A roadblock I have with this blog: I recognize some great things have happened with the Athletic Department, yet I don't know how to say much more than good job or this occured. And as I mentioned in the early days of this blog, I am not a source of news, but rather commentary about the UTA Mavs.
So with commentary as the goal, how do you talk about something that may not have great strategy moments and would be saying this happened, making it essentially a news post?
I have done this blog for a couple of months shy of three athletic seasons. Something that surprised me initially, but has been the rule - I write more in the fall than I do in the spring, despite the relative lack of fall activity at UTA compared to the spring.
As I was pondering this, and feeling a bit guilty for not getting into the many deserving sports that have had success, I came up with an idea, one so original that it has been in use since the beginning of media. So today marks the debut of Maverick Quick Hits.
About a week ago, both tennis teams competed for the Sun Belt Tournament championship. Unlike the Southland Conference, the SBC does not offer a regular season format and therefore no regular season championship. The conference seeds teams by the ITA rankings. After that, I believe I read the coaches seeded the teams, though I can't find anything to back that claim up.
The women came in ranked #64 in the ITA and earned the third seed behind top seed Georgia State and #2 South Alabama. UTA opened against Louisiana-Lafayette. For those that don't know, NCAA tennis opens with doubles play, where three pairs from one school battle battle the opponents in a one-set match. The schools that gets two doubles victories score the doubles point. The pairs are "ranked" where your top doubles team squares off against their top doubles team, number two does the same and on down to three. UTA played four SBC teams in the regular season, including Louisiana, and won the doubles point on their way to a sweeps in all four.
However, in the tournament, the Cajuns took the doubles point, putting the Mavs in an unfamiliar situation. But, they belted down in singles play. Like doubles, the players are ranked and number one squares off against their number one and so on down to number six. #1 Elizabeth Thoms (6-4, 6-1), #2 Angeles de los Rios (6-0, 6-3), #4 Jessica Birowski (6-3, 6-3) and #5 Astrid Gehre (6-1, 6-2) literally dominated the Cajun and picked up a straight sets win to give UTA the win, 4-1.
Then came the semifinal match against South Alabama, the team that eliminated UTA the last two years in the SBC tournament, including the finals the year before, all in 4-3 decisions. History repeated itself again and the Jaguars took another 4-3 win.
There's a chance, not a big one, but one still exists for UTA to get into to the NCAA tournament. I'm not holding my breath as the NCAA doesn't usually schools like UTA with an at-large bid, despite the resume. More than likely, a single player or doubles pair will have a chance.
However, the future is bright as the team graduates one senior, Elizabeth Thoms. She will be missed, but the team has a lot of talent returning next year.
The men had a great tournament run. Like the women, the guys opened up against Louisiana-Lafayette. Unlike the ladies, the men were seeded fifth out of seven. Despite a .600 winning percentage, the conference didn't think UTA should win a game in the tourney. But the had some tricks up their sleeve. They quickly showed the SBC they were a bit underrated in a 4-0 win.
They followed that up with a match against the top-rated Georgia State Panthers.
UTA took the doubles point, then raced out to a 3-0 lead with two quick singles wins by #1 Guanarteme Nuez (6-1, 6-2) and #3 Mario Muniesa (6-3, 6-1). Things began to get tight after that as the Panthers picked up a point a the #2 position. Battles at 4, 5 and 6 were close. Carlos Arbiza came back at the #5 spot to win in three sets (5-7, 6-3, 6-2) and gave the Mavs the fourth point they needed to win, setting up a final match with South Alabama, who eliminated UTA in the semis last year. (I'm beginning to think we have a tennis rivalry)
It looked rough very early on as UTA lost the doubles point in a neck and neck affair. It would have been easy to write off the match for the Mavs, but in something I have never seen in following the team, they followed that up with first set wins in all six singles matches. That meant the Mavs only needed one set from four different players and all six had two chances. #2 Jhonathan Gonzalez (6-1, 7-5), Arbiza (6-4, 6-3) and #6 Mauricio del Rio (6-1, 6-2) didn't need a second chance as they took care of business and staked UTA to a 3-1 lead. USA picked up second set wins at the 1st and 4th positions, though Daniel Armengol barely lost set two 7-5. Muniesa, however, did not as he won his 7-5. In doing so, he also clinched the 2016 Sun Belt Conference title and a berth in the 2016 NCAA tournament, a first in a decade.
Mavs will find out how they fit in the 2016 NCAA tournament on Tuesday. The Grease Monkey at 200 N Mesquite Street near the campus will host watch party starting around 4 PM.
A couple days after the men's tennis team clinched, UTA golf began a quest for their own conference title. They sat in fifth after the first day with a 290, eight strokes back of the leader Georgia State, and two strokes out of second place. In fact, the first round was so close, only six strokes separated second through tenth.
The SBC was doing something different this year with the top four teams advancing to match play. The key was being in the top four, After that, anything could happen in match play.
The second day saw some jockeying from the top, but UTA's position didn't change, but the gap started growing. UTA trailed the leader by 14 strokes, and was three strokes out of fourth.
The third and final day saw UTA in a similar position as last year, where they were tied for fourth and six shots out of second place. One year ago, they moved up to second with a strong back nine. However, there would be no movement in 2016 as they stayed in the same position. The Mavs finished five strokes away from advancing to match play.
UTA had some good performances as sophomore Aaron Guanlao shot a three-round 214 (t8th), freshman Tanner Gore and junior Josh Radcliff shot a 216 (t15) and senior Andrew Sirowy shot a 222 (t32). Sophomore Jake Greenspoon struggled a bit as the tourney wore on with a 239, finishing 55th.
UTAMavs.com lists five more golfers on the roster, all underclassmen. So they have the ability to improve on this performance. But that may not be a good consolation as the top four teams ahead of UTA lose a combined four golfers to graduation, with match-play champions Troy losing none.