By Michael Haag | Sports Editor
Not everyone on the Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center court had the entire fall to prepare for the spring season.
The Bears dominated their doubleheader on Saturday with a 6-1 win over the University of Houston and a 7-0 win over the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
After suffering a concussion due to a car accident in the fall, Baylor women’s tennis freshman Danielle Tuhten won both of her singles matches.
“It’s a new experience for me,” Tuhten said after her match. “I had a bit of an interesting fall. I didn’t get quite as much training as the other girls but I feel like I really put in the work over the break. I caught up and everything’s good.”
Tuhten said “everyone was ready” ahead of the season-opening doubleheader and that the team started out on the right note.
“We all felt really clean out there and we were really fighting and just happy to be competing,” Tuhten said.
A year ago, Baylor lost its season opener to Brigham Young University, so head coach Joey Scrivano said “we’ll take a win.” Now in his 21st year with the Bears (2-0), Scrivano said he was “proud of the effort” on Saturday.
“Anytime you start a new season coming off of the Christmas holidays, there’s always that anxiety of ‘How’s your team going to handle it?’ So, really proud of the ladies,” Scrivano said. “They were ready to play. They’ve been working their tails off for the last few weeks and it showed today. They played with a lot of discipline, a lot of spirit.”
In the first match against the Cougars (0-2), the Bears quickly snagged the doubles point to take a 1-0 lead. The sophomore duo of Alina Shcherbinina and Anita Sahdiieva wrapped up their match first, winning 6-1, while fifth-year senior Paula Barañano and Daniella Dimitrov grinded out a 6-4 victory to secure the doubles point.
In singles, senior Isabella Harvison swept through her opponent following Tuhten’s first victory as a Bear, a 6-0, 6-1 success. Houston bounced back with a win on court four, but Shcherbinina’s 6-2, 6-3 victory at No. 1 secured Baylor’s overall win.
In the back half of the doubleheader, the Bears took the doubles point again, this time against the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (0-1).
Shcherbinina and Harvison, a different duo pairing this time, knocked off the Vaqueros tandem 6-2 before sophomore Brooke Thompson and freshman Lauren Littell cleaned up their opponents 6-4.
Littell, a mid-year transfer, wasn’t officially on the roster until Thursday. Before she could even unpack her bags, she attained her first singles win in the green and gold to give Baylor a 2-0 overall advantage.
“[Littell] has really impressed us,” Scrivano said. “It’s a big transition to come into a program like this mid year. She’s really learning quickly. That’s what great athletes do. They take information and then they go out there and apply it and she’s done a great job with that.”
Tuhten snagged her second victory of the day before Shcherbinina clinched the Bears’ win on court one with a 6-3, 6-1 success.
“[Tuhten’s] response to [her injury has] been amazing,” Scrivano said. “I know she has a lot of gratitude to be playing again and she’s just going to continue to get better.”
Both sides played out the remaining matchups and Harvison was the last one to wrap hers up as she and her opponent split a pair of sets. Everyone involved agreed to let the third set be a tie breaker and the first one to get to ten would be the winner.
Despite some newcomers and having a young roster, Scrivano’s group rallied around Harvison and cheered her on until she won 6-1, 4-6, 1-0 (10-8).
“It’s something we talk about,” Scrivano said. “‘What’s our team spirit going to be?’ Today it was really strong. I felt like we were really connected on all the courts for both matches. It’s just awesome when you see the teammates rallying around each other and having fun. That’s what this is all about; having fun, competing and learning and growing.”
Baylor has a quick turnaround, as it will host Rice at 10 a.m. and DePaul at 2 p.m. on Monday at the Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center. Tuhten said “it’s not new for us” regarding the four matches in two days.
“We’ve all been doing that grind for a while, so we’re ready,” Tuhten said. “We’ve put in the work in the gym, we’ve put in the work on the court so we’re feeling good going into [those matches].”