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Women’s Tennis to Open ITA Kickoff Weekend Versus Loyola Marymount

Women’s Tennis to Open ITA Kickoff Weekend Versus Loyola Marymount

MALIBU, Calif. – The LSU women’s tennis team (2-0) will open their campaign in the 2024 ITA Kickoff Weekend when they take on the Loyola Marymount Lions at 3 p.m. CT on Friday, January 26, at the Ralphs-Straus Tennis Center on the campus of Pepperdine University.

Following Friday’s match, the Tigers will compete against either No. 7 Pepperdine or San Diego State at 12 p.m. CT or 3 p.m. CT on Saturday.

Loyola Marymount (Jan. 26)
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ITA Kickoff Weekend
The 15th annual ITA Kickoff Weekend features 60 of the nation’s top teams spread out across 15 host sites, four teams at each site. Teams that win both of their matches at each host site will advance to the prestigious ITA National Indoor Championship in Seattle, Washington which takes place beginning on February 9.

LSU was drawn into Pepperdine’s bracket as the No. 2 seed, joining the hosts, Loyola Marymount and San Diego State. Pepperdine and San Diego State will face off at 10 a.m. CT on Friday ahead of LSU’s match, with the winners from each match facing off on Saturday at 3 p.m. CT while the losers face off 10 a.m. CT that same day.

Notes on Loyola Marymount
Friday will mark the first time that LSU and Loyola Marymount will face off in a dual match. The Los Angeles, California university competes in the West Coast Conference alongside host school Pepperdine. The team finished the 2022-23 season with a 15-7 record.

The Lions have contested only one dual match this spring, a 7-0 defeat at then-No. 21 USC last week. Isabella Tcherkes-Zade leads the way in singles with an 8-4 record dating back to the fall, narrowly trailed by a 7-3 record from Stefania Rogozinska-Dzik.

Last Time Out
LSU opened the 2024 dual season last Saturday inside the LSU Tennis Complex with an in-state doubleheader. The Tigers defeated Louisiana Tech by a score of 5-2 to open the day and concluded it with a 6-1 win over Southeastern Louisiana in the evening. The matches featured Florentine Dekkers, Kinaa Graham, Anita Sahdiieva, Maya Tahan and Aran Teixidó Garcia pick up their first dual match win as LSU Tigers while Kenna Erickson picked up her first collegiate win in the match against Southeastern Louisiana.

Tiger Tidbits
Kinaa Graham, a freshman from Austin, Texas, was a blue-chip recruit and the state’s top prospect for the Class of 2023. She hit the ground running to get her collegiate career started in the fall portion of the season. She led the Tigers in the fall with a 12-5 singles record over four ITA tournaments of play. Graham went 2-1 at the River Oaks Invitational in Houston before going 5-1 at the ITA All-American Championships, only narrowly falling in the final qualifying match, and posting the same record at the ITA Southern Regional only days later, finishing as the singles runner-up. She concluded her fall season by traveling to the ITA National Fall Championships, dropping two matches in singles against some of the nation’s best.

In addition to her success in singles, Graham also finished the ITA Southern Regional as a runner-up in doubles alongside Anita Sahdiieva. The duo won four matches to reach the final and were defeated in three sets by Mississippi State’s Alexandra Mikhailuk and Athina Pitta, 1-6, 7-5, 10-5.

Outside of ITA tournaments, multiple Tigers had success in the fall competing in different professional tournaments. Sahdiieva claimed her second ITF doubles title in 2023 in October as her and partner Connie Chieh-Yu Hsu were crowned champions at the ITF Jackson 15K.

In singles, Florentine Dekkers ended her fall by claiming the singles title in the UTR professional tournament held at the LSU Tennis Complex in early December. Dekkers bested multiple foes, including teammates Aran Teixidó Garcia and Graham, along the way.

The Tigers have one player ranked by the ITA in their singles rankings. Graham checked in at No. 56 in the latest singles rankings after her 12-5 record in ITA tournaments in the fall.

Squad Outlook
The 2024 LSU women’s tennis team features 11 athletes, nine of which are newcomers to Baton Rouge, on a roster that boasts a balance of experience and youth. Kylie Collins, a senior in her second year as a Tiger, and Caroline Arnold, a sophomore, are the two returners to the squad.

Graduate students Maya Tahan, a former four-year starter at the University of Miami, and Aran Teixidó Garcia, a former four-year starter at the University of Memphis, bring experience to the squad as upperclassmen. Juniors Florentine Dekkers, a player who played at the top courts for two seasons at Kansas State, Gaby Rivera, who spent the 2023 season in Miami alongside Tahan, and Anita Sahdiieva, a two-year starter at Baylor, join the fold with experience at the college level and will look to take their games to the next level. Four freshmen round out the squad, with Kinaa Graham, Emma Grant and Carina Holguin entering their first dual seasons after spending the fall with the team while Kenna Erickson joined up with the team only earlier this month.

Of the 11 players, six hail from the United States while five come from abroad. Erickson, Graham and Holguin come from the state of Texas, Arnold and Grant from Metairie and Gretna, Louisiana respectively, and Collins coming the way from Savannah, Georgia. Internationally, four of the five players come from Europe. Dekkers comes from the Netherlands, Sahdiieva from Ukraine, Tahan from Israel and Garcia from Spain. Rivera, the remaining international, hails from Guatemala.

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