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Saturday, September 23, 2023


Tennis improves at second tournament of the season

Head Coach Helena Besovic had to rebuild the team after she signed on as head coach in the spring. | Jhair Romero/The Cougar

Houston traveled north to Dallas over the weekend to compete in the SMU Invitational, where it won 15 total matches.

Houston improved on its six wins at the Rice Invitational, the first time the rebuilding Cougars took the court together.

Friday was a successful first day for the Cougars, with the team earning itself three singles wins and another in doubles.

Sophomore Ndindi Ndunda picked up Houston’s first singles win of the tournament when she defeated sophomore Momoka Horiguchi of UT Arlington in straight sets.

Then, Ndunda won the semifinals two sets to one and the consolation final on Sunday against SMU junior Tiffany Hollebeck in straight sets.

Freshman Stephanie Belovukovic also picked up a win while advancing to her flights semifinals after a tough 7–6 third set that saw her outlast Austin Peay senior Helena Kuppig.

Belovukovic met SMU freshman Katherine Jakeway and won in straight sets, advancing to the flight finals against freshman Fuka Nonoyama of the Central Arkansas Sugar Bears, who she lost to in straight sets the following day.

Redshirt freshman Elena Tairyan earned the Cougar’s final singles win of the day with a 7-5 win in the semifinals against freshman Sylvia Viljoen from Abilene Christian.

Tairyan then faced Islanders freshman Myu Kageyama in one of the weekend’s most intense matches on the tournament’s last day.

The match was tied after two sets and went to a super-tiebreaker where Kageyama came out on top after an 11–9 decision.

The first doubles win came when junior Phonexay Chitdara and freshman Sophie Gerits defeated Mississippi State sophomore Meredith Roberts and freshman Tamara Ricine.

The two went on to win in their semifinals match on Saturday but fell in the finals against Bulldogs senior Janina Braun and junior Sara Lizarturry.

Gerits faced SMU senior Liza Buss in the Flight Three consolation round on Saturday after a loss to junior Sarah Adams of ACU. The freshman went on to win the consolation final on Sunday against Georgia State junior Damira Muminovic.

Ndunda and junior Constandena Nicolaou picked up their first win together kicking off their second day of the meet, advancing to their flights consolation finals in the process.

Sunday’s consolation final saw the duo drop the match against Horiguchi and sophomore Nanak Takeuchi of UTA.

Tairyan and Belovukovic closed out Saturday’s doubles matches for Houston with a win against Bulatovic and Kageyama.

The pair met Jakeway and fellow Mustang sophomore Emma Pieroni on Sunday and won the final set 7–5 to seal the match.

Sunday’s four wins for Houston wrapped up a successful second invitational for the newly rebuilt team. The Cougars will travel to College Station to compete in the ITA Regional Championships on October 18–21.

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