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So far, so good for top USF player at state tournament

For the first time in her college career, USF women’s tennis standout Irene Rehberger was selected to play in the NCAA Singles Championships.

The junior from Spain did not disappoint in her opening-round match, defeating University of San Francisco freshman Jenni Heinser, 6-2, 5-7, 6-2, on Wednesday in Athens, Ga.

“Coming into the championships, I knew that every match was going to be a fight because these are the best college players in the country,” Rehberger said. “I felt good (Wednesday), but I’m disappointed that I didn’t close the match out in two sets. It was a hard match, and we were both very tired at the end, but it is a great feeling to get the win.”

Heinser, ranked No. 105 in the country, had No. 45 Rehberger running after shots all afternoon, but USF’s top player found a strategy that worked.

“My forehand was really strong (Wednesday),” Rehberger said. “So I tried to get myself into position to hit my forehand to (Heinser’s) backhand for most of the match, and it worked very well for me.”

Rehberger is now 11-10 in singles matches this season, with each coming against USF’s opponent’s best player.

Wednesday’s triumph moved Rehberger into the second round where she now faces one of the toughest matches of her career. Today, she will step on the court against the No. 2 player in the country, University of California freshman Jana Juricova.

“Facing the No. 2 player in the nation is a great opportunity for me,” Rehberger said. “It is going to be difficult, but I feel that I have nothing to lose and (Juricova) has everything to lose, so I am going to be very aggressive and really go for the win.”

In addition to her singles match today, Rehberger will also partner with Bulls senior Melissa Koning in the opening round of the doubles tournament.

The Rehberger-Koning tandem finished with a 12-7 record this season, earning them the No. 19 doubles ranking in the country.

“We have worked all year to get to this point,” Koning said. “Irene and I played together all season and communicate extremely well. We are very supportive of one another and bring lots of energy to each match. I really can’t wait for this tournament to start.”

Koning competed in the 2008 NCAA Doubles Championships when she attended Auburn and lost in the second round. The senior hopes to win at least two matches in her last college tournament, which would earn her and Rehberger All-America honors.

“I have been training so hard and really want to finish my college career on a good note,” Koning said. “We just want to build on what we have been working on all season and continue to have success.”