UTA Notebook | Live Stats/Video vs. Rice | Live Stats vs. SMU
ARLINGTON, Texas - With just a few weeks remaining until the Sun Belt Championship tournament in New Orleans, UTA women's tennis is preparing itself to not only lift up the trophy, but have a set of seniors go down in the all-time record books as some of the program's best.
Senior Astrid Gehre, a native of Asuncion, Paraguay, is one of three Mavericks in their finals years at UTA and amongst a group that has set records for the program. Gehre moved up to third in all-time doubles wins on Saturday in a 4-0 win over Arkansas State and has an opportunity to be in the Top 2 for all-time doubles wins, needing just three to plant herself in that feat.
"I am really happy," Gehre said of the accomplishments. "Since I got here in my freshman year I was not really used to playing doubles. I have gotten confidence at the net and it is super fun playing doubles. The way that I am playing with Anna (Wichert) is really good."
Gehre and Wichert, primarily playing at the No. 2 doubles position, have a perfect 14-0 record this season, a ranking that would go down as the best winning percentage - no UTA team has gone undefeated with at least 15 wins.
"I really like (playing with Anna) because she has a really good serve," Gehre said. "I like being at the net and she really goes for it on the first serve which helps me. I like playing that way because the way we play really compliments each other."
For Gehre, her name is already in the record books for a 2015-16 performance in which she won 23 doubles matches for eighth in single-season history. She is also 11th all-time in singles wins, needing just one to tie Giada D'ortona for 10th.
Fellow senior Angeles de los Rios is third in UTA history for singles wins with 77 and seventh with 66 all-time doubles wins. The duo is near the top of all-time winning percentage as well as wins as a senior class throughout their careers. Senior Jessica Birowski is just behind Gehre with 62 singles wins.
"It is extremely rewarding to see players that you recruit, even before the year that they come to UTA you start talking to them and their family," UTA coach Diego Benitez said. "You recruit little girls and all of a sudden you have grown women that have developed and committed so much to the institution. It is extremely rewarding to see that development and growth. You see them step up and take the roles of a leader. There are freshman and sophomores looking up to them, it really makes me proud in what we are doing here. Not just in the wins and championships, but how we have helped them as individuals."
The seniors have had a taste of success at the SBC Championship but have never been able to make it over the final hurdle. UTA reached the championship match in their sophomore season, but it has been the pesky South Alabama squad that has knocked them out all three seasons, all 4-3 final scores.
"The three seniors really want to win it," Gehre said. "We were really close the first few years. We really want it and are really working hard. This year I hope we can do it. We are doing everything that we can. The freshman and sophomores are doing everything for us so hopefully everything goes well so that we can get it this year."
With just five matches remaining for final tune-ups before the tournament, UTA is working on solidifying its seeding as a top team in the Sun Belt. The Mavs have their opportunity this week with two tough road matches at Rice on Wednesday and at SMU on Saturday, the final road test of the season.
"Against Rice, they are one of the best programs in the nation," Benitez said. "Getting a win against them will really jump us above a lot of our competitors in the conference. There is a lot at stake in getting ready for our conference tournament, and in the rankings.
"SMU is a nice rivalry. We have created a cross-town rivalry, we have beaten each other often the last few years, this year we know they are going to be ready for us. We have a good relationship with them, we see them often in tournaments and it is a very healthy rivalry."
Following the road matchups, UTA returns home to host a Sun Belt pod against Louisiana (April 7) and Texas State (April 9) before the season finale against North Texas on April 15.
With the end in sights, Benitez said that the goal remains the same, as it was to open the campaign, to experience winning a championship for the seniors.
"Anytime you have seniors on the team it is our main goal to make sure they experience that," Benitez said. "This class of seniors got really close and were points away in their first and second years. They got a taste of it but didn't accomplish it. It is extremely important to me to do the best that we can. Winning a championship is extremely difficult in any shape or form so we have been working hard and make sure we do our part on our end, if it's mean to happen it will happen and be very gratifying."