Bucs face Furman Saturday with SoCon regular season title at stake
Bucs face Furman Saturday with SoCon regular season title at stake
Friday, April 14, 2023

ETSU women’s tennis aims to dethrone Paladins in battle of unbeatens

GREENVILLE, S.C. (April 14, 2023) – The ETSU women’s tennis team has a prime opportunity to make history on Saturday, April 15 as the Bucs will battle Furman in Greenville, S.C. at 11 a.m. The winner will be crowned the Southern Conference regular season champion.

The Bucs and Paladins head into the regular season finale with matching 6-0 records in conference play. The victor will not only win the regular season championship but will also earn the top seed in next week’s SoCon Championships in Chattanooga. The loser on Saturday will be locked into the No. 2 seed.

Furman is the six-time defending conference champion and has won 50 straight conference matches dating back to April 18, 2015. The last team to defeat Furman in a regular season conference match? ETSU.

This prestigious rivalry is nothing new. ETSU and Furman have battled in the SoCon championship final in each of the last five tournaments, with Furman winning each time. In 2016, ETSU lost the regular season battle, but won the ultimate prize by defeating Samford for the SoCon championship and advancing to the NCAA tournament to face No. 3 North Carolina. In total, ETSU has won 10 conference championships — one SoCon tournament, five Atlantic Sun (ASUN) regular season titles and four ASUN tournament titles.



ETSU is 16-6 overall and 6-0 in league matches, owning an impressive 33-3 record in SoCon singles matches and an 11-7 record in SoCon doubles.

The Bucs won the six SoCon matches by a combined score of 38-4, including a 7-0 sweep in Tuesday’s win over Western Carolina in Cullowhee. The Blue & Gold have won four straight matches and seven of the last eight. The Bucs also own a perfect 7-0 record at home this season.

Leading from the top is reigning SoCon Student-Athlete of the Week Laylo Bakhodirova (Tashkent, Uzbekistan). The senior ace has won the award three times — the first ETSU athlete to do so — while owning the most SoCon Player of the Week awards among active players with seven in her career. She is also the reigning back-to-back SoCon Player of the Month for February and March and has quite the resume for a potential SoCon Player of the Year bid. This season, she owns an impressive 16-3 record in top flight singles and a 14-6 record in top flight doubles alongside partner Mariya Shumeika (Minsk, Belarus). Shumeika typically plays the No. 2 spot and has nine singles wins in that spot this season.

In doubles, sophomore Daniela Rivera (Maturin, Venezuela) and redshirt junior Maria Fernanda Carvajal (Queretaro, Mexico) have impressed all season from the No. 2 spot with a 14-4 overall record and a perfect 5-0 record in the SoCon. The pair ride a six-match win streak, while Rivera leads the Bucs with a nine-match singles win streak. Rivera is 17-3 in singles, toggling between Court 4 and Court 5, while Carvajal is 13-6 with most of her matches on Court 3.

Bakhodirova, Carvajal and Rivera are all 6-0 in SoCon singles this season and are joined by sophomore Ralitsa Alexandrova (Sofia, Bulgaria) with a perfect 5-0 singles record against the league. Alexandrova is also 13-4 overall with nine matches from the No. 5 spot and eight from the No. 6 spot.

A couple of graduating players hunting a SoCon title in their final season — alongside Bakhodirova and Shumeika — are Emilia Alfaro (Azul, Argentina) and Yunuen Elizarraras (Cuernavaca, Mexico). Both players have winning records in singles, combining for 13 wins. Alfaro has played the No. 2-4 spots this season with most of her wins coming at No. 4 singles, while Elizarraras is 5-4 on Court 6 and won her lone match on Court 5.

The contending Bucs are led by Coach Ricky Rojas, who won his 100th career match as a head coach last month against UNCG. Rojas’ squad has been ranked twice this season in the ITA ratings. As a team, the Bucs own an 82-39 record in singles matches and a 34-23 record in doubles. The Bucs are also 33-3 in singles action against SoCon opponents.



On the other side of the court are the prestigious Paladins, who are currently 10-11 overall and 6-0 in SoCon matches. Furman is at risk of its first overall record below .500 since 2015.

Furman, who ranked as high as No. 19 in 2022, seek their 26th regular season title on Saturday.

Last time out, Furman earned a tightly-contested 4-3 victory over Mercer. The Paladins won the doubles point and secured singles victories in the third, fifth and sixth flights.

Furman's top doubles team of Jess Dawson and Sara Snyder ranks 71st nationally. The pair are 10-9 overall and 5-1 in conference matches. In singles, Furman is led by Madison Dillon with a 14-6 record, including a 10-1 record in the No. 5 spot. Snyder is also 10-7 overall in singles and rides a four-match win streak.



Furman leads the series with a 36-1 record. ETSU will look to reverse history with its first win over Furman since April 12, 2015 — a match won by a 5-2 final in Greenville.



Next week, ETSU will compete in the SoCon Women’s Tennis Championship Tournament set for April 20-22 in Chattanooga. 

For the latest information on Buccaneer women’s tennis, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the women’s tennis page.