By Jonathon Zenk, NSU Sports Information Graduate Assistant
For the first time in 2019, the Northwestern State tennis team will play in front of its home fans, as it takes on UL Lafayette on Saturday at noon before facing Jackson State and LSU Alexandria Sunday at the Jack Fisher Tennis Complex.
The Lady Demons (0-1 after a 4-3 loss at Tulane Jan. 11) will play Jackson State at 10:30 Sunday and follow at 2 against LSUA.
UL Lafayette (3-1) won its first matches three matches handily, dominating Southern and Jackson State 7-0 each, and defeating Incarnate Word 5-2, before falling to McNeese 4-3 on Wednesday. Jackson State (1-3) fell to UL Lafayette, but defeated Florida A&M 4-3 before dropping 4-0 to Southern Miss and 5-2 to Stephen F. Austin. LSU-Alexandria has not officially started its season, but dropped an exhibition 7-0 to Texas State.
NSU, 16-9 last year, tries to improve upon its 8-1 home record from a season ago in a rematch of a 4-3 loss to the Ragin’ Cajuns in Lafayette, surrendering two points because injuries kept the Lady Demons from fielding a full lineup. The last time UL Lafayette came to Natchitoches was in 2017, a 4-0 victory for the Lady Demons.
The last time NSU met LSU Alexandria was a 7-0 Lady Demon romp in 2017 and this is the first ever meeting against Jackson State.
After starting the season with two exhibition tournaments away from Louisiana and the dual match at Tulane, it feels good for head coach Patric DuBois for his team to be back in Natchitoches, playing in front of the home crowd.
“We’re very excited to play at home,” DuBois said. “Four of our athletes have yet to play a home match, so they get to see what it’s like to play here and see our community that comes out to support us. We’re looking to have a good time this weekend.”
The Lady Demons were rained out last weekend on two of three days at the Florida Atlantic Owl Cup, but won four of the six doubles matches on the only day of competition. The pairing of juniors Judit Castillo Gargallo and Emilija Dancetovic won two of those doubles matches, defeating teams from both Stony Brook and the host school, Florida Atlantic.
Reigning Southland Conference Player of the Year Polina Mutel will try to defend her crown this spring. The senior was 17-6 last year in singles and 17-2 in doubles, including conference marks of 10-1 in singles and 10-0 in doubles. She is off to a nice start in 2019, dominating Tulane’s Elena Muller 6-1, 6-2.
Castillo Gargallo is perhaps the Lady Demons’ hottest player, having won two doubles matches at the Florida Atlantic Cup. The Teruel, Spain, native also won her doubles match and had a come-from-behind singles match win at Tulane.
“Judit is playing well in both singles and doubles,” DuBois said. “She is one of our older and more mature players here, so we do expect big things from her. Judit is playing well in both practice and match play and we expect that to continue.”
Junior Ela Iwaniuk went 9-2 in singles in conference play last season to win Southland Newcomer of the Year honors. She is eager to play in front of the home crowd for the first time in 2019.
“I am excited,” Iwaniuk said. “I cannot wait for these matches. It will great and I cannot wait for our supporters to come watch us play.”
After this three-match homestand, NSU heads out for a two-match Texas road trip, as it plays UT-San Antonio Feb. 9 at 11 a.m. and heads from there to San Marcos for an 11 a.m. first serve Feb. 10 against Texas State. The Lady Demons return to the Jack Fisher Tennis Complex Feb. 16 when they host in state-rival Louisiana Tech, starting at 11 a.m.
Photo Credit: Chris Reich, NSU Sports Information