To say St. Mary’s women’s tennis coach Lisa Dausin’s first year was a success would be an understatement.  

Even after doubling last year’s win total against an arguably tougher schedule than the season before, she knew a huge challenge remained: replacing four seniors from this year’s regular rotation. However, it appears she has managed to succeed on that front as well, signing five players with big-time championship experience.

Headlining the class is sophomore transfer Mariana Rong (from Division I Arkansas State) who, as a senior at O’Connor High School in San Antonio, won the 2011 Texas 5A State Singles Championship.  Originally from China, Rong found her place on the courts in San Antonio and looks forward to coming back to her “second home” to both compete for the Ratters and take advantage of all St. Mary’s has to offer scholastically.

“Since I am pursuing a health professional career, a strong academic background is very important,” Rong said. “St. Mary’s is the best place for me to have both academics and tennis.”

Joining Rong on the team will be another sophomore transfer with San Antonio ties. Felicity Delgado (transferring from Abilene Christian University) played her high school tennis for Judson High School, winning the 2011 Region IV-5A Doubles Championship to advance to the state tournament.  As a freshman at Abilene Christian, Delgado contributed to the No. 6-ranked Wildcats’ success, posting a 6-0 record in singles. Dausin hopes Delgado’s experience of playing big-time tennis and national championship tournament experience will pay off for the team over the coming years.

Rounding out the transfers is junior Ariana Saldana (from Tyler Junior College), who lost only nine games on her way to winning her flight at the NJCAA National Championships.  Her tournament victory along with a semifinal appearance in doubles helped Tyler Junior College secure its third straight national team championship. To Dausin, that national championship experience Saldana brings to the team is invaluable. 

“Having lost four senior girls this past year,” said Dausin, “it was critical to not only to recruit a strong player, but to bring a player who obviously not only knows how to win, but expects to.  She has done nothing in Tyler but win.”

Along with the transfers, Dausin also signed two incoming freshmen with state tournament experience. 

Cristina Lopez of Reagan High School, a three-star recruit from San Antonio, advanced to the 2012 Texas State 5A quarterfinal in singles. 

“Cristina brings immeasurable depth into the lineup,” gushed Dausin. “While she is small in stature, she has a huge court presence.” 

Rounding out the class is Joanie Bryant of Churchill High School in San Antonio, a talented incoming freshman who advanced to the state doubles quarterfinals her senior year.  Dausin anticipates Bryant “will be a versatile doubles partner who can more than hold her own on the singles court as well.”

Dausin added: “Cristina and Joanie actually were doubles partners playing USTA tennis in their younger years. I’ll be curious to see if those two happen to end up together on the same side of the net.”

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