Led by Rhea Verma’s first team All-Southland Conference selection at No. 3 singles, four members of the Northwestern State Lady Demons tennis team earned all-conference honors announced Tuesday.
The other first team nod for NSU went to Judit Castillo Gargallo and Emilija Dancetovic at No. 3 doubles. Ela Iwaniuk and Castillo Gargallo were both recognized with second team singles honors at No. 5 and 6, respectively.
Voting was done by the head coaches and sports information contacts at the 12 Southland institutions that compete in women’s tennis. NSU, Sam Houston State and Central Arkansas led the league, each with four players honored.
“We are very proud of our Lady Demons who received all-conference honors,” head coach Patric DuBois said. “We always play for our team first as Lady Demons, and in the end, a good team will usually have players honored for individual accolades.
“We’re proud to have Rhea, Ela, Judit and Ema representing NSU on these all-Southland teams.”
Verma was a force for the Lady Demons in the middle of the rotation, going 11-0 in Southland competition, one of only two players in the conference to go through the entire conference season unscathed, with Abilene Christian’s Allison Stewart being the other. The redshirt freshman became the first Lady Demon to finish unbeaten in conference play at singles since Natalya Krutova in 2015.
The Toronto native went 8-0 at No. 3 and moved up to No. 2 for the final three matches, where she remained perfect. Her 16-4 overall mark is tied for the best record on the team.
Castillo Gargallo and Dancetovic, both juniors, were a powerful duo at the bottom of the doubles rotation for NSU. The pairing went 5-2 in conference play, and 13-3 overall. The selection gives the Lady Demons at least one duo with a first team All-Southland honor for the ninth time in the past 11 years.
Iwaniuk’s sparkling 10-1 conference mark did not go unnoticed, as the junior was named second team All-Southland at No. 5. It is her second all-conference selection in as many years, after being named first team last season at No. 4. In conference action in her two years with the Lady Demons, Iwaniuk is an impressive 19-3.
The Konarskie, Poland, native is tied with Verma with a team-best record at 16-4, and is 12-1 at the No. 5 spot in the rotation. All 10 of the matches won by Iwaniuk in conference play were won in straight sets, and in only three of the 20 sets she allowed her opponent to claim four games.
Castillo Gargallo followed up her second team All-Southland selection in 2018 with another one in 2019. At No. 6 singles, she was 6-2, including an impressive victory against Ileana Mocciola of ACU, who was named first team All-Conference at No. 5.
She was third on the team with a 14-4 record, including 11-3 at the No. 6 spot.
NSU, the second seed, begins its trek for its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2015 when the Lady Demons play No. 7 New Orleans in the Southland Conference Tournament at 10 a.m. on Thursday in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Sam Houston State’s Sahaja Yamalapalli won Southland Player of the Year honors. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi sophomore Kei Kato took the Newcomer of the Year award, while Chunxi Xin of Central Arkansas was the Freshman of the Year and Abilene Christian’s John Walker was voted Coach of the Year. ACU won the regular season and is the top seed in the tournament.
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