Bearkats prepare to battle conference leader Southeastern Louisiana in Southland Conference Tournament

(SID) – This weekend, for the third time this year, a Sam Houston State University sports team will be playing at its home venue for the Southland Conference title.

Earlier, it was the football and men’s basketball teams, but this Friday and Saturday the scene shifts to the McAdams Tennis Center where the Sam Houston State women’s tennis team will attempt to cap their best season in history with a Southland title.

The Bearkats currently stand at 10-3 for the season and are tied for second in the SLC with a 7-1 dual match record. Defending Southland champion Southeastern Louisiana leads the league with a perfect 7-0 mark.

The two teams will face-off this Saturday in Huntsville at 10 a.m.

On Friday, Sam Houston hosts Nicholls State (5-7, SLC 2-4) at 11 a.m.

The Lions are ranked No. 64 in NCAA Division I women’s competition with a 15-2 season mark. Southeastern Louisiana has represented the Southland in the NCAA national tournament each of the past two years.

Victories in both matches would put Sam Houston State in a first place tie with the Lions as the Bearkats go into the season finale Saturday, April 14 at home against Stephen F. Austin.

“It’s exciting and rewarding for this group of girls to have this opportunity,” SHSU head coach Jim Giachino said. “They’ve worked so hard to get into shape. The impressive thing about this year’s team is that, in each of the close matches we’ve won, it’s been a different person who has stepped up and won the decisive match. The success this season has been the result of a true team effort.”

In the Bearkats’ previous 19 seasons in the SLC, Sam Houston has never won more than six league matches. Only three times in the team’s NCAA Division I history has women’s tennis produced double digit victories for the season, going 12-8 in 2006, 12-13 in 2002, and 11-11 in 2005.

Irina Sotnikova, sophomore from Riga, Latvia, leads the Bearkats with a 10-3 record at number one singles. The Southeastern match will pit Sotnikova against Emilija Arnaudovska who ranks among the top 100 players in NCAA Division I women’s tennis this year with a 15-1 singles mark.

“We have to be careful not to look past Nicholls State Friday. They’re a talented young team as well,” Giachino said. “Southeastern Louisiana is one of the top teams in the Southwest. Winning the doubles point will be crucial for us. This is going to be an exciting weekend for the team.”

Following the completion of the regular season schedule April 14, Sam Houston State will compete in the Southland Conference post-season tournament April 20-22 in San Antonio. Winner of the tournament receives the league’s NCAA playoff automatic berth.

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