EDINBURG – The Sam Houston State Bearkats kicked off the 2019 dual-match season in style on Monday morning, sweeping singles play to take a 6-1 win over UT Rio Grande Valley at the Orville Cox Tennis Center.
The Kats (1-0) surrendered the doubles point to open the match, dropping three close decisions to the Vaqueros (0-1) before claiming each of the six singles matches the rest of the way – four in straight sets.
“We are younger than last year and UTRGV is a better team last year when we won 4-3 against them,” head coach Rob Hubbard said. “So, this is a really good start. To sweep all six singles against this team is a big deal.”
Newcomer Isidora Zivkovic was the first to get the Bearkats on the board, handling Marine Darzyan 6-0, 6-0 on the No. 3 court. Ema Barkovic followed that up by putting the Kats ahead with a 6-4, 6-2 victory on the No. 2 court to pick up her first dual-match singles since returning from an injury suffered late in 2017 that forced her to miss all of the 2018 campaign.
Karla De La Luz and Petra Kaszas each also picked up their first dual-match wins as Bearkats on Monday. On the No. 4 court, De La Luz held on in a hard-fought first set and eventually took care of Nethmi Waduge 7-6 (6), 6-0. Meanwhile, Kaszas picked up a point at No. 6 singles with a 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-4 victory.
Taking over in the No. 1 spot, Sahaja Yamalpalli kicked off her sophomore campaign with a comeback win, dropping the first set to Dominique Ibarra before rebounding to take the next two sets and the match by a 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 margin. Lusine Chobanyan took care of business as well, downing Ana Platisa in straight sets, 6-3, 7-5, at No. 5.
“For Ema, she has worked really hard to get back to where she is at,” Hubbard said. “She did a great job today to get her first dual-match win since her injury late in 2017. To have Isidora, Petra and Karla get their first wins in this uniform, that’s a big deal too.”
The match not only opened up the 2019 spring season, but also capped a full week in South Texas for the Kats spent not only practicing, but also bonding as a team leading up to the beginning of the spring semester on campus this week.
“This was a tough match to start the season with, but the whole team understood what was going on,” Hubbard said. “We have to get better at doubles, but we bounced back nicely. It didn’t bother us. The practice down here all week was great and everyone was very diligent.”
The Bearkats will now return home for their first matches in Huntsville of 2019, hosting a doubleheader vs Prairie View on Jan. 19 at the McAdams Tennis Center. First serve of the first match is set for 10 a.m. with first serve of Match 2 set for 2 p.m.