HUNTSVILLE – The Sam Houston State Bearkats went into Saturday with a chance to clinch their first berth in the Southland Conference Tournament since 2013 and punched their ticket in convincing fashion, rolling by Nicholls, 6-1, at the McAdams Tennis Center.
The Bearkats (8-10, 5-3 SLC) have now won each of their last three matches, and four of their last five going into tomorrow’s meeting with McNeese. The eight overall wins and five league wins are both the most by the squad since the 2012 season.
"I have nothing but respect for our team today as they knew what was on the line and came out of the gate swinging in the doubles," head coach Rob Hubbard said after the win. "They never looked back as they went after the singles to close the deal on a berth in the conference tournament."
Hubbard’s crew made quick work of the Colonels (6-9, 1-8 SLC), sweeping through doubles play before taking all five of the singles matches that were completed. Of those five matches, only one went the full three sets.
Ema Barkovic and Caitlyn Mitchell were the first to reach the finish line in doubles, quickly disposing of Andrea Mastrippolito and Ambika Pande by a 6-2 margin on the No. 3 court. Fabienne Gettwart and Khee Yen Wee then clinched the doubles point with a 6-4 win over Mariia Kozachok and Changwei Wei at No. 2 play.
Sam Houston made it a clean sweep in doubles play thanks to the duo of Mila Milanovic and Carrie Casey as they pulled out a win in a final set tiebreak for a 7-6 victory over the Colonels’ top pair of Lingfeng Gu and Clemence Krug.
Play then shifted to the singles courts where the Bearkats quickly went to work. Milanovic was the first to tally a point, finishing off Wei on the No. 5 line by a 6-1, 6-3 score. Her doubles partner, Casey, was right behind her at No. 4 play as she got the third Sam Houston point on the board with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Kozachok.
Wee was then there with the clincher on the No. 3 court as she had no trouble with Pande, picking up a straight-set win with a 6-1, 7-5 score.
The Bearkats would go on to add two more points on the singles courts to provide the final margin of victory, starting with Mitchell’s second win in as many matches at No. 6 play, defeating Mastrippolito 6-3, 7-5. Barkovic closed out the scoring, and the match in the longest head-to-head match of the day, outlasting Krug in three sets on the No. 2 line, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
"I am so very proud of all the trust and hard work they committed themselves to back in August. It has certainly come to fruition for them," Hubbard said.
Sam Houston will go for its sixth win in Southland play on Sunday when it hosts McNeese at the McAdams Tennis Center. First serve is set for 11 a.m.