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RIO GRANDE VALLEY – The 2024 spring season did not go quite as the team had hoped for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) women’s tennis team, but it was still beneficial in unique ways.

The Vaqueros have struggled in some areas where they excelled last season, particularly in doubles play and winning close games. But the program's positive and determined culture has never faded, and even in the tough moments, UTRGV has created many highlights.

“Our team has shown its best attitude and commitment all season long,” said head coach West Nott said. “We would have liked to have been a bit more consistent and better able to overcome adversity in critical moments. We won a few combative 4-3 games at the beginning of the season, but in the end we just couldn't hold on to the important double point. The great thing is that the team never gave up. They kept looking for answers until the end and made the most of the cards they were dealt.”

After losing the season opener, UTRGV won four straight games, including three straight road games. The Vaqueros earned a signature 4-3 win over Houston, defeating the Cougars for the first time ever and earning a major win over a Power Five opponent. They used that momentum to earn a 4-1 win over UTEP, defeating the Miners for the first time since 2008.

“The win against Houston was the highlight of the year. Seeing the joy on everyone's faces when we pulled off the upset was priceless. We won in the most dramatic way and we will all remember that for the rest of our lives,” Nott recalled. “The win showed us that we are capable of playing at a high level and that great teamwork can make special things possible when we are extremely positive about ourselves.”

The rest of the season was full of ups and downs. The Vaqueros countered a three-game losing streak with a three-game winning streak to start the WAC season, but then lost their first five conference games. They could have discouraged themselves and considered the season a lost one, but instead they showed their resilience and picked up two important 5-2 road wins to close out the regular season. They gave it their all in the final game of the season, the quarterfinals of the WAC tournament.

The fourth-year lead kept the team in check and fought through the ups and downs Isabelle Bahr And Lea Karren. They have been incredible role models for their teammates throughout their careers and have enriched the program with success on and off the field. This season in particular, they have shined through hard work, selflessness, high energy and accountability.

“We were very fortunate to have Izzy and Lea join our program four years ago. The team rallied behind them. These two ladies have put us in a tremendous position to succeed, connecting with the community and promoting our tennis program. We are truly proud that they have been such great ambassadors for our program and that has been a bright spot that we never wanted to end. We wish them the best of luck in the next step in their lives.”

No one stood out in the competition as dominant as Junior Marjorie Souza. She quickly established herself in the No. 1 singles group as she posted a 15-4 record in first place and went 5-2 in conference play, earning her All-WAC Second Team honors in singles for the third consecutive year. Souza and Bahr formed UTRGV's best doubles team, going 8-6 on the doubles season and 3-3 in first place WAC play. Souza totaled 27 wins this spring.

Marjorie Souza deserves a ton of praise for her progress over the last three years,” Nott said. “She had an outstanding year as No. 1 singles and had the team's best doubles match record at the toughest spot. She was top-notch all year and raised her game when it counted most. She has an exceptional character and saw every problem as an opportunity to get better.”

Another student-athlete who had his big break in 2024 was sophomore Yaiza Vazquez. She had the team's second-best singles record, going 13-7 in the spring, including 4-3 in WAC play. She held the fourth spot with an 11-5 record and picked up eight doubles victories. Vazquez showed off her powerful stroke and ability to get through matches in her sophomore season and is ready to take on a leadership role for the team next year.

Junior transfer Crystal Dule showed a ton of potential in her first season at UTRGV. She got off to a good start, winning four straight to start the spring and finishing her first season in Division I with a respectable 9-10 record. She showed good resilience and a competitive spirit that will allow her to carry a bigger load next season.

Although this spring has brought its fair share of adversity to UTRGV women's tennis, the Vaqueros have also learned some tough lessons. Those lessons will be valuable as a new chapter begins and Nott is excited about what's to come.

“Part of the sport is getting through the early struggles and knowing how to handle pressure in the future. We learned this season that we don't like losing 4-3, and the margins in tennis are so small,” Nott said. “College tennis is truly a team sport and we're going to work hard to have more special team moments in the future. Three of the four players who helped us beat Houston are coming back and they've learned a whole lot this year about themselves and how to help the team be their best.”

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