Head coach Helena Besovic and her team came into the season with their eyes set on being a ranked team come tournament time, but being on the receiving end of troubling losses to No. 8 Texas A&M and Alabama have shown that the team still has a long way to go before reaching their goal.
With newfound success, Besovic is still confident in her team despite the losses to the tougher opponents and believes they still have what it takes to compete with the best.
No. 8 Texas A&M swept UH in the season opener, with many of the Cougars players finding it difficult to get even a set win against the Aggies in both singles and doubles play.
Roughly two weeks later, UH traveled to Alabama to take on the Crimson Tide with another chance at defeating one of the better teams in the nation, but this became another reminder of how far the Cougars still have to go before reaching the goal that was established months ago.
Despite these losses, Besovic remains confident that this team can get the season back on track and believes that playing high-profile opponents, win or lose, is necessary to get better as a team.
“A&M had a really good team being top ten in the nation now, playing a match like that really gave us the experience we needed,” Besovic said. “It’s the beginning of the season. We want to play these tough teams to expose ourselves and keep improving. It’s important to play that level to become that level.”
Junior Azul Pedemonti agrees with Besovic’s philosophy, adding that the scoreboard doesn’t always show the whole story and that just because the loss may appear lopsided, the team can still improve because of it.
“Sometimes you just see the result, but every match is different and we still feel super close, these matches still make us better,” Pedemonti said.
Hitting a recent stride
The Cougars have shown they still have what it takes to dominate on the courts since the tough start to the season, having defeated Southern University and Prairie View A&M in sweeping fashion with a combined score of 13-0 recently.
The recent success has their record back at .500 for the year at 3-3, and it’s performances like these that keep Besovic confident that they have what it takes and are continuing to get better.
“We are focusing on improving with each match, it’s a process but we have a good team,” Besovic said after the dominating performances Sunday. “I think everyone is on the same page, they all really want to do well and they are improving a lot.”
Freshman Maria Dzemeshkevich has been another bright spot on this UH team. She was not only the only Cougar to win a match against Alabama, but she did so against the Crimson Tide’s best player, who also happens to be nationally ranked in the country.
Dzemeshkevic has been playing the lead position in doubles for UH this season, despite being a freshman.
“Maria has been playing number one for us, and she’s done really well,” Besovic said.
Besovic wants the team to continue to compete against the tougher schools despite the outcome, she believes that regardless of the outcome they will continue to get better.
She is happy with how things are going currently.
“I’m very happy with the way things are going,” Besovic said. “I think playing good teams really helps us improve, we’re competing and that’s the goal.”
Confidence still remains in the players. Pedemonti said she is locked in and also intends to use the losses to Texas A&M and Alabama to her advantage and will get better from them.
“I feel like we’re still going to kill this season,” Pedemonti said. “We started a little slow with a loss, but we are playing good universities. Win or lose, we’re still here, so we are looking to improve and just get better.”
Sophomore Blanca Cortijo Parreno said she believes everyone is on the same page and she says she sees it on the court throughout the matches that everyone is still bought in on the season.
“I think it’s going to be a really great season. I see how everyone is putting in effort on the courts.” Parreno added.
The season is still young for the Cougars, and the hopes of making a tournament run in late spring remain in this team and Besovic expects it to get better from here.
“It’s a long season. If we take it one match at a time and focus on each and every match, I think we can get there,” Besovic said.