FAYETTEVILLE - The 32nd-ranked Razorback women's tennis team returns home this weekend for its next three matches against North Texas, Oklahoma State and No. 53 Kansas State. The team is fresh off its appearance at the ITA Kickoff at Northwestern where the team split its weekend matches with No. 29 Nebraska and No. 58 Dartmouth. The win against Dartmouth was its second of the season and gives the team some momentum heading into the three matches this weekend.
"I think the tournament was just a story of how our doubles play went," head coach Michael Hegarty said. "Against Nebraska our doubles let us down a little bit and it ended up being the difference in the result of the whole match. Against Dartmouth, we picked it up a lot in doubles and that certainly carried over into singles where we played our best tennis of the semester so far."
During the tournament, Arkansas struggled early against the Cornhuskers losing all three doubles matches and then only winning two of six singles matches. However, the team did an about face on day two, sweeping the doubles matches with Dartmouth and then only dropping one match in singles. Out of the whole weekend, the bright spot came from freshman Catherine Parenteau and junior Claudine Paulson. Both players won both of their singles matches to remain 3-0 in dual play. They will have a good opportunity to move to 6-0 this weekend with three more matches on the slate.
"Catherine is like a lot of freshmen," Hegarty said. "There's some growing pains and there's some things she's got to work a little extra on, but at the same time she's very talented as well. When you get those two things combined, what you hope is her improvements are rapid. So far that's been the case and getting better literally daily."
This weekend, North Texas will be the first opponent of the Razorbacks on Friday, followed by Oklahoma State on Saturday and Kansas State on Sunday. The Wildcats from Manhattan, Kan., will be the third ranked team that Arkansas has faced already this season. The Mean Green and Cowgirls are two teams that Arkansas faced just last year with the Hogs scoring wins in both contests by scores of 7-0 and 5-2 respectively.
"We're very excited about this home weekend," Hegarty said. "We're playing three quality teams and we want to get into our groove at home. All three teams are really good. Kansas State is ranked a little bit higher. Oklahoma State is going to have a fantastic year and is doing really well and North Texas is always strong. I think that we have our hands full each day. Right now, we're going to really focus more on Friday with North Texas, who gave us a good match here last year and we'll try to improve a little bit from this past weekend."
North Texas comes in off a 7-0 win over Oral Roberts, but has only defeated a ranked opponent one time in its school history. Senior Irina Paraschiv, who missed the fall with a shoulder injury, will be making her second appearance in singles on Friday for the 2-2 Mean Green.
Oklahoma State comes into Saturday's match with a 3-0 record after defeating UMKC, Oral Roberts and Wichita State. Malika Rose, Mary Jeremiah and Meghan Blevins lead the team in singles with three wins each in dual play, while doubles has two undefeated teams consisting of Blevins and Jeremiah and C.C. Sardinha and Isabela Miro. The Cowgirls hold a 10-3 advantage in the all-time series with the Razorbacks, but Arkansas has won the last two decisions.
Finally, Kansas State will face Arkansas on Sunday and bring the 17th-ranked singles player in the nation in Petra Niedermayerova. Niedermayerova registered a pair of straight set wins last week to run her winning streak to three matches heading into this weekend. This season, Niedermayerova is 9-7 overall and 7-3 in straight set matches. Niedermayerova is also part of the No. 28 doubles team with Marketa Trousilova, who are 5-2 this year.
Arkansas' match with North Texas is slated to start at noon on Friday, while the match with Oklahoma State will begin at 2 p.m. on Saturday. Sunday's match with Kansas State will have first serve go up at noon. All matches will be played at the Billingsley Tennis Center on the campus of the University of Arkansas. A full recap and complete results will be posted online following each match.