• June 25, 2024

Spring Season in Review: Women’s Tennis

Spring Season in Review: Women’s Tennis

RIO GRANDE VALLEY – The 2024 spring season didn’t pan out quite the way The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) women’s tennis team expected, but it was still beneficial in unique ways.

The Vaqueros struggled in some areas where they shined one season ago, particularly in doubles play and with putting away tight matches. But the positive and determined culture of the program never faded, and even through the tough moments, UTRGV created plenty of highs.

“Our team gave it their best attitude and effort all season,” head coach West Nott said. “We wished we could have been a little more consistent and overcome the adversity a little better in critical moments. We won a few gritty 4-3 matches early in the season but we just could not sustain winning the important doubles point down the stretch. The great thing is the team never gave up. They always were searching for answers until the end, making the most of the hand they were dealt.”

After dropping the season opener, UTRGV won four in a row, including three consecutive road matches. The Vaqueros earned a signature 4-3 win over Houston, defeating the Cougars for the first time ever and collecting a big victory over a Power Five opponent. They rode that momentum to capture a 4-1 win over UTEP, defeating the Miners for the first time since 2008.

“Defeating Houston was the highlight of the year. To see the joy on everyone’s face when we pulled off the upset was priceless. We won in the most dramatic way and that will be a memory all of us will remember for the rest of our lives,” Nott reminisced. “The win showed us that we are capable of playing at a high level and great teamwork can make special things happen if we are extremely positive with ourselves.”

The rest of the season was defined by waves of highs and lows. The Vaqueros countered a three-match losing skid with a three-match winning streak before the WAC campaign started, then dropped their first five conference matches. They could’ve gotten down on themselves and considered the season a loss. Instead, they showed their resilience to capture a pair of important 5-2 victories on the road to cap the regular season. They gave it their all in the season’s closing match in the quarterfinals of the WAC Tournament.

Keeping the team in line and pushing through the ups and downs were fourth-year leaders Isabelle Bahr and Lea Karren. They set an incredible example for their teammates throughout their careers and elevated the program with success on and off the court. This season especially, their legacies of hard work, selflessness, great energy and accountability shined.

“We were so fortunate to have Izzy and Lea join our program four years ago. The team rallied behind them. Those two ladies made a massive impact putting us in a winning position, connecting with the community, and promoting our tennis program. We are really proud they were such great ambassadors for our program and that was a bright spot we never wanted to end, but we wish them luck as they move on to the next step in life.”

No one stood out in competition quite as dominantly as junior Marjorie Souza. She quickly cemented herself in the No. 1 singles flight as she racked up a 15-4 record on the top court and went 5-2 in conference play, earning her third consecutive Singles All-WAC Second Team honor. Souza and Bahr made up UTRGV’s top doubles team, going 8-6 in the dual match season and 3-3 in WAC play in the No. 1 spot. Souza tallied 27 total wins this spring.

Marjorie Souza deserves a ton of praise for her level of improvement over three years,” Nott said. “She had a breakout year at No. 1 singles, having the best dual match record on the team at the toughest spot. She was elite all year, elevating her play when it counted the most. Her character is exceptional and she looked at every problem as an opportunity to get better.”

Another student-athlete to break out in a big way in 2024 was sophomore Yaiza Vazquez. She boasted the second best singles record on the squad, going 13-7 throughout the spring with a 4-3 mark in WAC play. She held down the fourth court with an 11-5 record and picked up eight doubles wins. Vazquez showed her powerful stroke and ability to grind out matches in her second season and is poised to be a leader for the squad next year.

Junior transfer Kristal Dule showed plenty of potential in her first season at UTRGV. She got off to a hot start, winning four in a row to begin the spring, and wrapped up her first Div. I campaign with a respectable 9-10 mark. She showed good resilience and a competitive spirit that will allow her to carry a bigger load next season.

Although this spring brought adversity to UTRGV women’s tennis, it also forced the Vaqueros to learn tough lessons. Those lessons will be valuable as a new chapter is set to begin and Nott is eager to see what’s in store.

“Part of sports is going through the growing pains and knowing how to come through under pressure in the future. This season we learned we do not like losing 4-3 matches and the margins are so small in tennis,” Nott said. “College tennis is truly a team sport and we will be working hard to have more special team moments in the future. Three out of the four players who helped us defeat Houston are coming back and they learned a whole lot about themselves this year and how they can help the team be at its best.”

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