FAYETTEVILLE – After its win over No. 12 Tennessee last week, the Razorback women’s tennis team rose eight spots in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings this week to No. 29 and will take that ranking into its final two home matches of the season Friday and Sunday against Ole Miss and Mississippi State respectively.
Arkansas is currently 10-7 on the year and 2-4 in Southeastern Conference play as they are now heading into the home stretch of the regular season. With only three weeks remaining in the season, Arkansas head coach Michael Hegarty
knows his team is in a good position to finish the year on a high note and continue playing its best tennis heading into postseason play.
“I think the last month of the regular season is when a lot of things are going to be determined,” Hegarty said. “Up until this point, we’ve had one of our better regular seasons. I know we have a group of players that has improved a lot and we certainly expect by season’s end, we’re going to be better than we are now. We always try to peak in April and May and this year looks no different."
Over the last few years, the Razorbacks have become a mainstay in the NCAA Tournament with four appearances in each of the last four years, which include a Sweet 16 and Elite Eight berth. This year looks no different as the team has gotten significant play from all six positions including from its three seniors, Emily Carbone
, Stephanie Roy
and Kate Lukomskaya
The trio has combined for 44 percent of the teams singles wins and have kept Arkansas well within striking distance of a fifth straight NCAA appearance. The three players are also heading into their final two home matches of their Razorback careers as they will be honored during Sunday’s match with Mississippi State as part of Senior Day.
Since the three players arrived on campus in 2008, over 350 wins have been tallied in singles and doubles between them and they have also seen the NCAA Tournament each year. Carbone and Lukomskaya were also major factors in the Hogs 2009 run to the Sweet 16, which included a win over No. 28 TCU that won the Fayetteville Regional.
Their senior leadership has shown on the court this year as they each have over 10 wins in singles and a combined 18 wins in doubles. Roy and Carbone, in particular, have come on strong as of late, winning 14 matches as a team in doubles and nine in dual play. The duo has solidified themselves at the No. 2 doubles spot for the Razorbacks as they are 8-5 this year at that position.
In singles, Roy continues to have the hot hand for the Razorbacks as she has come out victorious in four of her last five matches. Since conference play started, Roy sits atop the team with most SEC wins (3) followed by sophomore Laurie Gingras
, who has two.
Gingras, another player that has been solid all year, is tied for the team lead in wins (15) with junior Claudine Paulson
. Playing in her first match at the No. 4 spot for the Razorbacks last week against Tennessee, Gingras made good use of the move as she defeated Jesse Grace, 6-2, 6-1 and helped the Razorbacks clinch the 4-3 upset win. Hegarty said is pleased with the recent play of both Roy and Gingras and believes the best tennis is yet to come from Gingras.
“Stephanie (Roy) has just been very consistent all year,” Hegarty said. “Since the day she got here, she has been nothing but productive. She seems to get better every day, even as a senior, which is exactly what you want. With Laurie (Gingras), since she got here just this fall has been developing all year. I still think her tennis is well ahead of her, but she’s done some very impressive things this year. She stepped up to the plate last weekend at No. 4 and played really well.”
Ole Miss is the first opponent of the final home weekend as they come in with an 11-7 overall record and 3-3 mark in the SEC. The Rebels are No. 17 in the latest ITA National Team Rankings and are fresh off a 5-2 win over South Carolina.
The Rebels are led by senior Kristi Boxx, who is ranked No. 12 in this week’s ITA singles rankings. She owns a 21-8 overall record and is 11-5 at the No. 1 singles spot. Fellow senior Abby Guthrie won both of her matches last weekend to improve to 9-2 at No. 5 singles and is 5-1 in the SEC. Together, the two players is ranked No. 6 in doubles and has a 14-2 record this season and are 5-1 in the conference.
Mississippi State will be the Razorbacks Senior Day opponent on Sunday and they come in with a 6-9 overall record on the year and are 0-6 in conference play. The Bulldogs do have one player ranked in the Top-125 of singles in ITA, Alexandra Perper comes into the weekend as the No. 113 player in the nation. The team will face LSU in Baton Rouge, La. on Friday before traveling to Fayetteville to take on the Razorbacks on Sunday.
Both matches this weekend are set to start at 1 p.m. and will be played at the Billingsley Tennis Center on the campus of the University of Arkansas. Live stats and the live blog will be available for both matches. A full match recap and complete results will be posted online following each day’s play.