Northwestern State aims for fifth straight win against Xavier of Louisiana

CUTLINE: Polina Mutel leads the Lady Demons into a match against No. 3 (NAIA) Xavier of Louisiana CREDIT: Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services

By Jonathon Zenk, NSU Sports Information

NATCHITOCHES—Northwestern State’s Lady Demon tennis team tries to win its fifth straight Saturday when Xavier (New Orleans), ranked third nationally in the NAIA women’s tennis poll, visits the Jack Fisher Tennis Complex Saturday at 11 a.m.

“We’re very fortunate to schedule a very tough Xavier team,” head coach Patric DuBois said. “They’ll come up here and we’ll have a solid match against them. I feel, top to bottom, they’re about as good of an NAIA team as there is in the country.”

The Lady Demons (4-1) are coming off a 4-2 comeback win at Texas State last Sunday. After losing the first two singles matches at Nos. 1 and 2, the rest of the rotation picked up the slack, winning the rest of the matches with only one needing three sets.

Those spots have been money for the Lady Demons this season, as the Nos. 3-6 spots have combined to go 14-0 during the four-match winning streak. Those positions are 15-3 overall. The depth has pleased DuBois.

“Once again our Nos. 3-6 came through against Texas State,” he said. “They played well under pressure after we went down 0-2. You can imagine how Rhea (Verma) and Pati (Polanska) probably felt after being in the first matches after going down 0-2. They both played well, and then we continued with Ela (Iwaniuk) and Judit (Castillo Gargallo) as well.”

Since losing a heartbreaking three-set thriller at Tulane, sophomore Patrycja Polanska has gone undefeated in her four matches, winning three and not finishing one. All of her wins in this stretch have come in straight sets.

“We’ve been very pleased with how Pati is progressing right now,” DuBois said. “She’s a good player, and one of Pati’s strengths is her tenacity and how she can just run all day out there. And besides that, she has a pretty solid all-court game. She has kept more balls in play and being patient and it’s paid off for her.”

In addition to being on a roll and doubles, Polanska and doubles partner Rhea Verma have won all four of their doubles contests, helping the Lady Demons winning the doubles point in every match. The pairing played against LSU-Alexandria at the No. 1 doubles and dominated 6-0 against Marie Cool and Miljana Milojevic.

“I’m very aggressive at the net and she is very good in the back,” Polanska said. “We just know each other very well and she knows what I can do and I know what she can do.”

Much like Polanska, junior Ela Iwaniuk has dominated competition since a tough three-set defeat at Tulane. The Konarskie, Poland, native has won her last four matches and none of the sets have been closer than 6-3.

The only undefeated player for the Lady Demons is junior Judit Castillo Gargallo, who has won all five matches. Against Tulane’s Alex Alegre and again against Texas State’s Andrea Fuchs, she dropped the first set, but bounced back to take the next two sets to win each match.

The Gold Nuggets (2-2) come in after clobbering Loyola (New Orleans) 7-0 last Sunday. Like NSU, XULA also played Texas State, and beat the Bobcats 4-3 in late January.

NSU travels to Denton, Texas, Feb. 22 to take on North Texas next, and will return home to start conference play March 1 against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.