LAFAYETTE, La. — Top-seeded North Texas defeated South Alabama in a thrilling 4-3 decision Saturday to advance to the Sun Belt Conference tournament finals.
North Texas jumped out to an early lead, winning doubles matches at the Nos. 1 and 3 positions. Dané Joubert and Ilona Serchenko battled back to defeat South Alabama’s Cinta Maria Papke and Mary Angela Martin 8-4 at the No. 3 spot.
Senior duo Valentina Starkova and Barbora Vykydalova handed South Alabama’s Emily Newton and Michaela Meszarosova an 8-4 loss in No. 1 doubles.
“Winning the doubles point was huge for us. Down [4-1], Dané and Ilona stepped up big,” UNT coach Sujay Lama said. “Also, Barbora and Valentina played great."
The Mean Green dropped singles matches at the Nos. 3 and 6 positions to give South Alabama a 2-1 lead.
“We knew South Alabama was going to be a tough out in singles,” Lama said. “There were several momentum swings, but the key for us was Franziska [Sprinkmeyer] coming through for us. That gave us a huge lift, and Kseniya [Bardabush] was able to ride that wave."
Sprinkmeyer defeated Ramona Ghermani 6-3, 6-4 at the No. 4 position to give the momentum back to North Texas. Bardabush picked up a 6-0, 3-6, 6-2 victory over Meszarosova at the No. 1 position to give the Mean Green a 3-2 lead.
Serchenko fell at the No. 5 singles spot, and the semifinal was tied at 3 with the No. 2 singles match still under way.
“Once the match came down to Barbora, we knew we could count on her,” Lama said about his team captain. “This is her year, her team. She has been in this position many times, and she delivered once again.”
Vykydalova won a dramatic three-set match against Mariya Krachok to clinch the victory for No. 60 North Texas.
“We are excited to have the opportunity to compete for the championship,” Lama said. “The key for us is staying in the present moment, enjoying every minute together and competing the way we are capable of.”
The Mean Green will take on No. 2 seed Georgia State for the SBC title at 10 this morning on the Cajun Courts.