Penguins In the Mix For First Horizon League Crown

Paula de Man
Paula de Man

The Youngstown State women's tennis team will be looking for its best finish at the Horizon League Championships since 2005 when the conference event begins on Friday in Indianapolis.

The 2013 Horizon League Tennis Championships will be held at the Barbara S. Wynne Tennis Center on the campus of North Central High School in Indianapolis starting on Friday. In the event of inclement weather, the championships will be held at the West Indy Racquet Club and Five Seasons.

The Penguins (14-9, 5-2) are the second-seed in the event and received a bye to the semifinals. UIC, which has won 16 straight Horizon League Championships since 1997, is the top seed. Earlier this year, the Penguins dropped a 4-3 decision to the Flames at the Boardman Tennis Center. The 12 victories this season are the most since 14 in 2004-05.

YSU plays the winner of the Cleveland State-Wright State match on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. If the Penguins win they advance to the championship match on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. A loss knocks them into the third-place match at 9 a.m. on Sunday. Detroit and Milwaukee are the fourth and fifth seeds in the tournament.

The 2012-13 campaign has marked quite a turnaround for the program. In the previous three campaigns, YSU combined to win 12 matches, highlighted by six in 2009-10. That was also the last time the Penguins advanced to the Horizon League postseason.

The top three in the lineup, Paula de Man (No. 1), Margarita Sadovnikova (No. 2) and Marta Burak (No. 3) combined to go 21-0 in Horizon League regular-season play. This spring, the standout trio is 56-10 in dual play.

Burak, a sophomore, set a school record with 26 wins this year, 20 of which have come in dual play. She enters the Horizon League tournament on a 13-match winning streak, which is currently second longest on the team.

de Man owns an impressive 14-match winning streak entering the conference tournament. She has been nearly unbeatable since joining the program this spring. de Man is 21-1 with her lone loss coming at Ohio State on March 3.

Sadovnikova has won nine consecutive matches entering the Horizon League Championships. At No. 2 singles, she is 15-6 this spring.

Lauren Hankle, Tijana Raicevic and Annina Brendel have each been key contributors at No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6 singles. Hankle was 4-3 in Horizon League play, Brendel was 3-4 while Raicevic joined the lineup in the final week of the season and went 2-0. This spring Brendel has 12 wins while Hankle has 11. Hankle has played 10 matches at No. 4 singles posting six wins. Brendel is 8-7 in the six slot.

In doubles action, Burak and Sadovnikova were 12-6 at No. 1 in the spring, including a 5-2 Horizon League mark. At No. 2, Hankle and de Man were 11-4, with a 6-1 Horizon League record. Hankle and de Man teamed up to go 16-5 this spring playing six matches at No. 3. Brendel and Raicevic have taken over the three spot and went 2-3 in HL play.

In the Horizon League Championships, YSU was second in 2005 and third in 2009, 2006 and 2004. All-time in the postseason, the Penguins are 14-10.