The Sam Houston State University tennis program opened Southland Conference play by splitting a pair of matches against the Stephen F. Austin and Northwestern State.
Last Thursday’s 5-2 victory over SFA marked the first league opening win since 2013 and the first win for the Bearkats against the Ladyjacks since 2010.
“That win for us was pretty huge,” sophomore Ema Barkovic said. “Not just because they are our biggest rivals, but because it was our conference opener and it gave us the confidence to go further in our conference.”
The Bearkats opened the match on a strong note by securing the doubles point. In the No. 1 position, juniors Carrie Casey and Mila Milanovic opened up doubles play with a 6-2 victory over SFA’s top duo. The Ladyjacks managed to tie up the game in the third position with a victory over the Bearkats, but juniors Khee Yen Wee and junior Fabienne Gettwart secured the doubles point by defeating their opponents 7-6.
“The first match of the conference season is always important,” Wee said. “The win improved our spirits, but even if we would have lost, we would have still been there for each other.”
The momentum continued as the Bearkats went into singles play where they won four of their six matches. While they dropped a singles point at both the first and fifth positions, the Bearkats were victorious in the second, third, fourth and sixth positions.
On Saturday, the Bearkats lost a hard fought battle against NSU after the Demons earned the doubles points and broke away from a tie to defeat SHSU 4-3.
Mother nature posed a challenge to both teams during the weekend match after the game was delayed and eventually moved indoors to The Woodlands Country Club in The Woodlands, Texas.
“Mentally the delay was hard because we had to wait until we could play,” Barkovic said. “In the end it helped because it gave us time to regroup as a team and figure things out.”
After the match was relocated indoors, the Bearkats found themselves in a 3-0 lead after Barkovic, Casey and Wee won their singles matches. SHSU was on the brink of securing a match victory until the Demons managed to rally three points in singles play.
The Bearkats lost the doubles point after NSU defeated all three SHSU duos.
On Sunday the Bearkats will travel to Abilene, Texas where they will take on Abilene Christian. The Wildcats currently stand with a 7-4 overall record and 0-1 record in SLC play. ACU took on the University of Central Arkansas on Sunday in Arkansas where they fell 3-4. Their last victory was over Arkansas State 6-1 back on March 4.
“We definitely can’t underestimate them, but we have a good chance against Abilene Christian,” Wee said. “We are ready to step up and show everyone what we have to offer this season.”