Alexandra Heczey

Mean Green Have Historic Day At Regionals

COLLEGE STATION, Texas —After a record-setting day by one of its senior on Thursday, the Mean Green tennis team followed that up with a historic team performance on day two of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Texas Regional on Friday.

North Texas' doubles team of Alexandra Heczey and Ivana Babic defeated the tournament's top-seeded team and the No. 21 nationally ranked team from Texas, 6-3, in the morning to advance to the quarterfinals. 

Shortly after their win, in the singles draw, Minying Liang defeated the Longhorns' Petra Granic in a grueling, 4-6, 6-3, 1-0(7) round of 32 match. Granic was the tournament's second-seeded singles player and is the No. 40 nationally ranked player. 

The day continued to get better for UNT when Tamuna Kutubidze rolled into the quarterfinal round of the singles draw with a pair of victories.

The day concluded for the Mean Green with Kutubidze and Maria Kononova advancing to the regional semifinals for a third-consecutive year with a dominating 6-1 victory over a Texas Tech team seeded third. 

"What an amazing day for our program," said head coach Sujay Lama. "Across the board our kids competed their hearts out and pulled out great wins. I am super proud of our ladies and so happy to see their hard work being rewarded."

In addition to the main draw victories, Nidhi Surapaneni and Haruka Sasaki won their consolation singles matches to advance to the round of 16.

For Heczey and Babic, they had their run end in the quarterfinals with a 6-3 loss, but they are the first unseeded Mean Green doubles team in program-history to beat a top-seeded doubles team in the Texas Regional and it is by far the highest ranked doubles team the UNT juniors have ever beaten.

"Alexandra and Ivana were clutch in their morning win over a very formidable opponent," Lama said. "That win is going to give them a ton of confidence and motivation to work hard to tap in their potential."

Liang has overcome illness over the past few weeks and put together one of her best tournament showings. Though it was ended in the round of 16, Liang won three straight matches including her come from behind upset victory in the round of 32 over the highest ranked opponent she has ever beaten.

Due to the weather, third sets were just tiebreaks but Liang and her opponent, Petra Granic of Texas, went back-and-forth until Liang's grit overmatched her opponent's and she came away victorious. 

"I am so happy for Minying," Lama said. "That was a huge win and she had to earn it. Great to see the maturity and the fight she had in all her matches. She is such an important piece for us this year to make a run."

For Kutubidze and Kononova, reaching the semifinals of the Texas Regional has become just the expectation. The two seniors who will likely graduate as the winningest doubles team in program history, cruised to their semifinal match, which they play on Saturday, after a 6-2, then a 6-3 and a quick 6-1 win in the quarterfinals. 

The dynamic duo who are seeded sixth in the tournament face a familiar foe on Saturday in the semifinals in Rice's Linda Huang and Michaela Haet who are the seventh-seed. 
The match is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m.

"I don't recall any teams that have made three regionals semifinals in a row," Lama said. "It is a tremendous accomplishment. They keep raising the bar for excellence and it would be fitting if they can take one step further tomorrow."

Following her semifinals double match on Saturday, Kutubidze will hustle to her quarterfinals singles match which starts shortly after. Kutubidze is facing off against Texas Tech's Francesca Sella who Kutubidze and Kononova beat in doubles to reach the semifinal round. 

Matches can be watched live here.

Round of 32: Kononova(UNT) def. Bowtell(Rice); 6-2, 6-3
Round of 32: Kutubidze(UNT) def. Huang(Rice); 7-6, 6-3, 1-0(8)
Round of 32: Liang(UNT) def. Granic(UT); 4-6, 6-3, 1-0(7)
Round of 16: [1]Turati(UT) def. Kononova(UNT); 6-1, 7-5
Round of 16: Kutubidze(UNT) def. Smirnova(Rice); 6-3, 6-2
Round of 16: Goldsmith(TAMU) def. Liang(UNT): 6-4, 6-3

Round of 16: Heczey/Babic(UNT) def. [1]Granic/Markovic(UT); 6-3
Round of 16: Kutubidze/Kononova(UNT) def. Traxler/Hollebeck(SMU); 6-3
Quarterfinals: Kutubidze/Kononova(UNT) def. Sella/Stoica(TTU); 6-1
Quartefinals: Peet/Jones(TTU) def. Heczey/Babic(UNT) 6-3

Round of 32: Sasaki(UNT) def. Goes(SHSU); 7-5, 6-4
Round of 32: Surapanani(UNT) def. Chia (TX ST); 6-2, 6-2
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