VALDOSTA, Ga. – The Saint Leo women’s tennis team, in their first action of the Fall season and with their new head coach, has a lot to hang their hats on as they return to campus after competing in the ITA South Regional Tournament hosted by Valdosta State University.
The tournament was separated into three days of action with Thursday’s first round seeing SLU newcomer Selma Hidass upset Lynn University’s Christine Johnson 4-6, 6-2 (10-5) as the only Lions to post an opening day victory.
"Overall, a long tough day for the team,” Head Coach James Bryce said. “Today wasn't about the win and loss column, but more about being out there competing for the first time this semester. It was great to see all of the ladies in competition instead of practice."
On Friday, the second day of action saw Hidass fall in the main draw, but Shaena Keefe defeated Rollins’ Bradleigh Lore 6-1, 6-1 in the first round consolation bracket, and then defeated West Alabama’s Angy Cuellar 6-2, 5-7 (10-5) in the Quarterfinal Consolation Round. Returner Lina Benkirane also went undefeated in the second day as she upended Monica Price 6-4, 6-2 and host Valdosta State’s Kristel de Groot by the same score.
In doubles action, Hidass and Benkirane also went unblemished on Friday as they started the day defeating Nova Southeastern’s Blake Bauer and Elisa Leeder 8-1 and then posting an 8-3 win over Florida Tech’s Katanna Huba and Monica Price.
"The ladies really played well today,” Coach Bryce said. “As a group they couldn't have done more with going 6-1 on the day. I am especially pleased with Lina and Sheana who stepped up today in tense situations and pulled through their matches. Selma and Lina also looked sharp in doubles.”
In Saturday’s final consolation Benkirane fought through a shoulder injury to defeat Paige Lindsley 6-4, 6-1 before withdrawing in the semifinal consolation bracket. Her injury also forced her double tandem with Hidass to default their match as well.
In the day’s other competition, the University of West Florida’s Cammie Gray end Keefe’s run with a 4-6, 7-5 (10-7) defeat in the quarterfinals.
“Sheana battled hard today but just came up a little short in the end,” Bryce said of his final day’s competitors. “With a few more matches under her belt she would have been fine. Lina fought through her shoulder pain this morning and played great at times. Overall I am happy with our display this weekend. We have plenty of time to work on things before February comes around. The team is still adjusting the new way to train and play, but by the time the spring comes we will be ready.”
The Lions will see their next action as they take to the court to begin their championship season in February.