GAINESVILLE, Fla. – As the season begins to wind down the 40th-ranked Razorback women’s tennis team is gearing up for the final push towards the postseason and the NCAA Tournament. That push begins this weekend as the team travels to No. 2 Florida and No. 32 South Carolina for two of its final three SEC regular season matches. The match with Florida is set for Friday with a 4 p.m. start in Gainesville, Fla., while Sunday’s match with South Carolina is set to have first serve go up at noon.
“We’re trying to focus on the one thing we’ve been focused on all semester and that’s to be our best every single match,” Arkansas head coach Michael Hegarty
said. “You don’t know which match will make the biggest difference at the end of the season; you just have to treat them all the same way. We’ve done a good job at being our best on match day. We haven’t had too many days where I thought that we’d like to have that match back. Our final four matches need to be handled the same way and that’s to be our best on match day.
Arkansas is currently 10-9 on the year and 2-6 in SEC play, but is looking to get back on the winning track this weekend after dropping both of its matches last week with Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Against the Rebels, Arkansas could only muster one singles win from senior Kate Lukomskaya
, who defeated Vivian Vlaar, 6-3, 7-6(3). The win was her 11th of the year and second in Southeastern Conference play. Arkansas dropped the remaining five singles matches as well as the doubles point to fall to the Rebels, 6-1.
On Sunday against the Bulldogs, which was also Senior Day for Stephanie Roy
, Lukomskaya and Emily Carbone
, the Razorbacks, again, fell behind after losing the doubles point, but then started singles with first set wins at all six courts. Straight set wins from Roy, sophomore Laurie Gingras
and freshman Catherine Parenteau
helped the team take the lead at 3-1, but the Bulldogs went on to win the final three courts which had gone to deciding third sets. The Razorbacks lost the match by a final score of 4-3.
“Those were two different matches,” Hegarty said. “I thought we played a lot better overall on Friday and did a lot of good things, but couldn’t pull out the victory. We played some good tennis against Ole Miss, who’s having an amazing season. They’re a very high quality team. On Sunday, we were scratchy in doubles, so the match began kind of poorly. We played great in singles for about an hour and won all six first sets. That put us in a good position to win, but couldn’t quite close it out. Sunday’s match had a difficult beginning and difficult ending, but overall I was disappointed with Sunday, but happy with Friday.”
Sunday’s match with Mississippi State marked the end of the home careers for three seniors on the Razorback squad. Carbone, Lukomskaya and Roy all played in their final home match over the weekend and capped what have been three phenomenal careers. Although four matches remain on the schedule this season, every player, according to Hegarty, has put their stamp on the Razorback women’s tennis program throughout their careers.
“Those three players have been involved with a lot of success here over the years and achievements the program has made,” Hegarty said. “I’m real proud with the three of them, hanging in there during this season especially. We’ve played such a difficult schedule this year with not one easy match. Those three have led us thorough a tough schedule and a good season so far.”
Friday’s match with Florida will be the first match of the weekend for the Razorbacks. The Gators come in as the second-ranked team in the nation with a 15-1 record and a perfect 8-0 record in the conference. The team’s only blemish came in a 5-2 loss to then No. 2 Stanford. Four players on the Gators’ roster boast 20 wins or more with Joanna Mather leading all players with 24 wins, but the near perfect record of junior Allie Will (19-1) has put her in the elite as well. Will will come into Friday’s match with Arkansas as the reigning SEC Player of the Week.
Sunday’s match with South Carolina features another tough test as the Gamecocks are 32nd in the nation with a 12-6 record overall and are 3-5 in the SEC. Jaklin Alawi leads the Gamecocks in victories for both singles and doubles this season. She ran her record to 23-7 last weekend for singles play and 12-5 in duals playing on court two. In doubles, she is 19-9 playing with four different partners and also 12-5 dual match play. Alawi is ranked No. 68 in singles and 65th in doubles with Anya Morgina and 68th in doubles with Dijana Stojic.
Morgina stands 17-8 in 2011-12 in singles matches and she improved to 11-5 at the No. 1 slot following her victory at Auburn. Morgina has been the Gamecocks' highest ranked player all season, currently standing No. 35. Her highest ranking came at the start of the spring with a No. 20 billing, the highest of her career.
Friday’s match against Florida is set to start at 4 p.m., while Sunday’s match with South Carolina will begin at 1 p.m. A full match recap with complete results can be found online following each day’s play.