Racquet-ing up victories

Sam Houston State University tennis is heading to the Southland Conference Tournament starting this Friday in Beaumont with hopes of continuing their success from the regular season.

The Bearkats finished 13-5 tied third place with Northwestern State at a record of 8-3 in conference play. This is coming off a 9-13 overall season with a 6-5 conference record in Bearkats head coach Rob Hubbard’s first season at the helm for SHSU.

Hubbard talked about his surprise with how quickly his squad was able to turn things around in just two seasons.

“The biggest turnaround was the first year,” Hubbard said. “I came in believing that this was a three-year project to turn around. But, the ladies proved me a liar in the first year, and they had a big turnaround and had a winning record in the conference for the first time in quite some time.”

Before Hubbard took over, SHSU was coming off five straight seasons with at least 12 losses on the season. The last time a Bearkat tennis squad had double-digit wins heading into the season was in 2011-2012 when SHSU went 12-9 on the season under then head coach Jim Giachino.

Freshman Sahaja Yamalapalli went 11-2 in singles matches and 6-4 in doubles matches this season. Hubbard had some high praise for Yamalapalli, as she has been one of the main highlights for the Bearkats this season.

“She came in and we had a pretty good feeling that she was going to play pretty high,” Hubbard said. “It’s always difficult as a freshman, you never know how they respond. She’s responded really well, and she’s been a great fit for the culture that the women put in place here. That’s one of the reasons for our strengths this season was our culture and how we approach practice everyday and how we approach our studies as well.”

Hubbard was impressed with the way that the Bearkats ended the season—winning five of the last six matches in which four of those victories ended in a 6-1 tally.

“It does a lot,” Hubbard said. “We also recognize that, of all the teams, we probably had the roughest first half. We had all of the top teams pretty early and we went head-to-head with them and stayed pretty close. We were trying to make sure that we didn’t relax knowing we were playing some of the teams we knew weren’t going to be in the top of the standings. They were very well prepared, they didn’t take anybody for granted, they played exceptionally well.”

The Bearkats head to the Southland Conference tournament Friday in Beaumont and will continue through Sunday.

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