The Sam Houston State women’s tennis team had tremendous success at the three-day Rice Invitational this past weekend.
Fresh off a strong outing at the Islander Invite, the team traveled to Houston, TX for their second fall tournament. The Bearkats notched wins in two consolation singles finals, as well as two doubles finals. First-year head coach Rob Hubbard was happy with the team’s performance.
“The Islander Invite gave the team their first glance at me and it also gave me a glance at them,” Hubbard said. “It gave us a few things to work on for the Rice Invitational and try to continue to improve, which they did. The team did great and we’ll continue on the same path. The focus and the goal remains the same as that we’re preparing for our season in January.”
Sophomore Ema Barkovic and junior Carrie Casey played a similar singles tournament. The two Bearkats faced adversity, losing in the first round; but eventually bounced back in the consolation bracket to be crowned consolation champions.
Barkovic took part in Flight 4B. She overcame a first-round loss to Houston’s Svena Mazzari (6-3, 6-4, 6-1) to defeat UTA’s Valarie Lopez (7-5, 6-2). She moved on to face Denver’s Claire Koke in the consolation final, where she would win (6-4, 6-0) to be crowned Flight 4B consolation champion.
“She did great. Ema lost her first match in three sets, and really her legs were just heavy and tired,” Hubbard said. “Ema has been very focused and playing well. She had a very good tournament and I was very impressed. She was very focused in her final match and she was very exact with how she was attacking her opponent.”
In Flight 5A, Casey was also avenging a first round loss. Houston’s Ana Glumac defeated Casey (6-0, 6-1), but the Bearkat would bounce back winning her next two matches in the consolation bracket. Casey took down UTSA’s Lina Halgreen in the consolation first-round (6-2, 6-1) and Tulane’s Sofia Kurtz in the final (6-1, 6-1).
“She really struggled with her singles game down in Corpus and it hurt her confidence. She even struggled in her first match at Rice,” Hubbard said. “We talked about it and she really locked in mentally. Her last two matches she became very focused and really cut down on her unforced errors. She made a great turn and she allowed herself to play the way she wanted to.”
The weekend saw the Bearkats rule the singles consolation brackets, but were not done as doubles action ensued.
Juniors Fabienne Gettwart and Khee Yen Wee were crowned doubles champions of the second flight. Barkovic’s success at the Rice Invitational grew as her and freshman Diane Freidrichs won the consolation doubles final in the third flight.
“The first day of doubles wasn’t that sharp,” Hubbard said. “There were two doubles rounds on Saturday and they were really after it. They were really aggressive, which is great because we’re trying to be a very attacking team. We’ve been working on some tactics and they did a really good job.”
The pair of Gettwart and Wee rebounded from an opening-round loss to defeat Clef and Crovetti of Texas, 6-2. In the consolation finals, the duo defeated Southern Miss’s Chen and Jerse, 6-2.
Barkovic and Freidrichs also suffered a first-round loss, but overcame a tough Golden Eagles duo of Robinson and Torcello , 7-6 (5) to advance to the finals. Barkovic and Freidrichs downed SMU’s Elliot and Jamal in the finals, 6-4.
Back-to-back strong tournament performances for the Kats have showed that the women’s tennis team has the power to make some noise in the Southland Conference this year. The team will return to action in two weeks when they travel to Dallas, TX on Oct. 7. to take part in the three-day SMU Invitational.
“Everyone is starting to believe and become more confident in themselves,” Hubbard said. “I’m really just looking for them to continue the same sort of progress they’ve made through the Islander Open and the Rice Invitational. I have the same expectations as the previous two tournaments, that we go out and try to execute the things that we’re working on in practice with the goal being that we’re ready to play our season in January.”
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