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Women’s Tennis Looking to Realize Its Goals at Long-Awaited C-USA Championships

HATTIESBURG, Miss. — Twenty-two matches in two seasons, 19-3 overall.

But now, an eager return to the C-USA Championships (Thursday-Saturday) at North Texas for the Southern Miss women’s tennis team after COVID-19 cut last season short and this year in pieces at a time. The squad opens play with Middle Tennessee at 9 a.m. CT Thursday.

Southern Miss (8-2) has played just one match since March 21, a shutout at Southeastern Louisiana on April 5. It marked the team’s fifth-straight win, succeeding home C-USA victories over UAB and LA Tech on March 19 and 21, respectively. Typical springtime southern rainstorms have accompanied opponent COVID-19 issues in preventing true normalcy.

Overall, the team’s 3-1 record in league matches mark its most since 2013. It also won a nail-biter at Middle Tennessee on March 7.

“We have worked real hard in training and playing a lot of sets against each other, which helps us improve,” junior Monique Burtonsaid. “We are a very adaptable team. We all have each other’s backs, and that helps a lot in games.”

Burton was 6-1 last year in singles, one of several Golden Eagles to naturally see success as part of an 11-1 campaign. It would rank as the top winning percentage in program history if not for the 15-contest minimum in the record books.

The previous year, the then-freshman Burton teamed up with Katia de la Garza for a 6-1 win in doubles to help the Golden Eagles win that point, but UTSA was able to close it out on singles in the 2019 C-USA Championships opener.

This season’s tournament and all its pageantry are next, and de la Garza says some of her younger teammates have inquired about how tough the challenge ahead truly is.

“I really think that previous years we had many chances but were just missing something, whether it was believing it or having confidence,” she said. “We have all improved a lot, especially Monique, Arina (Amaning), Ebru (Yazgan) and Tanit (Lopez). We’ve all had that leadership and the new girls have done well too.”

If there is one mindset going forward in Texas, de la Garza’s personal one can be an inspiration to the rest.

“The one thing I do is have a good attitude and run for every ball,” she said. “If (the opponent) is going to win, they have to do whatever it takes on their end.”