By Aaron Ferguson, Sports Information Graduate Assistant
NACOGDOCHES, Texas – It has been 716 days since the Northwestern State tennis team has competed against Stephen F. Austin.
While this season represents an opportunity for collegiate athletics nationwide to celebrate their return to competition after a difficult year, this particular match holds deeper meaning for both programs.
NSU (4-5, 3-3) takes to the road Friday to compete against the Ladyjacks (7-6, 2-4) in what will not only be both programs’ first meeting in nearly two years, but their final regular season match as Southland Conference opponents. Stephen F. Austin is one of four schools who will leave the Southland and move to the Western Athletic Conference on July 1.
Despite the change, first-year head coach Jonas Brobeck said he expects the lasting relationships NSU has with the four departing programs to withstand the move.
“We are very excited about playing the Ladyjacks, a long-time Southland conference rival on Friday,” Brobeck said. “Obviously, it’s unfortunate they are departing the conference, however, we will continue to play SFA each season. With our good geographic location and longstanding relationships with all the Texas schools that are leaving for the WAC, we will definitely continue to compete against them yearly.”
Friday’s match offers a return to Southland play for the Lady Demons, who dropped matches at SMU and against ULM in their past two outings. Prior to those matchups, Northwestern State leveled its conference record with a three-match win streak, defeating Nicholls, Southeastern Louisiana, and McNeese.
A number of Lady Demons enter Friday’s match looking to build upon their success on the season thus far.
Senior Emilija Dancetovic has a 6-3 record in singles play and carries a four-match Southland win streak into Friday’s action. Dancetovic dropped consecutive decisions to SMU and ULM with both matches coming down to third-set tiebreakers.
Senior Judit Castillo Gargallo remains in the hunt for her next singles victory, which will solidify her place at ninth in all-time career victories within the program. Castillo Gargallo has yet to lose in singles competition against SFA (4-0) in her NSU career.
Doubles remains a strength for the Lady Demons, who hold a 26-14 edge against the Ladyjacks in the series history and have won six of the past nine meetings dating to 2013.
NSU as a team is currently 7-2 in doubles play and has only lost one match this season after successfully obtaining the doubles point. Dancetovic currently holds a four-match Southland win streak and remains undefeated on the season in doubles play with partner Dorota Szczygielska. Castillo Gargallo and teammate Viktorie Wojcikova are 6-3 on the season on the No. 2 court, holding their opponents to two games or less in the duo’s past four wins.
“These are important matches for us as we want to continue to improve into the final month of conference play,” Brobeck said. “We are constantly improving individually and are working toward playing our best tennis as we enter the final month of conference play.”
Photo: Chris Reich / NSU Photographic Services