The North Texas tennis team endured a few anxious moments Tuesday while watching the NCAA tournament selection show.
UNT went into the day hoping to play close to home in the first round, and to receive a good matchup.
The Mean Green felt like it ended up in a good spot on both accounts when it found out it would face a familiar rival in TCU at 9 a.m. May 11 at Texas A&M. The Aggies, the No. 3 national seed, will face Southern in the other first-round match at the regional.
TCU beat UNT 4-2 in Denton earlier this year. The Mean Green edged the Horned Frogs 4-3 last year in Fort Worth.
“They are a very talented team, but at the same time we are playing good tennis,” UNT coach Sujay Lama said. “This is a great opportunity for us. The good thing is our fans can come there. We travel well. Hopefully, we will have 50 to 100 people out there.”
UNT earned a spot in the NCAA tournament by winning the Sun Belt Conference tournament for the second straight year and the third time in four seasons. The Mean Green edged South Alabama 4-3 in the semifinals and beat Georgia State 4-2 in the final.
UNT fell to Nebraska 4-0 last season and lost to Tulsa by a 4-2 score in 2010.
The Mean Green will look to break through in its third tournament appearance while taking on a familiar opponent in the Horned Frogs.
“It’s good for us to play a team we have played before,” said Kseniya Bardabush, a sophomore who has played at No. 1 singles for UNT throughout the season. “We know what to expect and know their players.”
UNT won the doubles point in the team’s first meeting this year and picked up a win at No. 3 singles from Barbora Vykydalova.
TCU pulled away for the win by winning three straight singles matches, including two that were tight throughout. Bardabush fell to Stefanie Tan 7-5, 7-6, while Ilona Serchenko lost to Millie Nichols 7-5, 7-5.
“We have had an intense last couple of years against TCU,” Lama said.
C-USA makes change official
Conference USA officially announced that the UNT-Rice game next season at Apogee Stadium will be played on Halloween night.
The game originally was scheduled to be played the following Saturday. The move was made to accommodate a national television broadcast.
The Oct. 31 meeting will be the teams’ first as members of C-USA.
Former UNT coordinator gets head coaching job
Former UNT offensive coordinator Ramon Flanigan, one of Darrell Dickey’s key assistants during the Mean Green’s four-year run as Sun Belt Conference champions from 2001-04, has been named the head coach at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.
The Division II school is coming off a 1-9 season in 2012.
“I am honored to be the head football coach at the Lincoln University,” Flanigan said in a statement. “The fact that the administration thought enough of me as a person and as a coach to entrust their football program to me is very humbling.”
Flanigan spent eight seasons at UNT and helped the program reach a host of milestones, including having Patrick Cobbs and Jamario Thomas win back-to-back rushing titles in 2003 and 2004. He also recruited defensive lineman Brandon Kennedy, a two-time Sun Belt player of the year.
UNT averaged 27.5 points per game in 2003 under Flanigan, its top total since returning to the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1995.
Kirk grabs top honor
Ashley Kirk was named the Sun Belt pitcher of the week on Monday for her performance over the weekend against Louisiana-Monroe that included two no-hitters.
Kirk struck out six and walked two in an 8-0 series opener that was cut to five innings by the run rule. Her second no-hitter came in the final game of the series, when she allowed just one walk in a second 8-0 win.
Kirk also was the winning pitcher in the second game of the series after pitching 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.
Kirk threw 11 1/3 innings overall and struck out 16. The 152 strikeouts Kirk has posted on the season ranks third in program history.
Kirk’s performance lifted UNT (25-22) into fourth place in the Sun Belt standings at 12-9.
UNT signee to compete in regional in Denton
Kat Strunk, an outfielder at North Central Texas College who will continue her career at UNT next season, will compete in the NJCAA Region V tournament this week.
TWU is hosting the tournament, which begins Friday.
Strunk holds the NCTC records for runs scored (74), hits (97), home runs (15) and batting average.
She is the school’s career leader in home runs (22) and hits (191).
Track and field
UNT has time to prepare for conference meet
UNT will have a little extra time to prepare for the Sun Belt meet beginning May 9 in Miami after going through the weekly grind of the outdoor season.
Those few extra days of preparation could pay off.
“It’s really good because we will have a whole week of training,” UNT coach Carl Sheffield said. “We have had so many weeks where we didn’t have Friday because we had to travel. That cut six or seven days out of our schedule.”
UNT is using that extra time to its advantage after last competing in the Red Raider Open on Thursday, when Deja McKnight won the shot put with a personal best of 46 feet, 1 1/4 inches and Troy Taylor won the 1,500 meters in 4:02.37.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 or via Twitter at @brettvito.