Serrano practice

Senior Natalia Serrano practicing volleys during practice before the match against the Wichita State Shockers at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona on March 17, 2019. Serrano won her singles match 6-1, 6-0.

The No. 28 UCF women's tennis team swept Wichita State 4-0 Sunday at the United States Tennis Association National Campus in Lake Nona to remain undefeated in American Athletic Conference play.

The victory was the Knights' 13th in a row, which brought their overall record to 15-2 and their conference record to 4-0.

Once again, redshirt freshman Nandini Sharma and freshman Marie Mattel took down their opponents in doubles play on court three. After losing the first three games, Wichita State's duo of Sandra Honigova and Ting-Ya Hsu began to close the gap, but Sharma and Mattel pushed through all the way to a 6-3 win. The victory extended their season record to 5-0.

The No. 18 duo of sophomore Ksenia Kuznetsova and redshirt sophomore Valeriya Zeleva had a slow start on court one as they faced Fatima Bizhukova and Marta Bellucco. Bizhukova and Bellucco fought hard as they claimed points from hitting sharp volleys into the open court. However, after a spell of returns into the net, Kuznetsova and Zeleva climbed back with better returns and sailed to a 6-4 victory to clinch the doubles point for the Knights.

Sophomore Rebeka Stolmar and senior Natalia Serrano also had a slow start on court two. Wichita State duo Esther Thebault and Sarvinoz Saidhujaeva fought hard to take a 5-2 lead. But just as the doubles point was clinched for UCF by Kuznetsova and Zeleva, Serrano and Stolmar were starting to make a comeback.

“We were down [2-5] and I think we were down [2-5] just because of a couple points,” Serrano said. “We just had to fix some stuff and I thought we fixed it. We turned it around, and we were about to make it 5-5, so I’m happy with that, and I know if we keep going with the same energy we’re going to figure it out and turn it around.”

Mattel wasted no time in singles play, beating Saidhujaeva. Saidhujaeva barely had time to score as Mattel sent strategic shots and deep returns on her way to a 6-0, 6-0 victory.

“To beat anyone 6-0, 6-0, you have to stay mentally focused every single game, so obviously, [Mattel] was locked in and ready to go today,” UCF head coach Bryan Koniecko said. “We spent a lot of time with her this week trying to get her a little bit more confident, and she did well today.”

Serrano came in right behind Mattel, with her fast returns often leaving Hsu struggling to reach the ball in time for a return. Serrano won 6-1, 6-0, extending her singles winning streak to 10 matches.

Though Thebault started off the first set on court three in the lead, Stolmar took note of her weaknesses and strategized as the match progressed.

“She was hitting really flat, but she was hitting a couple mistakes,” Stolmar said. “Her forehand was a little weaker, too, so I tried to avoid her backhand a little bit more.”

The adjustments helped Stolmar take over and power through to a 6-2 win in the first set, and she repeated that effort to close out the second set 6-2. Her win clinched a 4-0 victory for UCF, which left three courts with unfinished matches.

On court six, freshman Domenika Turkovic struggled through half of her first set, but fought her way to a tie and took the lead. When Shockers sophomore Alexandra Lazarova caught up, it led to tiebreaker, which Turkovic won 7-6. Lazarova was leading 2-0 in the next set when UCF clinched the match on court three.

On court four, Kuznetsova fell to Honigova in the first set 4-6, and was down 0-1 in the second when the match concluded.

On court three, Zeleva took her first set against Bizhukova 6-4, and was leading the second 3-2.

UCF will look for its 14th straight win Friday when it hosts Tulsa at the USTA National Campus. The match is scheduled for 5 p.m.

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