Sports Tennis

Q&A: Tennis coach excited to get to work after rebuilding program

Head coach Helena Besovic has had to rebuild the team in a hurry before the start of the season at the end of September. | Jhair Romero/The Cougar

Houston hired Helena Besovic to become head coach of the UH tennis team in July after former coach Courtney Steinbock left for Arkansas.

Besovic had one of the best seasons of her coaching career last year and led McNeese State to its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament and a Southland Conference title.

Her leadership last season earned her the 2018 Southland Conference and Louisiana Coach of the Year honors.

Only two players, junior Constandena Nicolaou and redshirt freshman Elena Tairyan, are returning from last year’s roster, and the team must deal with the first-year hurdles of a new head coach.

Besovic also brought over one of her greatest weapons from McNeese: junior transfer Phonexay Chitdara, who had a 17–3 record in dual play with the Cowgirls last year.

The Cougar sat with Besovic to discuss the intricacies of a virtually brand-new team and its strengths and weaknesses heading into the season.

TC: What have been the biggest challenges in the first couple of months as head coach?

Besovic: When I came we only had two girls on the team, so I had to… start recruiting. We have some transfers that came from different schools, so it is getting everyone on the same page.

TC: What have you changed within the program since your arrival?

Besovic: The people coming from different programs, they were used to different styles of coaching, so teaching them and showing what we’re all about, where we’re heading and getting everyone to start learning about each other and coming together.

TC: Who have you seen stepping up to the plate as a leader?

Besovic: I would say it is too soon to say. We haven’t started competing yet. In the fall, we’re going to be playing tournaments, and that’s going to be a big thing to see how they compete. For now, I can say we have a lot of strong personalities on the team and a lot of potential leaders.

TC: What will be the team’s greatest strengths heading into the fall?

Besovic: I would say that everyone seems to be on the same page of wanting to do something special here. We have a lot of potential, I think, and our schedule is pretty good. We’re going to play some of the Power Five teams, and I think we can compete with them. Our athletes are aware of that.

TC: How do you think your experience will help the team in their performance?

Besovic: Being at the highest level of college tennis, I try to teach my athletes from my experience. It helps me when I’m building their confidence and showing them that here in Houston, we can get there, too.

TC: After you proved yourself as a player at Texas Christian and again as a coach at McNeese, you are in a new city and a new school facing a whole new set of challenges. How excited are you for all of it?

Besovic: Very excited. I think this is a great university, and it is a real honor for me to be here and be the coach for the tennis team. The community, too. I really enjoy Houston. I like the city, and I like all of the diversity and people from different parts of the world. It’s really unique.

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