SMU Looks To Win Its First Conference Title Since 2009
April 16, 2014
TAMPA, Fla. (SMU) -- SMU (10-11, 2-3 American) opens the American Athletic Conference tournament in a quarterfinal match against No. 41 ranked and three-seed USF (14-3, 3-0) on Friday at 11 a.m. CT in Tampa, Fla. SMU fell to the Bulls, 6-1, earlier this season when the two teams met on March, 11 in Tampa. The Mustangs captured a first round bye after they earned the number six seed in the tournament. SMU has won nine of its last 12 matches and is peaking at the right time with the AAC tournament this weekend. The winner of the SMU/USF match will take on the No. 2-seed Memphis, No. 7-seed Temple or the No. 10-seed UCF in the semifinals. The tournament is being hosted by South Florida and all matches will be played at the USF Varsity Tennis Courts.
“We are excited to compete in our first American Athletic Conference tournament,” head coach Kati Gyulai said. “We got off to a slow start this season, but we have now won 9 of our last 12 matches. We are playing very good tennis right now and are peaking at the right time. I am anxious to watch us compete in a few days.”
Start of an Era:
Joining the American Athletic Conference for its inaugural season, the SMU women’s tennis team is competing in its fourth conference since the program’s inception in 1972. The American consists of 10 teams during its first season, highlighted by four ranked teams including No. 32 Houston, No. 39 Memphis, No. 41 USF and No. 56 Louisville. The seeding for the AAC tournament bracket was based off of the ITA rankings.
The Week That Was:
SMU competed once last week in its regular season finale at home against Louisiana Tech. Sophomore Yana Erkeeva led the Mustangs as she won her third straight match following her win over Bulldog freshman Marta Sramkova in straight sets, 6-1, 7-6, in the No. 4 singles match. Erkeeva improved to 19-9 overall this season. The Mustangs took the opening doubles point and then won at the No. 2, 3, 4 and 5 singles positions to secure the match victory over Louisiana Tech (14-6). SMU enters the postseason at 10-11 overall and on a four-match win streak.
Scouting the Bulls:
No. 41 South Florida is 14-3 this season and has defeated three ranked opponents including No. 66 Tulane (6-1), No. 43 Memphis (5-2) and No. 65 Georgia State (4-1). The Bulls are led by senior Loreto Martinez and freshman Vera Bessonova who have posted solid 12-6 and 13-5 marks this spring, respectively. In addition, Martinez is 8-1 in dual matches at the No. 1 singles position.
Series History & Previous Meeting:
Friday marks the third ever meeting between SMU and USF. The two schools met for the first time in the 1994-95 season when Bulls defeated the Mustangs, 7-2 in a neutral site match that was played in San Diego, Calif. SMU and USF met a second time earlier this season when the Mustangs traveled to Florida for its annual spring trip. In that match, sophomore Yana Erkeeva recorded a three-set victory over USF senior Fanny Fracassi, 0-6, 7-6, 10-8, but the Bulls defeated the Mustangs, 6-1, on their home court. In doubles, sophomore Vaszilisza Bulgakova and freshman Dasha Sharapova disposed of USF’s No. 1 doubles pair, 8-6. The Bulls earned the opening the doubles point of the match by winning at the No. 2 and 3 positions and then won at the No. 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 singles positions to secure the dual match victory. SMU looks to win its first match over South Florida and avenge its loss from earlier this season when the two programs meet in the quarterfinals of the AAC tournament on Friday.
SMU’s season came to a close in the semifinals of the Conference USA Tournament a year ago, which marked the Mustangs best finish since it won the C-USA title in 2009. That crown is the only tournament championship for SMU despite having previously won regular season Southwest Conference crowns in 1982 and 1988. SMU has perhaps the youngest team in The American and will look to win its inaugural crown beginning on Friday.
Fountain of Youth:
SMU has no seniors on its roster as seven of the Mustangs eight student-athletes are freshmen and sophomores. The Ponies are led by sophomore Yana Erkeeva and freshman Dasha Sharapova, who lead their respective classes as they have posted overall records of 19-9 and 17-11, respectively. Erkeeva has played the majority of her matches at the No. 4 position while Sharapova has played most of her matches at the No. 3 spot.
Who Hasn’t Been There:
SMU has had four student-athletes combine for a solid 14-7 mark at the No. 3 singles position which is good for a .667 win percentage. Freshman Dasha Sharapova has led the way for the Mustangs in that spot with an outstanding mark of 8-3.
Two for One:
SMU sports a 12-5 overall record in the No. 1 doubles position. The Mustangs are led by sophomore Vaszilisza Bulgakova and freshman Dasha Sharapova as the tandem has recorded an outstanding mark of 11-3 in that position. Overall, that tandem has recorded an overall record of 16-4.
A Temporary Home:
SMU played its home matches in 2014 at the Northwood Club Tennis Courts while the new SMU men’s and women’s tennis complex was being built. The new tennis center is scheduled to be ready for the start of the 2015 spring season for both the SMU men’s and women’s teams.