The UCF women’s tennis team defeated the USF Bulls 4-0 to win the American Athletic Conference Championship during the last match of the tournament Sunday at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona.
The victory marks the first time the team has won an AAC championship.
The match concluded after UCF sophomore Ksenia Kuznetsova defeated her opponent USF senior Vanja Klaric in singles action on court two in straight sets 6-1, 6-3. She clinched the team its game-winning point and secured the Knights' 4-0 sweep over the Bulls.
“USF pushed us back a little bit late in the match, but we’re happy we clinched it,” head coach Bryan Koniecko said in a UCF Athletics press release. “I’m just ready for our next practice and hopefully the culture we set this year continues on.”
The match was the final match in the AAC championship play. The Knights swept all of their conference opponents over the weekend, defeating Memphis and Tulsa. Including the victory over USF, the Knights have swept seven opponents this season.
The Knights quickly earned the doubles point after two consecutive wins. No. 19 Kuznetsova and redshirt sophomore Valeriya Zeleva defeated Klaric and doubles partner senior Nicole Dzenga on court one 6-1.
UCF senior Natalia Serrano and freshman Domenika Turkovic beat USF freshman Laura Pellicer Perello and junior Janvhi Clark 6-3, clinching the doubles point for the Knights. Serrano — a significant influence on the mostly underclassmen team, according to her coaches — said she was happy the team came together and won the fast-paced matches.
“It was an awesome win today, the team came through with fighting energy from point one today," Serrano said on a video posted on the tennis team's Twitter. “I thought everyone came together and it was amazing seeing all the girls just fighting and taking first sets and winning so fast, I just knew I had to stay in there.”
In singles action, the Knights won three matches in a row in straight sets. On court six, UCF redshirt freshman Nandini Sharma was the first Knight to score in singles, beating USF sophomore Alexandria Mjos 6-2, 6-0, putting the Knights 2-0 over the Bulls.
Zeleva beat senior Ana Roman Dominguez 6-2, 6-2, earning the Knights their next singles point and bringing the score to 3-0. The rest of the matches were cut short after Kuznetsova’s win.
Zeleva, who had a hand in both the doubles point and a singles point for the Knights, was deemed the 2019 American Tennis Women’s most outstanding player.
“I just wanted to show my best tennis and I did pretty good I think,” she said in a video posted to the American Tennis' Twitter account.
.@UCF_WTennis' Valeriya Zeleva played a part in both the doubles and singles points for the Knights in today's #AmericanTennis Women's Championship - the 2019 Most Outstanding Player talked about the title after the match. pic.twitter.com/1ePajHmFvY— American Tennis (@American_Tenn) April 21, 2019
The win brings the Knights to 22-3 on the season and 6-0 in the AAC.
With the conference championship victory, the Knights are guaranteed a spot in the NCAA Championship Tournament and currently await placement, according to the release. The tournament will be played at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona and begins on May 16.