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FGCU takes on head coach’s former team

The Florida Gulf Coast University’s women’s tennis team heads north today to play their next match against head coach Courtney Vernon’s previous school, the University of South Florida.

“I’m really excited because USF is a solid team,” Vernon said. “They all have an opportunity to work on areas of their games and be challenged.”

The Eagles competed in three matches this weekend. They started the weekend off with two losses against the University of Miami and Florida International University, but ended with a 7-0 win over Bethune- Cookman University.

Entering the Miami match on Friday with a 2-1 record, the team focused on its goals while facing the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s No. 9 ranked team. “For every match our goal is to play our own games and to just stay together and fight as a team,” junior Sarah Means said. They started the match with doubles play. All three doubles teams lost their matches putting the team at a one-point disadvantage going into singles play. Junior Candela Munoz was the only player to win her singles match against Miami’s Brittany Dubins. After losing the first set 2-6, she came back and won the second set 6-2 and the tiebreaker 10-8. Sophomore Johanna Sterkel came close in her match against UM’s Clementina Riobueno but lost 7-5, 6-1.

After losing the Miami match 6-1, the team came back to the FGCU Tennis Complex to play FIU on Saturday. “Playing a tough school like Miami was a challenge,” Elizabeth Means said. “It was a high level of competition. I was glad to get that opportunity, but at the same time it was a really tough challenge.”

The FIU match started off with doubles play. Senior Bettina Botha and Sterkel won their doubles match against their FIU competitors 7-5, but it wasn’t enough to secure the doubles point as the other two doubles teams lost their matches.

In singles play, Sarah Means defeated FIU’s Carlotta Orlando in a close match. She won the first set 6-4, lost the second set 6-7 (5-7) and won the tiebreaker 11-9.

“The first set I had to come back and then in the second set she came back on me,” Sarah Means said. “It was mostly about staying mentally engaged in every point because she was a strong player who was continuing to fight as I was. It was down to the last point.”

Freshman Breana Stampfli won her match against FIU’s Nina Nagode 6-2, 6-3. Munoz also won her match against FIU’s Valentina Briceno 6-0, 6-2. The three single wins were not enough to win the match. Botha, Elizabeth Means and Sterkel fell to their competitors, and FIU won the match 4-3.

“We saw a lot in those two matches that we need to continue to work on,” head coach Courtney Vernon said. “When we are in pressure situations, we need to continue to work on executing our game plans. It is a process of getting to the point where, no matter what, we are sticking to the game plan and are confident that we are going to execute it.”

The team headed into the weekend’s final match on Sunday against Bethune- Cookman. It was able to start the match with a special pre-game speech from Kevin Anderson, an Association of Tennis Professional ranked No. 22 in the world rankings. Anderson is a friend of FGCU Men’s Tennis head coach C.J. Weber.

“Before the game, he talked about his challenges and what we could do during our matches,” Elizabeth Means said. “He also talked about the mental struggles that you go through and the different challenges you face on the court. He was able to open up to us about that, and it was really insightful.” After the speech from Anderson, play began. Doubles team Botha and Sterkel defeated their competitors 6-3. Mandic and Stampfli also beat their competitors 7-5 to clench the doubles point.

In singles play, all the players won their matches against their Bethune-Cookman competitors. Winning all of her singles matches this weekend, Munoz is the only undefeated player in singles play on the team.

After this weekend, the team has a record of 3-3 for the season.

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