“The great thing about the conference tournament is that anything can happen,” head coach Ivan Fernandez said. “Regardless of what happened during the regular season, every team has a chance.”
Following a doubleheader sweep of Western New Mexico last Saturday, the UTEP tennis team will return to action January 26 and 27 when they travel to Kentucky to face Louisville and Conference USA foe Western Kentucky.
The Miners (2-0) will take on the Cardinals (2-0) at 9 a.m. MST on Friday and the Hilltoppers (0-1) at 10 a.m. MST on Saturday. Both matches will be played at the Bass-Rudd Tennis Center.
In the spring home opener, the Miners worked to a 7-0 rout of WNMU in both outings. UTEP only surrendered one set to the Mustangs in both shutouts.
“Even though it wasn’t as tough of a match as I would have liked, it still allowed us to get an opportunity to compete against somebody else and to get our feet wet a little bit to get ready for these two matches against Louisville and Western Kentucky,” first-year head coach Ivan Fernandez said. “We want to prepare for every match the same way.”
Louisville is coming off shutout victories of their own against Wright State and Dayton, both by a score of 7-0. A notable returnee for the Cardinals is Aleksandra Mally, who went 15-15 in singles play last season, including 10 wins at the no.1 position, and returns with a 2-0 record as a junior.
WKU opened its season on the road against Alabama and narrowly lost 4-3 to the Tide. The Hilltoppers notched three singles wins. Fourth-year head coach and reigning Conference USA Coach of the Year Jonatan Berhane helped lead the Lady Toppers to a 13-6 mark in 2017, where they reached the C-USA tournament semifinals. Freshman Moka Ito has been a steady force for WKU and will enter this weekend’s contests with a 10-4 overall record in her debut year. Saturday’s match will be the first of five conference matches slated for the Miners this season.
“We’re going to go out there and try to win both matches, obviously, regardless of whether they’re conference or just a regular season,” Fernandez said. “It’s two good matches so we’re ready to compete against some tougher competition and see how our young team does against these big schools.”
This weekend’s matches will be the first road trip of the spring season for Fernandez and his team, which returned three veterans and features four freshman and a graduate transfer.
“They [newcomers] really haven’t played in this kind of format [dual match] before, especially the two that just arrived this semester [Chloe Purkiss and Yvette Van Oijen], but its good for them to get the cobwebs out and to get an opportunity to get a match under their belt.”
Competing for the Miners will be Lois Wagenvoort, Raven Bennett, Maria Paula Medina, Erandi Martinez, Milena Baigorria, Alisa Morozova, Chloe Purkiss and Yvette Van Oijen. All eight Miners notched at least one win each in singles and doubles play against Western New Mexico, with the exception of Purkiss who ended her debut with two singles victories and a doubles win.
“We have a very young team, but everybody is practicing super hard,” Wagenvoort said.
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