HUNTSVILLE -- This weekend, for the third time this year, a Sam Houston State sports team will be playing at its home venue for the Southland Conference title.
Earlier, it was the football and men's basketball teams, but this Friday and Saturday, the scene shifts to the McAdams Tennis Center where the Bearkats attempt to cap their best season in history with a Southland title.
The SHSU women's tennis team stands 10-3 for the season and is tied for second in the Southland Conference with a 7-1 dual match record. Defending Southland champion Southeastern Louisiana leads the league with a perfect 7-0 mark.
The two teams collide Saturday in Huntsville at 10 a.m. On Friday, Sam
Houston hosts Nicholls State (5-7, SLC 2-4) at 11 a.m.
The Lions stand No. 64 in the NCAA Division I women's rankings with a 15-2 season mark. Southeastern Louisiana has represented the Southland in the NCAA national tournament each of the past two years.
Victories in both matches would put Sam Houston State in a first place tie with the Lions as the Bearkats go into the season finale Saturday, April 14 at home against Stephen F. Austin.
"It's exciting and rewarding for this group of girls to have this
opportunity," SHSU head coach Jim Giachino said. "They've worked so hard to get into shape. The impressive thing about this year's team is that, in each of the close matches we've won, it's been a different person who has stepped up and won the decisive match. The success this season has been the result of a true team effort."
In the Bearkats' previous 19 seasons in the SLC, Sam Houston has never won more than six league matches. Only three times in the team's NCAA Division I history has women's tennis produced double digit victories for the season, going 12-8 in 2006, 12-13 in 2002, and 11-11 in 2005.
Irina Sotnikova, sophomore from Riga, Latvia, leads the Bearkats with a 10-3 record at number one singles. The Southeastern match will pit Sotnikova against Emilija Arnaudovska who ranks among the top 100 players in NCAA Division I women's tennis this year with a 15-1 singles mark.
Sotnikova and the Bearkats number two singles player Lata Assudani stand 10-3 in doubles competition. Brooke Mills and Peta Taylor, SHSU's number three and four singles players, also are 10-3 at number two doubles. Emma McDougall, Ashley Longoria, Patty Manzur, and Lauren Janak round out the Bearkat lineup.
"We have to be careful not to look past Nicholls State Friday. They're a
talented young team as well," Giachino said. "Southeastern Louisiana is one of the top teams in the Southwest. Winning the doubles point will be crucial for us. This is going to be an exciting weekend for the team."
Following the completion of the regular season schedule April 14, Sam
Houston State will compete in the Southland Conference post-season
tournament April 20-22 in San Antonio. Winner of the tournament receives the league's NCAA playoff automatic berth.