Mean Green Return To Waranch For Two Matches
North Texas Hosts Kansas State And Washington State
DENTON — The North Texas tennis team returns to the Waranch Tennis Complex this weekend for a pair of matches against two big name programs.
Friday, the Mean Green (2-4) take on Kansas State (4-3) at 2:00 p.m. and Washington State (6-2) Sunday at noon. Friday’s match is the first of six straight home matches for North Texas. It will also be the first time sophomore Maria Kononova will play since being named Conference USA Women’s Tennis Athlete of the Week, this past Tuesday.
“These again are two matches for us to see how we stack up and what we still need to continue to get better at,” said head coach Sujay Lama. “These of course are two teams we played last year and we played Kansas State twice in this fall so we have experience against them.”
Gaining experience and playing in big matches has been important for this young North Texas team as the season progresses.
Kononova has thrived this season in these moments and is playing what Lama calls as her “best tennis ever.” She enters Friday’s match against Kansas State with a 5-1 singles record, all at No. 1, and has an undefeated 4-0 record in doubles with her sophomore partner Tamuna Kutubidze.
Last Friday at Oklahoma, Kononova beat the highest ranked North Texas opponent in program history when she beat No. 16 Lily Miyazaki, 6-2, 6-4. For her efforts, Kononova was named the conference’s women’s tennis athlete of the week.
“That was the best I’ve ever played,” Kononova said. “I got out to a strong start and attacked instead of digging a hole and having to get out.”
Also starting to come along has been freshman Alexandra Heczey. She’s won three of her last four singles matches, her match on Feb. 3 against Tulsa was unfinished, and she’s had big moments in doubles with various partners.
As usual, winning the doubles point will be critical for North Texas. Lama has stressed the importance of it all season long. The Mean Green lost the doubles point to Wisconsin last Saturday, which ended a three-match double point winning streak. North Texas still managed to win the match over the Badgers, 4-3, but had to win four of the six singles matches to do so.
“We have to put the pressure on the other team,” Lama said of the importance of winning the doubles point. “Right now we’re still trying to find the right combinations and chemistry but the tools are there."
North Texas played Kansas State twice in the fall when the two school competed at the OU Invite in Norman, Oklahoma, and at the SDSU Invite in San Diego. In the two tournaments combined, North Texas picked up 10 wins over KSU.