Mean Green Tennis Earns Four Conference USA Honors

April 29, 2016

IRVING, Texas — The North Texas tennis team was well-represented in the Conference USA women’s awards as three Mean Green individuals and one doubles duo earned all-conference honors, the league announced on Friday.

Freshmen Maria Kononova and Tamuna Kutubidze each earned First Team All-C-USA spots while also making the cut as a First Team doubles duo. Meanwhile, senior Anastasiya Shestakova closes her North Texas career with Second Team All-C-USA honors. "We are thrilled for these young ladies,” head coach Sujay Lama said.

“All three have had outstanding seasons and are most deserving of this recognition. Mean Green Nation is proud of their accomplishments."

Lama continued, ”Nastya [Shestakova] will go down as one of the great warriors in the history of our program. Three consecutive years on an all-conference team is quite a feat. This is just the icing on the cake for Maria and Tamuna. For them to be selected to the First Team in both singles snd doubles as freshmen is a testament to their talent, work ethic and what's ahead for them and Mean Green tennis.”

Kononova accumulated an 8-11 record this spring while being the first freshman to play at the top spot for North Texas since 2011-12. Rookie or not, the Russia native put on her share of impressive performances throughout the year, most notably picking up wins over ranked opponents in No. 83 Olgo Barshcheuskaya of VCU (3-6, 6-4, 6-3) and No. 115 Andrea LeBlanc of New Mexico (6-3, 6-2). Kononova was twice named C-USA Player of the Week in the 2015-16 season.

"I'm proud of the results that me and my teammates showed this year," Kononova said. "For me and Tamu [Kutubidze], I think we did a great job in our first year and got valuable experience. We will build on this. There's still great room for us to improve, and I'm sure that with our work ethic and support from our teammates and coaches, we will continue to show solid results in the future."

Kutubidze joined her counterpart on the conference’s First Team list - a fitting conclusion to a year in which the duo formed a powerful 1-2 punch for the Mean Green. The freshman tied for the team’s lead in wins with a 13-4 dual singles record, including an 11-3 mark at the No. 2. She ends the season on an eight-match win streak after defeating No. 45 Katherine Ip of No. 45 Rice; 6-4, 6-1. Kutubidze will enter the 2016-17 season having not lost a match since March 2.

"This news made my day," Kutubidze said. "It feels great to earn recognition from this league as a freshman. I'm proud of myself and Masha [Kononova]. We practiced alot and it paid off. I can't wait to start a new season and repeat the same success that we had together." 

Shestakova rounds out the Mean Green class of individual honorees with her Second Team placement. She finishes with a 13-9 record in dual singles play, notching her third straight spring with a double digit win total. A dependable closer for Lama, Shestakova picked up all but two of her wins in two sets, and she finishes her North Texas career by winning 11 of her final 14 matchups in singles play.

The senior’s latest recognition is good for her third consecutive postseason honor from the league.

"It feels great to finish my career on such a positive note," Shestakova said. "I'm glad to receive this all-conference award once again and it's just nice to know that all that hard work on the court pays off." 

The pair of Kononova and Kutubidze accumulated a 10-5 record this spring, all at the No. 1 spot, to close out the Mean Green’s list of C-USA award winners. A First Team All-C-USA duo, the freshmen’s 10 wins tied for the most by any top doubles pairing at North Texas since 2005-06. They were 1-1 versus nationally-ranked competition, closing the year with a win over the No. 48 team of Emily Smith and Katherine Ip of Rice, and they finished the year strong with wins in six of the last seven matches.

To get a complete glimpse of the league’s superlative awards, check out C-USA’s official release here.



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