NEW ORLEANS, La. (4/25/10)
- North Texas Tennis claimed its first Sun Belt Conference Championship Sunday afternoon in dramatic fashion over No. 49 Florida International 4-3.
The Mean Green (17-6) dug itself a hole early, dropping the doubles point and then the first two singles matches.
In doubles, the duo of Narine Kazarova and Madura Ranganathan jumped out on top of FIU's Maria Vallsciani and Maria Spenceley and took home the match 8-0 in the No.3 slot.
North Texas' other two doubles teams of Irina Paraschiv and Amy Joubert in the No. 1 slot and Catalina Cruz and Barabora Vykydalova in the No.2 slot were not as lucky.
Paraschiv and Joubert fell to Golden Panthers' Liset Brito and Priscilla Castillo 8-3 and Cruz and Vykydalova dropped their match to Christine Seredni and Mariana Muci 8-4.
Singles saw FIU extend its lead to 3-0 quickly when Castillo defeated Kazarova in the No. 5 slot 6-0, 6-1 and Brito took down Ranganathan in the No. 1 slot 6-1, 6-1.
The Mean Green stormed back from there, starting with No. 3 singles player Paula Dinuta. After struggling through the first set, the sophomore dominated the second and took the match in straight sets 7-5, 6-1.
Vykydalova continued the North Texas run minutes later when she defeated 6-3, 7-5.
After a convincing 6-1 victory in the first set, Paraschiv had to battle through her second set. FIU's Seredni jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second set before the dynamic sophomore turned it on.
Paraschiv ended up taking the second set in a tiebreaker, 7-6, to seal the victory and square the match at three a piece.
That left the match on the shoulders of the lone senior on the 2010 Mean Green, Catalina Cruz. After a 6-1 victory in the first set by Cruz, the Golden Panther's Vallasciani fought her way to a 5-7 victory to force a deciding set for the championship.
Cruz started out strong, taking a 4-2 lead before allowing Vallasciani to claw her way back to a 6-5 lead. From there, the two would end up at 6-6 and have to play a deciding tiebreaker.
Vallsciani jumped out to a commanding 5-1 lead in the tiebreaker, before allowing Cruz to come from behind and take the match 6-1, 5-7, 7-6 (7-5).
North Texas will await NCAA Tournament selection and seeding before it knows when and where it will participate. Check MeanGreenSports.com for updates.