Reinaldo Llerena/ Staff Writer
The No. 62 ranked women’s tennis team was all smiles after they swept their third consecutive weekend at the FIU Tennis Courts from Feb. 26 – 28.
The Panthers (7-1) swept the Eastern Michigan Eagles, 7-0, on Friday, Feb. 26, and defeated the University of Texas at Arlington Mavericks, 4-1, on Sunday, Feb. 28.
“We came out aggressive and with high energy in our matches this weekend,” said Head Coach Katarina Petrovic after the team’s 4-1 win over the Mavericks. “We’ve been more focused on doubles over the past few weeks and it’s paying off. I’m very pleased with how we’re playing right now.”
The wins over the weekend improved the Panthers’ home record to 2-1 and extended their winning streak to six games. The Panthers are undefeated this season when they clinch the doubles point.
Friday’s 7-0 victory over the Eagles was the fifth time this season that the Panthers have swept an opponent. The Panthers are off to their best start since 2001, when they ended the year ranked at No. 24 in the nation.
However, Petrovic is not too concerned about her team being undefeated when they win the doubles point.
“It’s all about maintaining a high level of energy and sticking to our game plan,” said Petrovic. “Our players aren’t used to playing doubles. I just want them to have the same ritual heading into every match.”
In the match against the Eagles, the Panthers clinched the doubles point when senior Carlotta Orlando and redshirt freshman Andrea Lazaro defeated Ani Gogvadze and Renu Sharma, 6-2, and sophomore Nerma Caluk and senior Kaitlin Brozovich beat Anna Veleva and Alejandra Barcelo, 6-0.
The Panthers continued their dominance against the Eagles heading into singles play, when the team won five out of six of its matches in straight sets.
Junior Nina Nagode got the first singles point for FIU when she defeated Gogvadze, 6-2, 6-0. Freshman Maryna Veksler clinched her 21st win of the season when she defeated Klaea Supejova, 6-2, 6-2.
Orlando clinched the match for the Panthers with a 6-0, 6-2, win over Marie Mayerova. Lazaro won her eighth-straight singles match when she defeated Veleva, 6-1, 7-5. Caluk defeated Sharma, 6-1, 7-5 and Brozovich topped Barcelo, 1-6, 6-1, 6-1, to clinch the sweep for the Panthers.
“I’m more confident in my game,” said Orlando after the match. “I wanted to move [Mayerova] around as much as I could because she was not as agile as I was. By moving her around some, I was able to get some shots to go my way.”
However, a much tougher opponent in UT Arlington awaited the Panthers on Sunday, Feb. 28.
Heading into the match, UT Arlington was 5-0 and was coming off a win over University of Central Florida the day before.
In doubles play, the Panthers got off to an early lead as Veksler and Nagode defeated Elizabeth Thoms and Angeles de los Rios, 6-2. Orlando and Lazaro came back to win, 6-4, over Astrid Gehre and Jessica Birowski to clinch the doubles point.
In singles play, the Panthers continued the fight against the Mavericks, taking three out of the four matches.
Caluk won in her match against Gehre, 6-3, 6-3, to claim her 19th win of the season. Orlando defeated Birowski in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4 and improved to 14-8 in singles play. Veksler clinched the match for FIU when she defeated Thoms, also in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2.
UTA got their sole point when Brozovich lost to Luxizi Meng in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4.
“This was the feistiest match of the year so far,” said Petrovic. “We faced a very good team in UTA and I’m happy that we got the win.”
Veksler’s win in Sunday’s match was her 22nd singles win of the season.
“I’m happy to be a part of this team,” said Veksler. “In matches like this, we have to show our best game early and not let our opponent get the best of us. It’s all about energy.”
The Panthers will hit the road for their next match against Conference USA rival Marshall. First serve from Huntington, West Virginia, is set for Friday, March 4 at 5 p.m.