updated 1:45 p.m. April 17, 2014
NORFOLK, Va. - Three times in the last four years, the North Texas tennis team won a conference championship. This year, that task may prove a little more difficult.
"My first two years, we were seeded number one," Mean Green junior Franziska Sprinkmeyer on the eve of the team's departure for Norfolk, VA, site of the Conference USA championships. "This year, we're seeded third. We are not the favorite anymore. Not a lot of people believe we can win the conference championship.
"However, we know how hard we prepared for this tournament and how many sacrifices we had to make to get to this level," she added. "We believe we're capable of bringing another trophy back to Waranch Tennis Center."
The Mean Green will go for its third-straight league title - and fourth in five years - this week in its first trip to the C-USA tennis championships. The tournament begins Wednesday, but North Texas, as one of the top four seeds, will not begin play until Friday.
The top-four nationally-rank programs in the conference received byes to the quarterfinals. Leading the way is No. 20 Tulsa, followed by No. 21 Rice, No. 64 North Texas and No. 72 Marshall.
North Texas will face Southern Miss on Friday at 9 a.m. in the quarterfinals, after the Golden Eagles upset sixth-seeded Florida International in Thursday's second round. A win in Friday's match would propel the Mean Green to the semifinals Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Folkes-Stevens Tennis Center.
"This is what we have been preparing for all season long," said head coach Sujay Lama. "To be seeded No. 3 after going through all the adversities this season that means we have a group of fighters peaking at the right time. The key for us is to stay focused on the process every single day and enjoy the competition and challenge."
Led by captains Kseniya Bardabush and Franziska Sprinkmeyer, the team has overcome several injuries and for the first time this season will have a full line-up at the championships. The junior duo has assembled a 5-0 doubles record at the No.1 spot.
"We had to face a lot of adversities, such as big injuries and a new assistant coach," said Sprinkmeyer. Our team is very young, without seniors and a lot of new freshman we stuck together and fought for each other. I think those adversities we had to face helped us identify our strengths and weaknesses."
Both junior were out at the beginning of the season due to injuries and the team consisted of sophomores Agustina Valenzuela, Danè Joubert and Kamilla Galieva, and freshman Alexis Thoma, Anastasiya Shestakova and Ana Sofia Cordero.
The team developed good chemistry throughout the season with youth and challenges helping them push each to the next level.
"Our expectations going to the conference tournament are pretty high because we believe in ourselves," said Bardabush.
For more information on the C-USA tournament visit Championship Central