SAN ANTONIO -- For Sam Houston State, the task this weekend at the 10th annual Southland Conference women's tennis championships is straightforward -- win two dual matches, earn a spot in the NCAA Division I national playoffs.
And the key to winning those two matches will be doubles.
The Bearkat women's tennis team enters the post-season tournament hosted by Texas-San Antonio as the number two seed. Sam Houston State will face third seed Texas-Arlington in the semifinals at 9:30 Saturday. The Mavericks eliminated sixth seed UTSA 4-2 Friday afternoon.
In putting together a 12-4 overall record and 9-2 Southland regular sesaon mark (both the best ever records by an SHSU squad), the doubles point proved to be the decisive factor.
College tennis matches begin with doubles pro sets (first team to eight
games) for the number one, two, and three doubles pairings. Win two of the three and the team wins the doubles point and needs to win three of the six singles matches to take the match.
In matches in which Sam Houston has won the doubles point this season, the Bearkats are 12-0. In matches in which the Bearkats have not won the doubles point, they are 0-4.
"Our doubles definitely has been a strength for us this season," SHSU head coach Jim Giachino said. "These girls have worked so hard to get in good condition and to improve their games. They know that all we have to do to go to the NCAA Tournament is win two matches this weekend, and they believe they have a shot at getting it done."
In dual match play this year, Sam Houston State is 35-13 in doubles. The
number one team of Lata Assudani and Irina Sotnikova own a 13-3 record in dual match play and the number two pairing of Brooke Mills and Peta Taylor are 12-4.
"Winning the doubles point gives you so much momentum going into the
singles," Sotnikova said. "We take a lot of pride in our play in doubles
Regular season champion Southeastern Louisiana will face the winner of Friday's Lamar and Texas State-San Marcos matchup in the other semifinal at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
Members of the Bearkats' squad for the tournament will be Sotnikova,
Assudani, Mills, Taylor, Emma McDougall, Ashley Longoria, Patty Manzur, and Lauren Janak.
The tournament finals will be Sunday at 11:30 a.m.
Southeastern Louisiana has won the last two Southland tournament titles. The Lions defeated Sam Houston State in the semi-finals last year. The Bearkats have reached the semifinals each of the past two years.