North Texas Knocks Off Houston In Final Road Match Of Year, 5-2
Mean Green Back On Winning Track As Countdown To Conference Continues
North Texas upped its record to 10-9 with a win over Houston on Sunday. (Photo by Rick Yeatts)
HOUSTON — The Mean Green tennis team never trailed in Sunday’s match against Houston and, in addition to taking the day’s doubles point, North Texas used four singles wins to cap a 5-2 victory from the John E. Hoff Courts.
North Texas was once again facing a team that had only five available players, giving the visitors an early edge on the day. The Mean Green’s record improves to 10-9 with the match win, while the Cougars fall to 5-18 on the season.
“I feel great about everything today,” head coach Sujay Lama said. “Even playing against a team with five players, we knew this was an opponent that is a lot better than the record shows. Everybody looked sharp for us. We really used a total team effort to get a complete victory.”
The short-handed UH lineup meant North Texas had to win just one of the two remaining doubles matchups, and the Mean Green did so with a new duo pairing. Senior Agustina Valenzuela and freshman Minying Liang secured the point with a dominant 6-1 win over Tina Rupert and Maria Cardenas. It was the pair’s first match together this season.
UH snagged a singles win over the Mean Green at the No. 4 spot to open the individual portion of the afternoon, but Tamuna Kutubidze followed closely behind with the team’s first non-default score of the day - a 6-2, 7-5 win over Mina Markovic at the No. 2 position.
The freshman’s performance simply adds to what has been a streak of impressive finishes for the Tbilisi, Georgia, native. Kutubidze has won her last six singles contests dating back to March 6.
Senior (#3) Anastasiya Shestakova took a 6-3, 6-3 decision over Rocio Martin to clinch the match for North Texas. In a match controlled by the Odessa, Ukraine, native, Shestakova bounced back from a grueling three-set loss in her last time out.
Liang added a singles win of her own on Sunday, a closely-contested 7-6(5), 7-6(5) win over Maria Cardenas. The victory gives the freshman her fourth individual win of the year and shows that a continually evolving Mean Green lineup is starting to pay off in the final matches of the regular season.
“Staying calm is how I won today,” Liang said. “I fought very hard. On the first set I was up, 5-2, and my opponent fought back to 6-5. I didn't get nervous or afraid of going for big shots. I just stayed aggressive and kept fighting. It’s always the best feeling to win.”
With only one match remaining on the Mean Green’s regular season schedule, Lama likes where his team is at when considering postseason play. The Conference USA Tournament will begin in just 10 short days from Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
“These girls are so professional about the way they're approaching their game,” Lama said. “Everybody’s doing extra to get better and the focus has been conference. In all my years of coaching, I haven’t seen this kind of professionalism from a team.
“This is the time of year that it’s going to pay off because we’ve put in the time and preparation.”
North Texas will host its final match of the season next weekend. The Mean Green’s senior day contest against UT Arlington will begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 16, from the Waranch Tennis Center
1. Maria Kononova falls to Despoina Vogasari; 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-5
2. Tamuna Kutubidze def. Mina Markovic; 6-2, 7-5
3. Anastasiya Shestakova def. Rocio Martin; 6-3, 6-3
4. Agustina Valenzuela falls to Tina Rupert; 6-1, 6-4
5. Minying Liang def. Maria Cardenas; 7-6(5), 7-6(5)
6. Laura Arciniegas wins by default
1. Kononova/Kutubidze vs. Vogasari/Martin, 3-3 (unfinished)
2. Valenzuela/Liang def. Rupert/Cardenas, 6-1
3. Arciniegas/Thoma win by default