LAFAYETTE, La. – For the second consecutive year, the North Texas women won the Sun Belt Conference tournament, posting a 4-2 victory over Georgia State on Sunday at the Cajun Courts.
Barbora Vykydalova clinched the match for the second consecutive round for the top-seeded Mean Green (18-5), as she came back to defeat No. 2 GSU’s Masa Grgan 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 at No. 2 singles. In the semifinals, the senior from Sumperk, Czech Republic, hung tough to defeat South Alabama’s Mariya Krachok 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 in the deciding match.
Vykydalova was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. She posted a 4-0 record for the tournament, including a 3-0 mark in singles. Two of her doubles matches went unfinished.
“This is a group that never gives up and has had so much fight,” UNT coach Sujay Lama said. “We had a great group of seniors and today they all came through. We had commitment from our girls to start practicing last summer, and they worked hard all year long. They sacrificed both their winter and spring breaks just to get to this point. It’s all about preparation, and I knew this team was well prepared.
“I am so proud to be a part of this program.”
UNT picked up a key win at No. 3 singles when Valentina Starkova defeated Whitney Byrd 6-1, 7-5. Starkova trailed 5-4 in the second set and saved six set points.
“I just tried to stay calm and stay in the moment,” said Starkova, a senior from Almaty, Kazakhstan. “Our team worked really hard this season. We did a lot of conditioning and weight training in addition to practicing, and it all paid off.”
With the match tied at 2, Ilona Serchenko gave the Mean Green the lead with a 6-4, 6-3 victory at No. 5 singles. Serchenko earned a spot on the all-tournament team after compiling a 5-1 record in UNT’s three matches.
Starkova joined Serchenko and Vykydalova on the all-tournament team.
The Mean Green grabbed an early lead in the match by clinching the doubles point through the Nos. 2 and 3 positions. Kseniya Bardabush and Franziska Sprinkmeyer won 8-2 at No. 2, and Dane Joubert and Serchenko won 8-3 at No. 3.
Joubert and Serchenko finished 3-0 in doubles at the tournament.
For the Panthers (8-11), all-conference selection Abigail Tere-Apisah tallied a 7-5, 6-3 win at No. 1 singles over Bardabush. Tere-Apisah, the highest-ranked player in the conference at No. 41 in the ITA rankings, etched a 5-0 record in the tournament, including 3-0 in singles.
In addition to Tere-Apisah, GSU’s Linn Timmerman was named to the all-tournament team after recording a 6-3, 6-3 win at No. 4 singles over Sprinkmeyer.
“Hats off to GSU. It was a heck of a match and a tough battle,” Lama said.
The Mean Green, the highest-ranked team in the tournament at No. 60, won the title for the third time in the last four years.