Tennis inching closer to perfection
The Lady Lions tennis team (9-0) remains undefeated after dominating both Southern (5-4) and Xavier University (4-5), their last contests before heading into Southland Conference (SLC) play.
The doubleheader against Southern and Xavier was held on Sunday at the Southeastern Tennis Complex. The Lady Lions marked a 6-1 victory over Southern earlier in the day and fought until after sundown for a flawless 7-0 victory over Xavier.
Head coach Jason Hayes is confident that the team will perform as it has once they head off to conference play against Oral Roberts, though the pressure of the game will have an effect.
"Playing in conference as they have in regular matches, that's the hope," said Hayes. "You want them to take each match the same, not that 'this is conference' or 'this is non-conference.' Obviously the stakes will get higher, and they'll get a little more nervous, but I'm confident that they will each step up and improve as a team."
In singles play against Xavier, freshman Nastya Tokareva (9-0), freshman Reginka Nychytailova (8-1), junior Valya Rusakova (7-2), freshman Renee Villarreal (7-0) and senior Isabel Brito (6-0) all posted two wins. Sophomore Adriana Castillo (2-0) also earned a win in singles. Rusakova clinched the match for Southeastern with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Xavier's Brion Flowers on the No. 3 court. At No. 2, Tokareva shook off a slow first set to rally for a 0-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-1 victory over Amanda Materre to push the Lion lead to 5-0.
After both contests, two Lady Lion doubles teams finished 2-0 on Sunday. At No. 1, Nychytailova and freshman Sarah Kriem pushed their record to 5-0 on the season. Castillo and Villarreal also remained unbeaten, improving their team-best doubles record to 6-0.
Now that the team has proven that they can hold their own in regular play, they will set their sights on competing in the SLC. However, Hayes says that the team does not need to do anything different if they want to dominate in the Conference; consistency is key.
"I think we can't do anything different," said Hayes. "The thing for us is that we want our players to play a certain style, and that style doesn't change no matter who is on the other side of the net. We have to sit with what we do best. We fight really hard, but we need to be a little bit more strategic on the court. Maybe if we can cut our mistakes on the court by about 10 or 15 percent, it will make us very difficult to beat."
The Lady Lions hosted Southern Mississippi on Feb. 28, where they dominated not unlike their double win over Southern and Xavier. Southeastern won two doubles matches and five singles matches to improve their then-record to 7-0. Nychytailova and Kriem added a doubles win, while Tokareva clinched the match on No. 2 with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Southern Mississippi's Kate Lanier.
Brito is still running on a perfect 9-0 singles record, while Tokareva has improved her record to 13-1. As a whole, the Lady Lions have posted a 70-19 singles record or a 79 percent clip. However, sophomore Morgane Charpenne has struggled early in the season, going 4-6 in singles play. The doubles team of Adriana Castillo and Renee Villareal have rolled to an 11-1 record, a team best.
Tokareva is second in the SLC for singles wins, while the doubles team of Castillo and Villareal is ranked third in the All Doubles category. Kriem and Nychytailova ranked fifth on the same list.
The Lady Lions are heading to Tulsa, Okla. For a 1 p.m. match against Oral Roberts on Friday, March 8 that will mark their first conference match of the season.
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