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ASU women's tennis hopes Argyrokastriti returning is solution to mid-season woes

The Sun Devils have yet to compete with their original starting lineup in conference competition, and Marianna Argyrokastriti may help increase the team's winning chances

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ASU Sophomore Giulia Morlet serves the ball during a doubles match against USC at the Whiteman Tennis Center on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021.

When heading into conference play earlier this month, ASU women's tennis was poised as Pac-12 championship contenders at No. 17 in the country, just one spot behind UCLA, according to the March 2 International Tennis Association rankings.  

However, now halfway through conference competition, No. 32 ASU now sits at ninth place in the Pac-12 after going 1-4 due to injuries and a grueling schedule against high-level competition.

The team welcomed back sophomore Marianna Argyrokastriti in play against Rice University last week from an ankle injury that has kept her sidelined since Feb. 12. 

In that matchup, ASU secured the doubles point over nationally ranked, No. 25 Diae El Jardi and junior Maria Budin, and in single's play, secured three more victories to defeat Rice. The team did not finish the last three single's matchups as they had already secured the win, 4-0. 

"It felt great just not being on the sidelines and actually being able to help the team," Argyrokastriti said. "I'm just very grateful to be able to just come back here."

Although Argyrokastriti came back, senior Domenika Turkovic said the team felt immense pressure after she went down.

"I feel like it was a wake-up call for everyone, and we just knew we had to take care of our court," Turkovic said. 

ASU opened the season at 4-2 with Argyrokastriti slotted at the four spot but went 4-4 while she watched from the sideline.  

The Sun Devils in that time, had to turn to sophomore Natasha Hill who performed well in doubles, but went 0-6 in singles while filling in for Argyrokastriti at the six spot. 

"She's been struggling to get a point for the team so the other girls put more pressure on themselves and feel like they need to step up which is a good thing, but it can be very mentally draining," Argyrokastriti said. 

Although Hill struggled, senior Cali Jankowski and freshman Patricija Spaka proved themselves as reliable options on the court. Spaka and Jankowski each went 6-1 in singles after they both moved up a spot in singles. 

Now, head coach Sheila McInerney hopes that her team is back on track after they took a break from Pac-12 competition with a home sweep against No. 49 Rice last Saturday.

"I think we just played tough teams," McInerney said on ASU's midseason woes. "These matches are razor-thin, really razor-thin."

The victory over Rice broke the Sun Devils' three-game road losing streak when they faced No. 13 UCLA and No. 17 USC in back-to-back days followed up by a 4-3 loss to No. 45 University of Oregon. 

"We probably could have went up there and won but we didn't," McInerney said. "And USC, UCLA … on the road is really, really difficult."

The final stretch of the season won't get much easier for ASU, which has now fallen out of the top-25 in the country. The team's next two matches come against California followed by Stanford at home. 

"No matter if we win or lose we give everything we got and everyone is really doing it right now," Turkovic said. 

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