Under new leadership, the North Texas tennis team strives for success in the upcoming 2023–2024 season, which marks a significant milestone for the Mean Green as it enters its inaugural year as a member of the American Athletic Conference.
In June 2023, Louisiana Tech’s Amanda Stone accepted the head coach role after previous Head Coach Sujay Lama departed the Mean Green at the end of the 2022-2023 season. Stone, who was head coach of Louisiana Tech for seven years, had successfully led the program to numerous accolades during her tenure. In 2023, she was named Conference USA Coach of the Year and the Wilson/Intercollegiate Tennis Association Southern Regional Coach of the Year.
“I am incredibly grateful and excited for the opportunity to lead Mean Green tennis,” Stone said in a press release after her hiring. “My family and I are thrilled to be joining the North Texas and Denton community.”
Rodrigo de Almeida, the assistant coach of the women’s tennis team, spoke highly of the new coach.
“Coach Amanda has been doing a great job making sure that we have good communication and that we spend time together,” Almedia said. “For example, after matches, going out for some team meals and different events can bring the team together. So I think all these small little moments have been very important for us to make sure that it’s bringing the team together throughout the year.”
Stone holds credit for setting Louisiana Tech’s program’s all-time wins record at 89-69, showcasing an impressive coaching track record of 175-89 over 11 seasons.
The roster has also changed alongside the coaching staff changed. North Texas has yet to list any seniors this season. The roster features a talented young core with four returning and four freshman players.
Player development will play a big part this season for the Mean Green.
“Especially having four freshmen, it’s very important for us to develop each one of them,” said Almeida. “So just really making sure that both on and off the court, they’re developing their confidence, their ability to lead at different times on the court as a player.”
North Texas faced off against McNeese State University (5-1) Saturday morning, Jan. 27, and Southeastern Oklahoma State (0-1) later in the afternoon at the Waranch Tennis Complex. The Mean Green emerged 1-1 after their two matches to start the spring tennis season.
The Mean Green took an early 1-0 lead against the Cowboys by winning the doubles point. Freshmen Lilly Schultz and Lou Chalard secured a 6-0 victory on court two against McNeese’s Ari Monello Sanchis and Emma-Lou Pommiers. Sophomores Stadfany Nformi and Olivia Halvorsen dominated their doubles match on court 1, earning another 6-0 victory and clinching the doubles point for North Texas.
In singles play, McNeese faired better against the Mean Green. On court three, Anastasija Adeikyte won against North Texas sophomore Olivia Halvorsen 6-3 in the first set and 6-0 in the second.
Nformi defeated McNeese’s Ai Domingo-Bernabeu with scores of 6-3 and 6-2 on court two, winning a valuable singles point for North Texas. Mean Green freshman Lou Chalard narrowly lost in her first set against Emma-Lou Pommiers on court four, with the set ending 6-4. The second set ended 6-0, with another singles point awarded to McNeese.
The first set between North Texas freshman Stanisla Shulzheko and Arin Gamretkaia on court one was an incredible display of skill, ending 7-5 in favor of McNeese. McNeese also won the second set 6-1.
Maria Wang Martinez clinched the overall victory for McNeese on court five against Mean Green freshman Lilly Schultz. Their match went to three sets, with the scores being 6-3 for Schultz in the first and 6-1 for Martinez in the second.
Martinez secured victory in the third set with a score of 6-2 to clinch the fourth and final point McNeese needed to win the contest against North Texas.
In North Texas’ second match of the day against Southeastern Oklahoma, they swept the scoreboard and reveled in their first victory of the season.
Halvorsen and Nformi, the sophomore pair, once again had a solid doubles win on court one, 6-2, over Lou Chen Chen and Sara Gonzalez. Shortly after, Mean Green sophomores Marina Adati and Carolina Laydner won their set 6-0 on court three, securing the doubles point for North Texas.
In both matches of the day, the Mean Green were able to clinch the doubles point and start with a 1-0 lead in the contest.
The singles matches were a dominating performance all around for North Texas. None of the players lost a set in their respective matches.
Nformi, who had a compelling performance against McNeese and Southeastern Oklahoma, went 4-0 on the day through her doubles and singles matches. Nformi won 6-0 in her first set against Georgia Hosking and 6-1 in her second set, easily getting a singles point for the Mean Green.
North Texas freshman Stanislava Shulzhenko won her matchup against Vanessu Nitu by 6-3 in the first and 6-0 in the second set.
The day ended with Laydner beating Larissa Giraldi Correa to clinch North Texas’s final point to secure its first victory of the season.
“If you see the score, it was pretty easy,” said Laydner, “but the first time I was down 2-0, so I think the biggest challenge was getting my mind straight and coming back from that 2-0, and once I got 3-2 up, then everything just went with the flow.”
Laydner won 6-2 in the first set and 6-1 in the second set. She also mentioned how teamwork can be essential.
“I think the energy that everybody gives one another is really important because tennis is a very alone sport, so you’re always alone on the court, but then with the teammates screaming by your side and the coaches, I think the energy just pumps you up, and it’s good to get a win.”
This season, the North Texas team is pursuing numerous goals while navigating the challenges of a fresh coaching staff and integration into a new conference.
“The team has actually come up with a few goals,[…] you know, getting into the rankings again, making sure that we get into the top half of the conference.” Coach Almeida said. “And, you know, but at the end of the day, we just want to kind of get better one match at a time.”
North Texas returns to action on Thursday, Feb. 1, when it hosts New Mexico State at the Waranch Tennis Complex. The first serve is set for 2:00 pm.