA next year.

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