HOUSTON – The Sam Houston State women’s tennis team opened up their fall season with a solid showing at the 2017 Rice Invitational over the weekend. The team combined for 16 total wins, while newcomer Sahaja Yamalapalli started off her Bearkat career in style winning her flight without dropping a single set.
Fabienne Gettwart finished sixth overall in her flight defeating Denisa Ibrahimovic, the No. 1 player from UTSA a year ago, in a tough three-setter (6-1, 4-6, 6-3). Gettwart eventually lost the consolation finals in an impressive blow-for-blow three set match against Nicole Petchy from SMU.
Khee Yen Wee gave the eventual Flight 5 winner, Ana Bowtell of Rice, all she could handle in a tough first round battle before eventually being forced to withdraw due to injury.
“Fabienne, Khee, Carrie and Mila really led our team this weekend not just in their level of play and results but in their leadership,” Hubbard said. “Both Sahaja and Lusine benefitted from watching them in action and in continuing the culture of the program established last year. I can't hand out enough superlatives when describing the impact they and their captain, Ema Barkovic, had this weekend on our newcomers and on our program as a whole.”
Yamalapalli showed well in her Berakat debut, winning Flight 6 without dropping a single set throughout. Yamalapalli topped opponents from Kansas, SMU and UTSA all in straight sets.
Hubbard had very high praises for Yamalapalli at the end of the weekend going on to say “Sahaja brings a strong work ethic that fits with our culture and she should continue to improve and achieve great results here at Sam Houston State. You always like to see your freshmen get off to great start and Sahaja definitely accomplished that this weekend."
Carrie Casey notched two wins in her flight which was enough for third place in a flight that included players from Kansas, UTSA, Texas State, North Texas, UTA and Houston. Casey opened with a nice win against Joy Chia from Texas State (6-2, 5-7, 6-1). Casey would eventually go on and defeat Kansas’ Carla Pons Martorell in straight sets for third place.
Mila Milanovic fought valiantly for the Bearkats in Flight 8, finishing in second place in a flight filled with players from UTSA, Texas State, UNT, and Houston. Milanovic won both her matches in straight sets against UTSA’s Sophie Boers (6-2, 6-1) and Houston’s Laura Bernardos (7-6(4), 6-2). Milanovic met her match in the championship game where she fell to UNT’s Nidhi Surapaneni in straight sets.
Sophomore transfer Lusine Chobanyan stumbled out of the gates losing a tough three-set match to the eventual flight runner-up Ivana Babic. But Chobanyan recovered quickly to win the defeating Sofia Murcia from Texas State in a game in which she saved match point and defeated Oklahoma’s Nina Jabrzemski in straight sets (6-0, 6-2) to win the consolation finals.
“Coaches are always pleased to see their players have a short-term memory in regards to set backs when they can get back in the saddle and ride again,” Hubbard said in regard to Chobanyan. “Lusine did just that as she recovered and turned in very solid performances the last two days. She should have a very good career as a Bearkat."
The doubles teams of Casey/Milanovic and Gettwart/Wee both finished fourth in their respective flights with wins over teams from Alabama and Oklahoma.
Chobanyan and Yamalapalli fell to the doubles team from UTA in their first match but bounced back to win the consolations with convincing wins over both Texas State and South Florida.
“Overall, the team had a good showing this weekend in a very tough tournament like the Rice Invite,” Hubbard said. “We started with a little tougher tournament than last year to start the fall season but the women did not disappoint. We had strong well contested performances in virtually every singles and doubles match we played, even notching a few wins against national powerhouses like Oklahoma, Kansas, South Florida and SMU. That being said, we still see areas that need addressing in both our singles and doubles play as well as in our conditioning. So, it's back to work as we use these fall contests to prepare us for the start of our official season on January 19.”