Tennis Plays Season Opener This Weekend

Denton (1/26/07) The North Texas tennis team will open its season this Sunday, Jan. 28, when it hosts UT- San Antonio at the Waranch Tennis Complex at 12:00 p.m.


"We are very excited to get our dual match season started,” said head coach Sujay Lama. “We have a great group of ladies that have worked hard in practice and are looking forward to playing someone other than a teammate. Our goal is to compete hard, enjoy the process and improve with each match."


This year marks a new beginning for the North Texas Tennis program. The team has new coaches, a new facility, and a new vision for the direction of Mean Green Tennis.


Sujay Lama begins his first year as the women’s tennis head coach after serving as head coach for the University of Illinois for the past eight seasons, leading the team to five NCAA tournament appearances in that time.


Assistant coach Jeff Maren comes to North Texas as a former high school All-American, and a nationally ranked collegiate player. Maren has over 20 previous years of coaching experience.


The team has set high goals for themselves which will be valuable in the upcoming year. The Mean Green’s main goal in its first year is to build the culture and expectations for the program. The team is striving for excellence in the classroom and on the tennis court. The student athletes plan to use this season as a process to continue getting better throughout the year.


The youthful team of 2006-07 features only one senior, Megan Schmulbach who looks to be a leader this season. During the fall 2006 season, Schmulbach had great success at the ITA Regional Competition where for the first time in her North Texas career, she defeated three players to advance to the qualifying round of the tournament. At the Houston Quad Tournament she teamed up with Idalina Franca to win the title in doubles play during the last tournament of the season. Schmulbach and Franca will be competing for the No. 1 position during the spring season.


Aziza Aba Butain went 8-7 in doubles during the fall 2006 season and 6-4 in singles. The junior has a combined record of 26-32 during the 2006 spring and fall seasons and is expected to compete for the No. 3 spot this year.


Sara Giles had a record of 6-7 to finish the spring 2006 season, but did not participate in the fall season due to an injury. She went 3-1 at the No. 5 spot and 7-10 at the No. 6 spot last season. She is expected to play at the No. 4 spot.


The Mean Green tennis program has added talented new players to its roster this year. Junior Idalina Franca, originally from Brazil, transferred from Independence Community College in Kansas where she received national Junior College Division honors. She helped snag the doubles title at the Houston Quad Tournament with teammate Megan Schmulbach during the fall 2006 season and is also competing for the No. 1 spot in singles play for the spring season.


There are three newcomers entering the roster this semester. Mary Poe, a freshman from Denton, Texas, was the No. 1 player on her high school team all four years of high school and was a runner-up in regional play her senior year. Emi Itabashi is a freshman from Japan and played tennis for her high school team. A resident of Frisco, Texas, Hollie Caras lettered in tennis and basketball in high school. She played in the No. 1 spot in singles and doubles and was the team captain for two years. She ranked in the Super Champs in Texas and qualified for regionals all four years.


Guided by a new mission statement set forth by Lama, the team strives for “Academic and athletic excellence through passion, loyalty, synergy and happiness by focusing on the process, taking responsibility, and embracing diversity while maintaining our humility, honesty and respect.”


“The mission statement says it all,” said Lama.


This is the team’s second season to play at Waranch Tennis Complex. The $3 million facility is named for University of North Texas alumnus Ronald Waranch. It is located on south Bonnie Brae at the entrance to Victory Hall, across from the North Texas Women’s Athletic Facility. In addition to twelve courts, the complex features a clubhouse that provides office space and locker rooms for the Mean Green tennis team.


North Texas Mean Green