SMU team hopes to live up to hype

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The No. 27 SMU women’s tennis team (22-3) is set to defend their title of Conference USA Champions this weekend in Tulsa, Okla.

The Mustangs are the clear-cut favorite to win again, but they can’t let their guard down. Several teams are close behind in the rankings, such as No. 35 University of Tulsa and No. 47 Rice University.

SMU has been perfect this year against C-USA opponents, going 6-0 against them, including Tulsa and Rice. The Golden Hurricane came close to defeating SMU, pushing them to a 4-3 decision. The Owls won only a single point against the Mustangs, and they did second best.

The other four schools—Tulane University, the University of Southern Mississippi, the University of Texas at El Paso and the University of Central Florida—were unable to take even a single point from SMU.

SMU will continue to rely on the strong play of its top ranked sophomores, Marta Lesniak and Aleksandra Malyarchikova. No. 29 Lesniak played the entire season at No. 1 singles and went 21-2. No. 114 Malyarchikova alternated between No. 2 and No. 3 singles, but most of her success came at No. 2 singles, where she was 15-0.

Another reason the Mustangs have dominated this year is due to their freshmen class. Edyta Cieplucha, Shahzoda Hatamova and Katerina Vankova have all had stellar seasons in their first collegiate year. Cieplucha, in particular, has even claimed herself a national ranking of No. 116 with a singles record of 16-1.

And finally, Pavi Francis has represented the senior class well this year, going 15-4 in singles while playing in various positions.

If all goes well and the Mustangs keep their focus throughout the tournament, they have a very legitimate chance of returning to Dallas as conference champions again.

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