Departing seniors from women’s tennis leave legacy

Seniors Andrea Lazaro, Nerma Caluk and Mina Markovic pose with their accolades following their match against the Florida Atlantic Owls on April 15, 2018 at the FIU Tennis Courts on Senior Day. (Photo courtesy of FIU Athletic)

By Dalton Tevlin/Staff Writer

 

The women’s tennis team is one of the most successful athletic programs here at the university, and much of that success has to do with the stellar play of their seniors.

Seniors Andrea Lazaro, Nerma Caluk and Mina Markovic have been the foundation for this team this year and will undoubtedly leave a lasting legacy after they graduate.

Head coach Katarina Petrovic says she tries to get her upperclassmen to step up and be great team leaders. A request that has most definitely been fulfilled, as these girls wrap up their senior seasons in their blue and gold uniforms.

“We have three seniors and the main focus was for them to teach the young ones, try to be team leaders and get them involved in our system because once you get adapted it goes easy,” said Petrovic.

Lazaro, while she’s been at FIU, has not just been one of the best athletes at the university, but one of the best in Conference USA. The Barcelona native was named the 2016-17 C-USA Player of the Year and was also part of the First-Team All-C-USA selection.

She was even selected to compete in the 2017 NCAA Division I Women’s Tennis Championships, making it the third ever appearance by FIU Panthers in the individual championship. Lazaro inevitably fell to Florida’s Belinda Woolcock in the opening round of the tournament, however concluded the season with an outstanding 20-5 record.

Coach Petrovic has described her as a great barometer for her players on-and-off the court, and mentioned that she is able to share her individual success with her teammates.

“I try to lead by example and give 100 percent, so they have a reference to follow when I’m gone,” said Lazaro.

On senior day, the final home game for the graduating Panthers, the squad shut out the Florida Atlantic Owls 4-0. In doubles, Markovic and Sandra Bozinovic blew past FAU’s Marisa Ruiz and Natalia Boltinskaya, 6-1, while Lazaro and Caluk defeated Ja’Cara Gillis and Kristen Thomas, 6-3.

Caluk this season posted a 13-4 overall record, while slating a 14-1 record in doubles play with her partner Lazaro. Markovic ended the regular season with a 6-11 overall record and 8-5 record record in doubles action with her partner Sandra Bozinovic.

With the regular season over, the tennis team finished off the year with a 14-2 overall record and a perfect 6-0 record in conference play.

FIU will now travel to Norfolk, VA, to participate in the C-USA tournament, as the number one seed. Their first match will be on Friday, April 20 against either the Southern Miss Golden Eagles or the Charlotte 49ers.

The Panthers will rely heavily on more than just their senior’s play for them to reach the championship game. Lazaro and Caluk are confident that juniors Gabriela Ferreira and Maryna Veksler are more than ready to step into that role this season and also next season.

“We try to teach them everyday, sometimes it tough and we’ve been through the same things so we’ve learned. We try to teach them just to go through that [adversity] and get better,” said Caluk.

After the season is all said and done, Lazaro plans to return home to Barcelona with hopes to play tennis professionally and possibly pursue her master’s degree. Caluk will continue her education at FIU and pursue her master’s in civil engineering. She also plans on continuing her involvement with athletics in some form or another.

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