As the women’s tennis team approaches the end of the season, the seniors have their sights set on a long-awaited goal.

“The best way to finish my college career would be getting that Sun Belt Championship,” senior Angeles de los Rios said. “We work so hard for it every single year, but we just came short, and hopefully the luck will be on our side this time.”

The team has fallen short of a conference championship with three consecutive 4-3 losses to the University of South Alabama.

This season, the seniors have broken records while leading the team to an undefeated conference record. Senior Astrid Gehre is second in all-time doubles wins with 78. De los Rios leads the program in singles wins, while senior Jessica Birowski is third with 63 singles wins.

The seniors’ experience and talent have enabled them to lead the underclassmen on and off the court, head coach Diego Benitez said.

“Everybody on the team looks up so much to them, from Astrid to Angie and Jessica,” he said. “Inside and outside of the court, they took everybody under their wing. It has made my job a lot easier having these girls step up in the way that they have.”

Coming to UTA from Paraguay has helped de los Rios adapt to a new level of play and change her game, she said.

“Back in my country, I had to play in clay court, so everything was slower,” she said. “When I came here, I struggled a little bit with it, so I had to change my game completely. I had to start playing faster, flatter and harder.”

Gehre and freshman Anna Wichert are 17-0 in doubles, the first UTA doubles team to go undefeated in its first 15 matches.

“They are similar players in a sense that they are very powerful players, tall girls that like to serve hard,” Benitez said. “They have a lot of reach with their span, so those are great combos when you’re playing doubles.”

The team’s Saturday home match against the University of North Texas will be the final step toward the conference championship in New Orleans. The key to a successful conference run will be to focus on the process instead of the result, de los Rios said.

“The main challenge is just not thinking about what could happen, I think that stopped us a couple of times,” she said. “Just think about getting your win, think about having fun and not think about the result. Just try to get the win.”

For Gehre, a conference championship is the one missing piece to complete her UTA career.

“It will mean so much, because we were so close for three years,” Gehre said. “Now, we’re seniors and the three of us will give everything we can. We will do everything we can in order to get that championship.”

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sports-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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