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Friday, December 13, 2019

Sports

Q&A: Tennis coach reflects on first season


Helena Besovic had to rebuild after taking over a virtually nonexistent team last summer. | File photo/The Cougar

Helena Besovic had to rebuild after taking over last summer a virtually nonexistent team. | File photo/The Cougar

Helena Besovic last summer took over Houston’s tennis program after former head coach Courtney Steinbock took off for Arkansas.

The rebuild was not pretty.

UH had come off a measly 2-2 in-conference outing, a loss in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference Championship Tournament and nearly the entire team, including coaches, departed along with Steinbock.

Only then-freshman Elena Tairyan was left, but Besovic quickly filled the roster with transfers from her previous coaching venture at McNeese State.

The 2018 Southland Conference Louisiana Coach of the Year led the team to an undefeated AAC season and 14-7 overall record in just her first year.

The Cougar, nearly a year after interviewing Besovic shortly before the start of the team’s fall season, sat down again with the native Bosnian and former TCU star to discuss how her first campaign with a virtually new team in an unfamiliar city went.

The Cougar: All things considered, how did you feel about your first season as head coach?

Besovic: Overall, I think we had a pretty good season. We had a whole new team, and it took some time to come together and get to know each other. I was really pleased to see how much we’ve come together as a team.

TC: Besides the team’s chemistry getting better throughout the season, how else have you guys progressed?

Besovic: All the girls have really bought into what we are expecting. We were one of the top teams in our conference. It didn’t matter that we didn’t have a lot of experience because we did really well. Next year we can do even more.

TC: Last time we spoke you mentioned some of the transfers that you were familiar with. How did that help the team this year?

Besovic: It definitely did help. They stepped up and were able to lead the team as good examples for the freshmen.

TC: Looking back at your first season as head coach, what has been a lesson that you learned in Houston that you did not at McNeese State or other schools?

Besovic: I learned to be patient. It takes time to build what we want to build. Our goal is to make it the NCAAs, and we had our chance. Eventually it will happen.

TC: If you had a reset button, what would you have done differently?

Besovic: I’m pleased with how the year went. Of course, there were some tough matches where I wish we would’ve done a little better, but every match we put in a fight. We have the desire to do well.

TC: What was different about UH compared to other schools?

Besovic: The competition, our conference. It’s just different, and I had to adapt.

TC: What do you think will be the team’s motivation heading into next year?

Besovic: I think everyone can see that we have a lot of potential. The team is excited to keep working in the offseason or when they go home. Last year we came into it not knowing what to expect, but now we know how it is.

TC: Nobody knows who is staying or who is going, but is it safe to say that the Cougars will still be AAC contenders come next season.

Besovic: That’s our goal.

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