By Michael Haag | Sports Editor
After Baylor women’s tennis split a pair of contests in the Sunflower State of Kansas, head coach Joey Scrivano said the team could have run out of fuel with a midweek contest against the University of Denver.
But the Bears defeated the Pioneers, 5-2, Tuesday night in the Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center for their second-straight win.
“I love the way our team responded,” Scrivano said. “We had a tough trip out to Kansas, and we easily could have come back and just said, ‘Hey, we don’t have enough fuel in the tank.’ But the players did a great job. They responded well, the spirit was good and that helped us get the win.”
Baylor (10-9) picked up its highest-ranked win of the season, as Denver (11-3) is currently listed at No. 41 in the latest ITA rankings.
“Denver is having a great year,” Scrivano said. “They’re a team that’s probably going to make the NCAA Tournament. This was a big match for both teams.”
The Bears took the doubles point quickly when senior Isabella Harvison and sophomore Anita Sahdiieva secured their third-straight win at No. 2 doubles. The sophomore pairing of Alina Shcherbinina and Brooke Thompson picked up their second-consecutive victory, a 6-3 decision, at No. 3 doubles to give Baylor the 1-0 lead.
In singles play, Sahdiieva made quick work of her opponent with a 6-3, 6-2 success at No. 3 to make it 2-0 overall. DU responded with a win at No. 6 before freshman Daniella Dimitrov earned a 7-5, 6-2 victory on No. 5. Dimitrov has notched four singles wins in the last six matches for the green and gold.
Scrivano said Dimitrov has been “progressing really well” in her true freshman season since transferring from Syracuse University, where she did not play last season.
“What makes her such a good competitor is that she’s just locked in. She brings just such a competitive fire to every match [with her] passion,” Scrivano said. “It’s not just hitting tennis shots. You have to be passionate about what you’re doing. And when she does that, she plays very well. Excited for what she’s been doing and the way she’s been progressing this year.”
Baylor clinched the match when Shcherbinina, currently ranked No. 124 in the ITA rankings, upset No. 69 fifth-year senior Taylor Melville on No. 1 by a score of 7-6 (4), 6-1.
The teams finished out the remaining matches, and sophomore Liubov Kostenko gathered her fourth victory of the year to close out the contest. Kostenko outlasted her opponent in a tiebreaker, 6-7(2), 6-3, 1-0 (12-10).
Scrivano said he’s seen steady growth from Kostenko.
“This is really her freshman year. Every match we see her making big strides, and that’s given our team a big boost here with this last part of the season,” Scrivano said. “We’re proud of Luba, she’s competing hard and making the transition really well.”
The Bears will stick around for more Big 12 play this weekend when they play host to West Virginia University at 6 p.m. on Friday and Iowa State University at noon on Sunday. All matches will be played at the Hurd Tennis Center barring inclement weather.
Scrivano said he and the squad are approaching each game one at a time and they’re focused on the Mountaineers first.
“We have to get ready for West Virginia,” Scrivano said. “We can’t overlook them. We’ve had some tough matches with them in recent years. That’s the first thing and then we’ll worry about what’s next after that. That’s it; one thing at a time.”