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Monday, October 23, 2017

Sports

Dimitrova shines as leader of young tennis squad


Sophomore Tsveta Dimitrova has started the year continuing the success that earned her Co-Freshman of the Year honors last season. | Courtesy of UH Athletics

Women’s tennis travels to Waco on Friday for their second meet of the season.

The women struggled for the entire year last season. In 23 meets, the Cougars compiled a record of 10-13 and only a 1-4 record against conference opponents. The women’s season ended early as they were knocked out of the American Athletic Conference tournament in the first round, losing four matches to none against Central Florida.

Now one meet into the season, head coach Courtney Steinbock’s team is trying to right the ship. The one player spearheading the movement is sophomore Tsveta Dimitrova.

Last season Dimitrova was named the 2017 AAC Co-Freshman of the Year, in addition to earning a first team all-conference honor. Dimitrova finished the year with a 15-3 record in singles competition. But she was kept from competing in the conference tournament due to an injury.

Now in year two, Dimitrova has continued where she left off. As the 85th-best player in the country according to the ITA Oracle Collegiate Tennis Rankings, she was invited to compete at the ITA All-American Championships last weekend in Malibu, California.

As the lone Cougar representative, she went 1-1 in two matches. Against Giulia Pairone of Arkansas, Dimitrova won the match in three sets: 7-5, 2-6 and 6-2. Her time in California was cut short when she lost two straight sets, 3-6 and 2-6, to Marta Gonzalez of Georgia.

Now that she has returned to Houston, Dimitrova is the clear leader on a team that has a bit of momentum on their side.

At the Rice Invitational in September, sophomore Constandena Nicolaou joined Dimitrova as the two Cougars qualified for their respective flight finals. Against Haruka Sasaki of North Texas, Nicolau won the match in two straight sets, going 6-2 and 6-1.

Nicolau went undefeated at the invitational, going 3-0.

The Rice Invitational also served as freshman Laura Bernardos’ collegiate debut. Coming out of high school in Spain, Bernardos was ranked the No. 81 player in the country, according to the open Spanish rankings.

She looked as such at the invitational, going 2-1 and finishing third in the flight eight competition. Bernardos had to fight to win her final match against Malene Stripp of Oklahoma. With the two competitors having each won a set, Bernardos won the tiebreaking third set by a score of 7-6.

The tennis team will face much stronger competition in Waco, but it will be the perfect chance to test themselves early in the fall.

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