Written by Dalton Tevlin/ Asst. Sports Director
It has been an interesting year for FIU Tennis. Coming off back to back historic seasons for the program, many of the players responsible for their success had graduated and fresh faces were set to lead the way.
For the most part, the new class of Panthers has been successful in keeping up their winning ways sitting 10-5 on the season. Freshman Basak Akbas is currently sitting at 15-2 on the season as they lead up to Conference USA tournament play.
The Panther’s lone senior, Maryna Veksler, has had great success mentoring the future of the program as her career at FIU windes down.
“It was different because I was in the position of the only senior and team captain but I enjoyed it,” said Veksler. “It’s hard to believe how fast it went.”
Veksler and freshman doubles partner Paulina Baukite have posted an impressive 7-2 record so far this season and lead the team in doubles victories.
Veksler’s leadership has definitely had an impact on this young squad as she has helped them to get acclimated to life as a student-athlete.
“She’s the team captain, she would always notify us about meetings and mandatory things that we have to do,” said Baukite about her team captain. “I’ve taken these things so when I am a senior I will have to be more responsible.”
Despite a rocky 1-4 start to the season, the Panthers rallied back and won 9 matches in a row. This being such a young team, it’s natural that it would take the new players some time to get used to things and find what they need to improve on.
“Even though we lost in the beginning, the kind of showed us where we are and what we have to work for,” said Veksler. “We have a 2-week break and really got onto the same page and just got a better match to match.”
With the regular season winding down for the Panthers, the most important time of the season is approaching. The C-USA championship is the end goal for this team and that is what kept them motivated throughout the early struggles.
Head Coach Katarina Petrovic echoed this end goal to her players throughout the season in an effort to get them on the right track.
“She said we have a lot of time to improve and the most important is conference time,” said Baukite about her head coach’s message. “We knew that was not in the best shape but there is something that we have to work on and were more than ready for the conference.
FIU is currently undefeated in conference play.
Feature image by Samuel Lewis