North Texas Takes Down #59 UT Arlington On Senior Day, 4-1
Mean Green Go Undefeated At Waranch In 2015-16
North Texas honored its three seniors in Saturday's win over #59 UT Arlington. (Photo by George Walker)
DENTON — The North Texas tennis team capped off a dominant year at the Waranch Tennis Complex with its 4-1 senior day win over No. 59 UT Arlington on Saturday. Now 11-9 on the year, the team is 8-0 from its home court this season and is ensured a +.500 record for the sixth time under head coach Sujay Lama.
The win comes at a critical time for North Texas. Not only was Saturday the final home match for three Mean Green players but it sends the squad into the postseason after winning five of its last six matches.
“This was a big one,” Lama said. “We wanted it for the seniors really. They’ve meant a lot to our program. We’ve had a great run this year at home but we needed our whole team to beat a really tough group from UTA.”
In hindsight, the doubles point was an early indication of how close the match would become. After splitting the first completed contests, the freshmen duo of Maria Kononova and Tamuna Kutubidze needed a tie-breaking round to defeat Elizabeth Thoms and Angeles de los Rios, 7-6(5).
A quick win from UTA in singles was quickly cancelled out by a 6-3, 6-3 win for Anastasiya Shestakova over Jessica Birowski at the No. 3 spot, giving the Mean Green a 2-1 lead. The North Texas senior is a team-best 8-2 in her last 10 matches.
From there, another freshmen duo sealed the deal for North Texas - but this time it was from Laura Arciniegas and Minying Liang. The latter, playing at the No. 5 spot, defeated Astrid Gehre to make it a 3-1 match lead for the home team; 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Despite what seemed to be a runaway win for the Mean Green, Arciniegas actually came through in the clutch with her 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 win at the sixth spot. Had she lost her match, it would have been up to Kononova or Kutubidze to earn the deciding point, and both North Texas players trailed in the third set.
“It was an amazing feeling,” Arciniegas said on her pivotal play. “Everyone was fighting outside. I knew I was close to finishing the match and my teammates were battling so I just reminded myself to play determined. I’ve been working hard for months and I think it’s paying off.”
With the regular season completed, Lama feels comfortable about what his team has been able to do in recent weeks ahead of the Conference USA Championships.
“This win does so much for our momentum and confidence,” he said. “The team recognizes that we’re peaking at the right time. Every decision we’ve made has been about peaking for conference and it’s good to know that it’s happening. I think winning is a by-product of those things that we’re doing.”
North Texas will head to the Conference USA Tournament next week in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. While the Mean Green’s first-round opponent remains to be seen, the matchup will take place on Thursday, April 21.
1. Maria Kononova vs. Elizabeth Thoms; 6-4, 5-7, 0-5 (unfinished)
2. Tamuna Kutubidze vs. Angeles de los Rios; 3-6, 6-1, 6-6 (unfinished)
3. Anastasiya Shestakova def. Jessica Birowski; 6-3, 6-3
4. Agustina Valenzuela falls to Agustina Serio; 6-4, 6-2
5. Minying Liang def. Astrid Gehre; 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
6. Laura Arciniegas def. Carla Cerdan; 6-2, 2-6, 6-3
1. Kononova/Kutubidze def. Thoms/de los Rios, 7-6(5)
2. Valenzuela/Liang fall to Birowski/Gehre, 6-2
3. Shestakova/Thoma def. Lopez/Serio, 6-3