Seniors Lead Tennis To 4-1 Win Over No. 36 Oklahoma
North Texas Keeps Home Winning Streak Intact, Moves To 3-4 In Spring
Nastya Shestakova was one of three seniors to clinch singles wins on Sunday. (Photo by Rick Yeatts)
DENTON — Coming into the season, the North Texas tennis staff knew they would need strong leadership from its upperclassmen to guide a young, talented roster. But even head coach Sujay Lama had to be pleasantly surprised with what he got out of his team’s leaders on Sunday.
Riding winning momentum from a victory over Louisiana Tech on Saturday afternoon, the Mean Green continued that effort on Sunday by knocking off the No. 36 Oklahoma Sooners, 4-1, from the Waranch Tennis Complex. North Texas seniors captured each of three singles wins en route to the victory.
“There’s no doubt that the seniors were the difference today,” Lama said. “I always say that there’s no substitute for experience. All week long I challenged the seniors and the upperclassmen to step up and that’s what they did. You could see that everybody got on their back.”
The Mean Green pounced on the lead early thanks to another quality day in doubles action. The upperclassmen team of senior Kamilla Galieva and junior Alexis Thoma made quick work of Ann Pepper and Mimi Fotopoulos at the No. 3 position, 6-0, before the senior duo of Agustina Valenzuela and Anastasiya Shestakova finished the job with its 6-2 decision over Christiana Brigante and Zita Engbroks at the No. 2 spot.
With a one-point advantage and confidence on its side, the Mean Green’s pace didn’t slow in singles play.
Valenzuela, the team’s captain, was the first to take down her Sooner opponent, defeating No. 6 Ann Pepper 6-2, 6-0 to give North Texas a 2-0 match lead. The Mean Green’s only defeat of the day would follow, as freshman Maria Kononova fell to Lily Miyazaki, the nation’s 52nd-ranked singles player, by a 6-2, 6-2 score.
With a 2-1 match lead in hand, the next two matches ended at virtually the same time. At the No. 3 spot, Shestakova defeated Simran Sethi by a 6-3, 6-2 score, and Galieva took down Zita Engbroks in a slightly more competitive 7-5, 6-1 showdown.
“I’m very happy with the way our team came out with energy today,” Galieva said. “By the time my singles match was nearing its end, clinching the win was all that was on my mind. I wanted to finish for my teammates because I am a senior.”
Lama & Co. have now shown what they can do from their home court, but North Texas still needs to put together success on the road. The team will have plenty of opportunities as the next five matches will take place away from the Waranch Tennis Complex.
“It’s a young season, but I thought today and yesterday epitomized what we’ve been saying for weeks,” Lama said. “The focus is to finish every game, set and match like a champion. If we can continue to use this confidence while backing it up with work, I think we’ll be able to keep this momentum going.”
North Texas will now need to find a way to continue its winning momentum on the road as the next five matches will take place away from Denton. That slate begins with a showdown with VCU at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 20, from Lynchburg, Virginia.
• No. 1 Maria Kononova fall to Lily Miyazaki; 6-2, 6-2
• No. 2 Tamuna Kutubidze vs. Emma Devine; 6-3, 5-5 (unfinished)
• No. 3 Anastasiya Shestakova def. Simran Sethi; 6-3, 6-2
• No. 4 Alexis Thoma vs. Christiana Brigante; 7-6(4), 2-2 (unfinished)
• No. 5 Kamilla Galieva def. Zita Engbroks; 7-5, 6-1
• No. 6 Agustina Valenzuela def. Ann Pepper; 6-2, 6-0
• No. 1 Kononova/Kutubidze vs. Hiyazaki/Sethi, 2-5 (unfinished)
• No. 2 Valenzuela/Shestakova def. Brigante/Engbroks, 6-2
• No. 3 Galieva/Thoma def. Pepper/Fotopoulos, 6-0