The UTD women’s tennis team started the 2023 season strong with a win against the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders on Feb. 11 at the Yvonne Li Tennis Center and continued scoring important victories in the following days.
The Comets won all their singles and doubles, reaching a 9-0 victory against the Crusaders. Tennis coach Bryan Whitt said that the victory was a confidence booster for the team since the two teams may play against each other in the conference final.
“They’re not a division rival in terms of our conference, but they are in our conference,” Whitt said. “It could be somebody that we end up seeing again, and so it was good that we ended up getting a good result in that match.”
Whitt said that the several days of cancelled classes due to the February snowstorm halted the team’s practice before the season opener.
“We started [practicing] last week in January and missed a couple of weeks, missed the ice week because school wouldn’t even open, plus, obviously, the weather’s horrible, and the week after that, it rained a lot of the day, so we were missing days,” Whitt said. “We didn’t get to practice very much leading into [the tournament] with all the ice, but they didn’t either, so it was even in that regard.”
Unlike previous seasons, the Division III games this year adopted “no-ad” scoring — short for no-advantage — where the player who wins the next point during a tie wins the game. The Division also started playing with a “let,” a serve where the ball touches the net but lands in the opposite court, allowing the server to serve again. According to Saumya Vedula, an information technology and systems junior, the new changes have been difficult to deal with but worked in her favor this tournament.
“Recently, we changed a bunch of things in our scoring system, and one of them was having ‘no-ad.’ So every time there’s a deuce point it’s kind of like a sudden death,” Vedula said. “Those points make us a little bit more nervous, but I think we’ve gotten better at dealing with that. [In the case of a let] … usually we redo that point. This year, they changed it to where if that happens, we have to actually play out the point, and that could go either way, because if the ball barely goes over the net, you’re kind of screwed because you have to get to the ball.”
The Comets — three-time defending champions — have played three matches following their opener this month against LeTourneau University, Hardin-Simmons University and Harding University from Feb. 17 to Feb. 19. The Comets won 9-0 against LeTourneau and 6-3 against Hardin-Simmons but lost 2-5 against Harding.
“With Hardin-Simmons, they’re not in our division of the conference — east and west — so their regular season record doesn’t affect us. But that’s very likely a team we will see also in the conference, so it’s good to see them and compete against them,” Whitt said. “They played us really tough, but we got the win, and then we played Harding. And the reason we play a match like that is because they’re a higher-level [team with] scholarship athletes, so it’s good for us to push ourselves and play teams that can beat us.”
Whitt said that Vedula’s doubles with neuroscience junior Rebecca Jackson were crucial throughout the tournament.
“Saumya and Rebecca had won doubles against Hardin-Simmons, and that was a really big win,” Whitt said. “They have a number one doubles team, and so the difference between losing or winning that match might’ve been only one point on the scoreboard, but [if] we lose that match and go down 2-1 to doubles, that affects what the rest of the singles looks like.”
The women’s team went on to win 6-0 against the University of Dallas on Feb. 24. Its next game is on Feb. 26 against UT Arlington. Vedula said she hopes to continue winning more games along with defending their title for a fourth consecutive year.
“[My goal this tournament is to] win the conference championship and go on to nationals,” Vedula said.