FAYETTEVILLE — The 34th-ranked Razorback women’s tennis team returns home for the first time in almost a month this weekend as it faces No. 75 Auburn and No. 17 Alabama on Friday and Sunday, respectively, and looks to improve on its 1-1 Southeastern conference record.
Arkansas (8-4) split its opening SEC matches with Vanderbilt and Kentucky last week, losing to the Commodores, 7-0, before bouncing back to defeat the Wildcats, 4-3, for its eighth win of the spring. Even with the tough day against Vanderbilt, the Razorbacks got gutsy performances from its doubles teams along with senior Stephanie Roy, junior Claudine Paulson and freshman Catherine Parenteau, who all scored singles wins against Kentucky to even its conference record.
“There’s no question that we’re happy with a split,” head coach Michael Hegarty said. “You always want to come home with a win if you lose the first one. We had some tough travel before that match with Vanderbilt, so I didn’t think we played our best match, but I’m glad we turned it around and played well to get a win at Kentucky. It’s always hard to win there.”
The Razorbacks haven’t had a home match since they faced Yale on Feb. 12, but will finally return to the comforts of the Billingsley Tennis Center for its next three matches. Hegarty says it’s definitely a good thing to be able to get back on their home court and give themselves the advantage with two tough conference matches next on their slate.
“We’ve done well at home this year and traditionally,” Hegarty said. “We’re looking forward to these next two matches. The last few weeks on the road have been good for us. To be in difficult situations on the road right before conference play is good because every week in conference play is a battle.”
Since dual play began, the team has gotten similar good performances from Paulson and Parenteau, who have combined to win 17 of their first 24 singles matches and each have double digit win totals overall on the year. Paulson leads all players on the Razorbacak squad with a 14-9 record and has come out on top in seven of her last ten matches.
“Both girls have been playing outstanding,” Hegarty said. “We’ve been a team this season that has gotten contributions from a lot of people, we’re not just one person or two people. Having a freshman at the bottom of the lineup and winning a lot of matches is good for the future. Claudine, being an underclassman, also, has stepped up big this year. We’re really excited about neither of them being seniors and it’s nice that they’re putting up big numbers this year.”
Arkansas will face the Auburn Tigers first this weekend as they bring a 6-4 overall record and went 1-1 last week during their conference openers. After suffering a 7-0 loss to Ole Miss, the Tigers bounced back with a 4-3 win over the Mississippi State. The Tigers won the doubles point against the Bulldogs and Olivia Bennett, who is ranked 125th in the country, notched another point by topping Petra Ferancova, 6-1, 6-1. Jen Pfeifler picked up a victory on court one and the Tigers clinched the match after Jackie Kasler’s 6-1, 6-3, win at No. 4.
The second match of the weekend will come against Alabama, who defeated Mississippi State 6-1 last week and then followed that with a 5-2 win over No. 18 Mississippi. Alabama continued its stellar play in doubles, where it has yet to give up a point all season. The Tide won five of its six doubles matches on the weekend, with its lone loss coming in a tiebreaker at No. 1 to the seventh-ranked team in the nation.
Highlighting the weekend performances for Alabama were juniors Alexa Guarachi and Antonia Foehse. Guarachi won both her singles matches at No. 2 and, paired with senior Courtney McLane, clinched the doubles point for the Tide against Mississippi State. Foehse went undefeated on the weekend, winning both singles and doubles matches versus the Lady Bulldogs and Rebels. She is currently 7-1 in singles, winning her last seven in a row, and 8-0 in doubles on the season.
In the latest national singles rankings, sophomore Mary Anne Macfarlane comes in at No. 21, and Guarachi at No. 61. In the national doubles rankings, Guarachi continues to be ranked at two places, coming in at No. 30 with McLane and No. 26 with Macfarlane.
Both matches for the Razorbacks are slated to start at noon at the Billingsley Tennis Center. The live blog and live stats will be available for both matches. The decision on whether the match will be indoors or outdoors will not be determined until the day of the match. A full recap and complete results of each match will be available online following each day’s play.
For complete coverage of the Razorback women’s tennis team or University athletics, please log on to ArkansasaRazorbacks.com.