One of the benefits of North Texas’ improvement in tennis over the last few years under Sujay Lama has come in the form of scheduling.
As UNT’s program has improved, so has its home schedule. Losing on the road to the Mean Green isn’t the killer for opponents that it could have been in the past, as UNT is often ranked.
That allowed Lama to land four home matches with ranked opponents this year, not to mention a host of showdowns with ranked teams on the road.
UNT saw two of those opportunities slip away this week. UNT had a match against No. 61 Columbia at the Waranch Tennis Complex rained out, and No. 55 Georgia State canceled its match against UNT in Louisville, Ky., due to budgetary concerns.
“It was very disappointing,” Lama said. “We only have so many dates. Each of those matches is a chance to get better. We had a nationally ranked team at home and Mother Nature didn’t cooperate. We have been fortunate to get four nationally ranked teams at home in Arizona, Tulsa, TCU and then Columbia. To have four ranked teams at home is amazing.”
UNT still will play at Louisville on Sunday. The Mean Green was scheduled to face GSU on Saturday and is trying to get another opponent for that date. There is a chance UNT can schedule Eastern Kentucky.
UNT is on a roll after winning its third straight match and having Kseniya Bardabush named the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week.
Bardabush is the third member of UNT’s team to pick up the honor this season, joining Valentina Starkova and Barbora Vykydalova.
“Those are our top three players,” Lama said. “They are all very deserving. Our top three players are all elite.”
Bardabush won all four of her matches last weekend, when UNT beat Louisiana-Monroe 5-2 before sweeping Louisiana-Lafayette 4-0 to improve to 10-4.
The sophomore beat ULM’s Sophie Rufyikiri 6-3, 6-7, 6-2 and rolled past ULL’s Sophie Van den Aarssen 6-2, 6-0 at No. 1 singles.
Bardabush teamed with Franziska Sprinkmeyer to win a pair of doubles matches.
UNT catches break, keeps streak alive
UNT entered its fourth Sun Belt series Tuesday with a 4-3 mark in league play and its streak of at least splitting each of its conference series intact.
The Mean Green (16-13) split series with Florida International and Western Kentucky that were cut to two games by inclement weather and won two of three against Troy.
That left UNT alone in fourth place in the conference heading into a rare midweek series at Florida Atlantic that began Tuesday afternoon. Third-place FAU was 6-3 in league play.
The Mean Green entered the week with a chance to catch FAU partly because of a break it caught when its series with WKU was cut short.
UNT rolled in the opening game, beating WKU 8-1 behind Jordan Terry’s first career grand slam. The Mean Green was down 4-2 heading into the seventh inning of the second game before rallying. Brooke Foster led off the seventh with a single. Jordan Terry, Danielle Hoff and Lesley Hirsch tacked on hits, putting the Mean Green in a familiar situation.
Down 4-3, UNT had the bases loaded with one out and Taylor Schoblocher at the plate. The freshman has come up with several key hits throughout the year, including a three-run, pinch-hit, walk-off home run against Troy, but she struck out against the Hilltoppers. Jackie Miller flew out to end the game.
WKU jumped out to an 8-3 lead in the fourth inning of the the series finale before lightning and rain caused a four-hour delay. Officials finally called the game, which did not count because it the teams did not complete the required number of innings.
UNT beats Big 12 foe for second time this year
UNT picked up its second win over a Big 12 opponent this season when the Mean Green beat Oklahoma State 4-3 last week in Stillwater, Okla.
The Cowgirls had won 12 straight games. It was UNT’s first win over OSU since 2008.
Terry hit a two-run homer that gave UNT a 4-2 lead. Brittany Simmons picked up the win after allowing three runs and five hits in 6 2/3 innings.
Ashley Kirk struck out Tiffany Mikkelson with a runner on base to end the game and pick up the save.
UNT beat Texas Tech in February.
Track and field
UNT heads to Texas Relays
UNT will participate in a pair of meets this week, including the prestigious Texas Relays in Austin.
The Texas Relays will run for four days beginning Thursday. UNT will send some of its top athletes to Austin in addition to sending a few members of its team to the Bobcat Invitational in San Marcos.
UNT is coming off a solid performance at the Baylor Quad Invitational.
John Garish led UNT with a record-setting performance in the hammer throw, breaking the school mark with a toss of 191 feet, 5 inches. Aaron Sirles set the previous record of 172-11 earlier this year.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.