April 16, 2014
In parts three and four of our “getting to know” series; we sit down with one of the closest tandems on and off the court in freshman Tina Rupert and sophomore Maria Cardenas.
Not only have the two combined to go 8-4 as a doubles team this year, they also are roommates and two of the best players the Houston tennis program has seen in years.
Rupert is off to a 22-6 start in singles play this season, while she’s also won a team-leading nine consecutive matches and 18 of her last 19 sets. She’s also clinched six of the Cougars’ last 14 match victories. If the season today, her .850 dual match winning percentage would be tied for fourth on the school’s all-time single-season dual match win percentage list.
Cardenas is 20-10 in singles action this spring, while she’s gone 14-7 in dual play, going 7-3 from the No. 3 spot.
The Rupert/ Cardenas combination represents two of Houston’s 20-match winners this season. Before this year, the Cougars hadn’t claimed even one 20-match winner in over six years.
It’s time to meet Tina Rupert and Maria Cardenas:
UHCougars.com: So now that we know you both are roommates, who is the messiest roommate of the two?
Cardenas: (laughing) I think it’s a tie. We’re both messy. Our room is a complete mess.
UHCougars.com: Tina, what’s Maria’s worst habit?
Rupert: You’re trying to get me in trouble here, but I’d definitely say doing the dishes. Sorry Maria, it’s true though.
UHCougars.com: Maria, what’s Tina’s worst habit?
Cardenas: First of all, I actually agree. I should probably do a better job with the dishes. I’m not sure Tina, what do you do? Oh, you know what, she never makes her bed. After she sleeps her bed sheets are always in a pile. It’s almost like a hurricane came through. It cracks me up.
Rupert: (laughing) Yeah, I’d say that’s pretty accurate. I mean, who cares though? As long as I sleep well, that’s all I care about.
UHCougars.com: What has been your guys’ favorite moment of the season thus far?
Cardenas: For me it has to be when we beat Tulsa and earned that top-25 ranking. That was a tough match, one of the most exciting I’ve ever played in.
Rupert: I really liked the match a few weeks ago against DePaul. I think that was my favorite because to us, I think it pretty much solidified our spot in the NCAA Tournament. Now we can just go out and play with no pressure and hopefully go chase down that conference championship.
UHCougars.com: Now that you guys feel you have earned that at-large big in the NCAA Tournament, what’s your guys’ goal moving forward?
Cardenas: Making NCAA’s was definitely our biggest goal coming in, but now it’s time to dream bigger. I’ve said it before; I think if we play our best, we can make the Sweet Sixteen.
Rupert: I agree with Maria. I think we just want to win on every court, in every match, and in every round. It’s as simple as that.
UHCougars.com: Maria, multiple teammates have said you’re the best dancer on this team. Would you agree with that?
Cardenas: (laughing) Yeah, I think I would agree. I mean maybe I’m not the best dancer, but I’ll definitely dance to anything at any time to any beat. I think everyone would agree with that.
Rupert: (laughing) Yeah that’s definitely a good way to put it. She’s a good dancer, but I think she’s also the funniest person on the team.
UHCougars.com: Is she funny because she’s a good dance or a bad one?
Rupert: No, no, she’s definitely good. It’s just…well…different. I think that’s why it’s funny.
UHCougars.com: Has she taught you any moves?
Rupert: Oh god no! I don’t want to learn those moves.
UHCougars.com: What’s your guys’ favorite music to listen to?
Cardenas: I love Spanish music, but it depends what mood I’m in. I actually like Tango too. I also like rock and dance.
Rupert: I’d say pop music is my favorite. Definitely not rock or techno, that’s just not me. I know a lot of other people like it.
UHCougars.com: What’s been your guys’ favorite part about being in American so far?
Rupert: I’d say the weather and my teammates. I love my teammates. Back home I would practice with my coach and maybe one other person, but here we are all together and we all live together. I love it!
Cardenas: I just really enjoy the entire college experience. I really love it, just being away from home and being my own person. Being with this team has just been amazing. It’s been an amazing season so far, and I hope the next two years are just as good!
UHCougars.com: Alright let’s see how well you know each other now. Tina, what do you think Maria’s favorite thing to do outside of tennis is?
Rupert: Studying for sure! She studies more than anyone I know. It’s crazy that she actually likes it.
Cardenas: (laughing) Yeah she’s right. I’m such a nerd!
UHCougars.com: What’s Tina’s favorite thing to do outside of tennis?
Cardenas: She likes watching movies and basically just chilling. Every time I ask her if she wants to watch a movie, I know she’s up for it.
UHCougars.com: What’s your favorite movie?
Rupert: The Notebook. That’s easy.
UHCougars.com: If you guys could live the life of one person on the team just for a day, who would it be?
Cardenas: Coach Wooten for sure. I would love to be in that coaching position and have to deal some of the pressures of playing. There is obviously a lot of pressure in coaching too, but I’d like to try and help another player succeed on the court. It would be fun to look at things from an outsider’s perspective.
Rupert: I would be Celia (Fraser). I want to know what it would be like to be a senior playing in your final season with so much on the line.
UHCougars.com: Maria, what’s been the funniest movement of the season?
Cardenas: It was a few matches ago against DePaul when Elena (Kordolaimi) was trying to make that big comeback to clinch the match for us. Coach (Patrick Sullivan) just bounced up after a big point and pumped his fists as hard as I’ve ever seen him. It was so hilarious, even he laughed about it afterwards.
UHCougars.com: Tina, if you could play any sport besides tennis, would it be?
Rupert: I think it would be volleyball. I used to play it a lot. Plus, most importantly, I’m tall!
UHCougars.com: What are your guys’ biggest career goals after you graduate?
Cardenas: I want to play in some professional tournaments and well in tennis, but if I get out of tennis I would like to go to graduate school and become a physical therapist.
Rupert: I’d like to play in some professional tournaments as well, but if tennis doesn’t work out I would really like to work in the hotel industry.
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