By Dan Hiner and Drew Zuhosky
The Youngstown State University women’s tennis team won its second Horizon League championship on April 26 after defeating the University of Detroit Mercy 4-2 at Purdue Schwartz Tennis Center in West Lafayette, Indiana.
The Penguins lost the first two matches in doubles — Marta Burak and Julianna Heino lost 6-3, and Annina Brendel and Nehel Sahni lost 6-3. YSU won the final doubles match after Dominika Lackova and Sofia Macias Mendoza picked up a 6-3 victory.
With the two losses in doubles, YSU was forced to win at least four matches during singles competition. The Penguins were up to the challenge and won five of the team’s six single matches.
Burak won the first match 6-1, 6-0 and Lackova won the second match 7-5, 6-3. YSU’s Brendel won the third match after the match was ended early. The Penguins lost their only match of singles competition after Sahni lost to Detroit’s Irina Slizovskaya 7-6, 6-3. Heino won the fifth match 5-7, 6-2, 7-5 and Mendoza won the final singles match 6-2, 6-2.
With the win, the Penguins extended their win streak to a school record of 11 games. They also set another school record after recording their 17th match win of the season.
YSU entered the Horizon League tournament as one of the top-two seeds in the tournament. The Penguins had a bye during the first round. During the second round, YSU eliminated the University of Illinois at Chicago after a 4-1 win.
The Penguins won their first conference title last season after defeating Cleveland State University.
The Penguins found out which bracket they were going to participate in after the YSU athletic department held a viewing party to watch the NCAA Division I Women’s Tennis Championship Selection Show on Tuesday night.
At the top of Tuesday evening’s Selection Show, it was announced that YSU would face the University of Southern California Trojans, the overall No. 1 seed in the bracket, on May 9 in Los Angeles, California. Also in the bracket will be the eighth-ranked Baylor University, ninth-ranked University of Virginia and 16th-ranked Texas Tech University.
Head coach Mickael Sopel was thrilled with the matchup.
“It’s exciting to play USC in the tournament,” Sopel said. “I expect the team to play hard.”
Lackova was equally excited with the pairing.
“It’s really a great thrill to play USC in the first round of the tournament,” Lackova said. “I expect myself and my team to play hard.”
If YSU advances out of the first round, the Penguins will play either Virginia Tech or Long Beach State University.
The Penguins will be entering the NCAA tournament with a 17-8 record and an 8-0 record in conference play. Last season, YSU entered the NCAA tournament as an automatic qualifier. YSU played Virginia during the first round, and was eliminated after a 4-2 loss.
The field will consist of 64 teams separated into four brackets. The tournament will take place May 9-19.