Women’s tennis team bringing expectations, hype into 2014 season
Batta, Josifoska look for individual, team success in Spring
The 2013 Mountain West Champion UNLV women’s tennis team will begin its title defense on the road.
So, of course their confidence is high.
“I think our goal every year is to try to win another conference championship and try to get in the NCAA Tournament,” said head coach Kevin Cory. “Anything short of that is a bit of a disappointment for us.”
The Rebels begin their 2014 campaign ranked No. 50 in the nation after finishing 20-8 last year. A trip back to the NCAA Tournament would mark UNLV’s second straight appearance and seven trips in the last eight seasons, but a run at the tournament will rely on stellar seasons from UNLV’s dynamic seniors Lucia Batta and Aleksandra Josifoska.
Batta is ranked No. 29 in the country after a second career ITA Mountain Region Singles championship in 2013. She won her first round match in the NCAA singles tournament, ending a 12-year drought for UNLV.
Batta finished her fall season with an individual record of 11-3, and concluded her breakout year in the USTA/ITA National Indoor Collegiate Championships in New York. The tournament not only brought Batta heaps of attention on the national stage, but also gave her confidence heading into 2014.
“Experience wise, it’s just the best,” Batta said. “I played against really good players in New York and All-Americans, and the Regionals helped me a lot with my confidence.”
Batta feels that her new-found swagger carried her to new heights last season, and it could propel her even higher in 2014.
“I think most of it was mentally,” Batta said. “I was even shocked by myself, because I was just so into the game. I just couldn’t lose, you know? I was like, ‘there’s no way I’m going to lose this game.’”
Batta isn’t the only one with high expectations. Cory, entering his 15th year as UNLV’s head coach as the reigning Mountain Region Coach of the Year, sees the potential this year could bring for Batta.
“We certainly want [Batta] to finish getting into the NCAA individual tournament and she has a very good chance of being the Mountain West Player of the Year with her ranking,” Cory said.
If Batta is to do that, she’ll have to beat out the reigning conference’s Player of the Year, fellow teammate Josifoska, ranked No. 3 in the region.
“Since it’s my last semester, I’m just going to try and give my best and my main goal is to help out the team as much as I can, and I come second,” Josifoska said.
Josifoska feels that it is her duty, along with Batta, to leave a legacy at UNLV by preparing younger players before they graduate.
“We are going to be gone, so we try to leave as much as we can so they can do better on their own after we are gone,” Josifoska said. “We try to lead by example, just show them how it’s done and what they are supposed to do.”
Batta and Josifoska also make up the second-ranked doubles team in the region, and were the first doubles team to finish the season in the top-100 in UNLV history last year.
After hosting the Freeman Memorial Championships, which included juggernaut tennis programs such as Florida, North Carolina and UCLA, Cory believes his team is well prepared to kick off the season in Berkeley, Calif.
“When you play these teams they’re good, but they’re not unbeatable,” Cory said. “I think it gives us a good sense of, with some hard work, good effort and good attitude, we can be one of these elite teams.”