Fresh faces make Lady Lion debut

Margaux Kaltenbacher

The Lion’s Roar / Jay Love
Sophomore Margaux Kaltenbacher was successful early on into the Eagles Nest Invitational. The Switzerland native finished with a 2-1 record.

Lady Lions tennis kicked off their fall season this past weekend when they competed in the Eagles Nest Invitational, hosted by The University of Southern Mississippi.

The tournament, which began Friday, Sept. 19 and concluded a day later, featured several in-state teams. The Lady Lions faced teams from the University of Louisiana-Monroe, University of Louisiana-Lafayette and Northwestern State University, as well as the host team USM. 

Only four members from the Lady Lions squad had experienced collegiate play upon entering the tournament. Of those members with experience, Renee Villarreal is the only upperclassman and looks to captain the young team. 

Villarreal had a standout season last year. She earned an All-Southland Conference nod in singles competition last season and was named the 2013-14 Southeastern Female Athlete of the Year. The junior from Mexico began the tournament on a high note with a victory in straight sets against Amy Olivier of ULM. Villarreal’s went on to fall in the quarterfinals of flight A. Despite this loss, Villarreal proceeded to win the remainder of her matches in her consolation bracket.

Also returning this year for the Lady Lions is sophomore Margaux Kaltenbacher. The Switzerland native put on an impressive performance of her own in flight E. Kaltenbacher defeated her opponent from ULL in the first round. Although Kaltenbacher would be defeated in the following round, she went on to win her consolation match 6-0, 6-0.

Avika Sagwal had her share of success for Southeastern in the tournament. Sagwal joins Villarreal and Kaltenbacher as the only members of the team who are not freshmen. The sophomore from India suffered a defeat in her opening matchup against Claudia Castella from USM, but finished strong in a victory on the final day of the tournament. 

The freshmen making their Lady Lions debut are Lucia Bustamante, Natalie Duran, Dany Raygadas and Madina Vorotnikova. They took time to gain their first win of their young Southeastern careers. 

“We’re a young team, so there’s no doubt we’ll make some mistakes. The key is that we learn from those mistakes,” said head coach Jason Hayes in an interview with lionsports.net.

It may have taken Vorotnikova an extra set, but she was victorious in her first match when she defeated Juliette Clement of ULL 7-6, 2-6, 10-3. Vorotnikova lost her following match, but won her subsequent consolation match. 

No other Lady Lion won their opening match, but there were still positives to be taken away from the tournament. The entire team went undefeated in singles competition on the final day of the tournament. 

“Everyone had a great attitude and fought hard, which is all we ask for. We’ve made some mistakes, but we’re smart enough to learn from them, and I look forward to seeing how we improve as the fall season progresses,” said Hayes.

The Lady Lions will next see action Friday, Sept. 26 when they travel to Natchitoches to compete in the Lady Demon Invitational.