Zeleva warm up

Redshirt sophomore Valeriya Zeleva returns the ball in a warm-up drill before the match against the Miami University (Ohio) Redhawks at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona on March 8. Zeleva, currently ranked No. 29 in singles by the ITA, won her singles match 6-2, 7-5.

No. 27 UCF swept the Miami University (Ohio) Redhawks and claimed a 7-0 on Friday at the United States Tennis Association national campus in Lake Nona.

The match was their second win of the day after a victory against the Tulane Green Waves. The win raises their winning streak to 10 matches, and their season record to 12-2.

For the first time this week, each of the Knights won their individual matches, defeating Miami in every set.

Redshirt freshman Nandini Sharma and freshman Marie Mattel made quick work of the Redhawks, sometimes even gaining points by serving directly into sophomore Melati Devi and freshman Jordan Ortega-Mendez’s weak spots.

This was only their second match as a duo, the first being against Tulane, yet they managed to kick off doubles with a perfect score of 6-0.

Senior Natalia Serrano and freshman Domineka Turkovic won the second doubles match, clinching the doubles point for the Knights.

Sophomore Ksenia Kuznetsova and redshirt sophomore Valeriya Zeleva, who fought the Redhawks almost game-for-game, ended their set at 6-5.

Because the Redhawks aren't a ranked or an American Athletic Conference team, the match wasn't required to be played to completion.

In singles, Sharma dominated once again and took a quick win at 6-1, 6-0 nearly identical to her Tulane scores earlier in the day. She said that by following head coach Koniecko’s guidance, she was able to secure the solid wins with ease.

“I was just really happy to play today, and I was more focused,” Sharma said. “When I practice, it makes me happy, and when I play, it makes me happy, so I was not really having any difficult moment[s].”

Some of her fellow Knights didn't have quite as easy of a time, but were still successful.

Turkovic, who had trouble during her last two matches, came out on top as she climbed to the lead in the first set and continued through the second. Redhawk sophomore Makenzie Myers seemed to be having trouble with her returns, with many of them failing to make it over the net. Turkovic took advantage of this and sent powerful returns her way.

“Domenika is kind of your typical case right now of being a freshman and being, you know, maybe a little bit low on confidence, but that happens to everybody,” Koniecko said. “It’s just weird in tennis to have it be a team sport, so it’s just another added pressure that a freshman’s not used to. But she’s done a good job of trying to work hard and just work through it; that’s all you can do.”

No. 29 Zeleva battled it out on court 3, with her and freshman Brindtha Ramasamy sometimes rallying the ball for over 15 shots. She remained strategic enough to scout Ramasamy's openings and pulled through to a 6-2, 7-5 victory.

After securing her first set 6-1, Serrano cranked up the volume when Ortega-Mendez started to catch up in the 2nd set. She sometimes caught Ortega-Mendez off guard and lost to Serrano's close-quarter volleys, leading to Serrano securing the 6-3 win.

Over on court 6, junior Sara Culbertson came out of the gate powerfully when Devi started to close the gap. Culbertson met her drive with a comeback and closed out the first set at 6-4. In the second set, she left Devi with even fewer scoring opportunities, rounding out the second set at 6-1.

Kuznetsova started out her match winning a few games, but as sophomore Milana Lysova started to catch up, Kuznetsova lost a little of her composure. Quick chats with Koniecko reminded her to maintain her focus and relax, as the loss of some easy points left her a little distracted. She was able to finish at 6-4, 6-3.

The Knights hope to keep the ball rolling for their next home match against the University of Pennsylvania on Sunday at noon at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona.


Correction: A previous version of this article said the Knights would face Penn State on the following Sunday, but the school they were facing was the University of Pennsylvania. It has been updated to reflect the proper school.

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