Early Season Test Continues For Tennis At Kansas, Wichita State
Stout Opponents Are Exactly What Lama Wants For Young Team
Captain Agu Valenzuela wll try to lead the Mean Green to wins over top-tier opponents this weekend. (Photo by Rick Yeatts)
North Texas Mean Green (1-2) at Kansas Jayhawks (4-0)
Saturday | February 6, 2016 | 1:00 p.m. CT
Lawrence, Kansas | Jayhawk Tennis Center
Live Stats: Kansas StatBroadcast
North Texas Mean Green (1-2) at No. 34 Wichita State Shockers (4-2)
Sunday | February 7, 2016 | 11:00 a.m. CT
Wichita, Kansas | Coleman Tennis Complex
Live Stats: Shocker StatBroadcast
DENTON — The North Texas tennis team has seen its share of adversity in the early portion of the 2015-16 season. At 1-2 on the spring dual schedule, the Mean Green enter this weekend fresh off a pair of 6-1 losses.
The competition won’t get any easier as North Texas travels to the Sunflower State to face two more stout teams this weekend, beginning with a matchup against Kansas at 1 p.m. CT on Saturday, Feb 6. The Mean Green will then challenge Wichita State on Sunday morning.
Despite what may appear to be an onslaught of powerhouse competition, the grueling early season lineup has been the plan for head coach Sujay Lama.
“I’ve always put our teams through tough tests early in the season,” Lama said. “It’s so easy to have a softer schedule and not really be challenged. Now that we’ve faced adversity, we have a great chance to dig deep and better ourselves. It’s all about being the team we want to be come April.”
By the time the Conference USA Championships roll around, a young Mean Green squad will at least be able to say that they have played against some of the country’s top tennis talent. This weekend’s competition will only add to that claim.
Friday’s opponent, Kansas, is a team on the precipice of earning itself a spot in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s rankings. With an unblemished 4-0 record, the Jayhawks have already knocked off a pair of ranked teams in No. 36 Arkansas and No. 45 Purdue, both wins coming in 4-1 decisions. Freshman sensation Anastasiya Rychagova, ranked 45th in the ITA singles rankings, remains undefeated on the year and enters the weekend with her first career Big 12 Player of the Week selection.
In Wichita State, the Mean Green will be getting a team that has already found its way into the ITA team rankings. At No. 34 in the country, the Shockers (4-2) have beaten No. 35 Oklahoma and No. 61 Minnesota, while their only losses have come at the hands of Texas A&M and Oklahoma State, both of which held a No.-10 ranking in their respective duals.
Lama sees another challenging weekend as an opportunity, and he hopes his team will match that mindset.
“This is what it’s all about,” the 10th-year coach said. “These are challenging programs that are going to demand our best on the courts. The beginning of the season is going to be about character-building and hopefully we continue to get better.”
Time will only tell how North Texas will respond to the challenge.