FIU suffers first conference defeat

Lisa Johnson won her doubles match against UNT on Feb 26.

Jonathan Jacobskind / Contributing Writer

Lisa Johnson won her doubles match against UNT on Feb 26.

The two years of dominance in the Sun Belt Conference has come to a halt – at least for now.
In an attempt to initiate their Sun Belt Conference matches on a high note, FIU returned home with a 4-3 victory versus the Jaguars of South Alabama but faltered against the North Texas Mean Green in a 4-3 defeat.
The last time FIU (2-9) suffered a loss to a Sun Belt team was against the North Texas Mean Green, defeating the Panthers in the 2010 Sun Belt Championship match. Their loss to North Texas snapped a 10-game unbeaten streak in the conference.

FIU 4, USA 3

The Feb. 25 match that pinned 74th ranked FIU against unranked South Alabama (4-4) marked the first victory for the Panthers over a team within the Sun Belt for the 2012 season.
FIU got off to a positive start in doubles play with a stellar performance by the duo of junior Rita Maisak and freshman Sarah Mclean, who  downed Emily Newton and Chane Hines 9-8.
The Panthers could not keep up their winning ways, squandering to 0-2 in the doubles portion of the match.
“Overall we had some beautiful moments in all of our matches. Even though we did not show our front foot in doubles [play] against South Alabama, we turned it around in singles [play],” coach Applebaum-Dallau said.
Despite South Alabama taking the edge in doubles, the Panthers clawed their way back in and won their singles match in convincing fashion with victories from senior Lisa Johnson leading the pack.
“I think our team played very well and showed a lot intensity,” Johnson said. “Our team kept up the focus and emotion and came out with the win.”
Johnson dominated her opponent, two sets to none (7-6, 6-4) victory.
Maisak, Mclean and freshman sensation Karyn Guttormsen joined in on the party as all three women added to the win column. Maisak went undefeated in her first two matches against Sun Belt competition, dismantling her opponent 6-2, 6-1. Mclean exhausted her opponent in a 6-1, 6-2 victory followed by Guttormsen’s 6-3, 6-3 win.
Guttormsen is showing a glimpse of greatness in her freshman year of collegiate tennis. Despite going an impressive 2-0, the humble freshman does not believe it was still her best performance of the season.
“I think I played well, but I do not think it could be my best performance. I still need to improve my game and play better each and every game,” Guttormsen said.

UNT 4, FIU 3

FIU could not add another conference victory as the host team, 60th ranked North Texas, defeated them.
Contrary to the South Alabama doubles matches, the Panthers bounced back against doubles in North Texas as Giulietta Boha and Guttormsen showed a resilient effort in a long 9-7 win over Valentina Starkova and Kseniya Bardabush.
However, the same could not be said for the Mean Green as they came out with a vengeance during the singles matches as they upended FIU 4-2. A 6-3, 6-3, win by conference player of the week Nadia Lee over Mclean contributed to the Mean Green defeat of the Panthers.
Maisak had a stand out performance in her match for the Panthers as she delivered a 6-3, 7-5 triumph over Kseniya Bardabush.
There was a Christine Seredni sighting as the senior made her first appearance in the court since playing sixth ranked Georgia on Feb. 5. She went 0-2 in her singles matches.
Despite Panthers coming up short versus UNT, Applebaum-Dallau had nothing but positive things to say about her young, resilient team.
“We need to be confident and keep our mentality going in the right direction. To me confidence is not measured by wins and losses, but by doing the right things in order to be the best player you can be,” Applebaum-Dallau said about moving forward on the 2012 season.
With the loss, the Panthers failed to beat their highest ranked opponent of the year and missed a chance to start undefeated in conference play. They are off to their worst start in the past six seasons.
The Panthers started the season off playing through a gauntlet of ranked teams.
From a player’s perspective, Johnson said her players have a hard time adjusting to playing such high caliber teams right off the gate.
“We’re used to having to play harder teams as the season went on and had to get better towards the end of the season, but now we’ve had to start out stronger at the beginning of the year and then play into a softer schedule,” Johnson said. “We just have to play with confidence and maintain our focus for the rest of the year and we should be back on track right away.”
Applebaum-Dallau commended the team for regaining focus in their doubles match and putting the past loss aside versus North Texas. Despite the drawbacks, Applebaum-Dallau is confident in her girls.
“It looks like it’s all going in the right direction,” Applebaum-Dallau said. “We are a team that our schedule has been very tough and I do that on purpose…We are not training to play against all the non-ranked teams. We are training to play against the toughest teams in the country.”

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