Islanders open season on the road against Rice

The Texas A&M - Corpus Christi women's tennis team will open its 2011 season on Tuesday afternoon when they travel to Houston for a matchup against the Rice Owls. The match is set for a 2 p.m. start at Jack Hess Stadium on the Rice campus.

The Islanders are coming off the best Southland Conference finish in school history and will look to continue improving their standing against the top of the league. They garnered their highest-ever seed in the conference tournament last season, finishing sixth in the standings before falling to No. 3 seed Texas State in the first round of the Southland Conference Tennis Championships.

Mirna Cicak, Texas A&M - Corpus Christi's No. 1 singles player from a year ago, returns for her junior season. She finished 11-6 last season, including a 5-4 mark in Southland Conference play while battling an injury. Fully healthy, Cicak should contend as one of the top singles players in the league. She will be forced to miss the opening match of the year as she is currently recovering from the flu.

"Of course we will miss Mirna, she's a very valuable member of our team," said Director of Tennis Steve Moore. "I have a lot of confidence in these other girls. It's a good opportunity for our team to show character and bond together.

"We talk all the time about two things, staying in the present and only focusing on the things we can control. What really matters is that whoever is on the court plays with incredible tenacity and spirit and I'm very confident we will do just that."

Other returnees are seniors Nadia Filmalter and Bianca Discordia as well as sophomores Doris Kuselj and LeAnne Mascall. Kuselj finished her 2010 season with a 14-2 record as a freshman at the No. 2 position while Discordia played primarily the No. 3 spot, finishing 6-8 at the position as well as 9-10 overall.

Sophomore Mia Matuszak, a transfer from Texas Tech, and freshmen Sandra Burges, Stefania Nicolae and Ashley Garza round out the team as newcomers.

The Islanders will be going up against a Rice team that features seven returners from the No. 48-ranked team in the nation a year ago. They will be led by Rebekah Hanle, the returning No. 1 Owls player from their successful 2010 campaign. While they must find replacements for the No. 2 and No. 5 positions, Rice returns the other four singles players from their regular lineup.

"Rice is a very good team that we have a lot of respect for," said Moore. "So we have to do a very good job at the things we can control today."

Following the season-opening match, the Islanders will not play again until Friday, January 28 when they take on league opponent Central Arkansas in Dallas. Match time is set for 6 p.m. that evening.