This week in Lady’Back Tennis- The University of Arkansas women’s tennis team travels to the Southeastern Conference tournament this week to play in one of the most competitive conference tournaments in the country. The Lady Razorbacks have the No. 11 seed in the tournament and an opening day match against the sixth seeded South Carolina Gamecocks at 1:00 p.m.
Last time against South Carolina- The Lady’Backs played a much closer match last Friday against the 26th ranked South Carolina than its 6-1 scored broadcasted. At one point in the match, it looked as if South Carolina’s 27-3 record against SEC Western Division schools since 2000 was truly in jeopardy as the Lady’Back took the doubles point and had firm grips on four singles matches. However, the Gamecocks proved why they are ranked 21st in the nation by winning all four matches that were forced to a third set to sweep the singles and win the match, 6-1.
One year in one short passage- The Lady’Backs opened the 2004-05 10-0, the best start to a season in program history. After sustaining injuries throughout the year and maybe even a little bad luck, the Lady’Backs won their first Southeastern Conference match in three and a half years over the Auburn Tigers on April 10th, 5-2.
Lady’Backs celebrate big win in Southeastern Conference- The Arkansas women’s tennis team picked up their first SEC win this season last Sunday against the unranked Auburn Tigers, 5-2. A win that has been long coming, the Lady’Backs snap a 0-42 losing streak that dates back to the 2000-01 season. Interestingly enough, the Lady Razorbacks last win over a conference team came over the Auburn Tigers on April 9, 2005; one day off of exactly four years from the present win. For those counting, that’s 1,462 days without a conference win.
Leaders of the pack- Junior transfer Karina Ledaja has made waves in her first year as a Lady Razorback. The Liepaja, Latvia native, who transferred to Arkansas from Western Kentucky with a 47-3 record, currently leads the team with 25 victories this season. The energetic junior has proved a versatile player, competing in ever singles court but No. 1. In conference play, Ledaja leads the team in SEC wins, going 10-7 in conference this season and with five wins captured this spring.
Behind her is fellow junior Vlatka Jovanovic. Also in her first year at Arkansas, Jovanovic has anchored the Lady’Backs on the No. 1 court throughout the SEC schedule. This season, Jovanovic played a solid month against opponents ranked in the top ten while still gathering 20 wins this season.
Arkansas at the SEC Tourney- The Lady’Backs compete this week for their first tournament victory since 1999. The victory came against over #31 LSU, 5-1.
Great start- As a part of the monumental 10-0 start this season, the Lady’Backs won their first three matches of the year 7-0 in Fayetteville. After the tune-up, No. 64 Arkansas traveled to the University of Tulsa for a match against the 46th ranked Golden Hurricane. Four hours later, the Lady’Backs emerged victorious with the 4-3 win. After dropping he doubles point.
Big Win- Vlatka Jovanovic collected the biggest win of her Lady’Back career thus far with a 6-2, 6-2 win against eighth-ranked Audra Faulk of Vanderbilt. The road for Jovanovic has not been the easiest of ways as of late. In fact, for a solid month every one of her single matches came against top-ten players. The Zagreb, Croatia native faced #8 Faulk, #8 Shadisha Robinson of Georgia, #6 Aibika Kalsarieva of Kentucky and #8 Robin Stephenson of Alabama this year.
Close, but no cigar- The Lady’Backs have come so close in several other conference matches, but fell just short of clinching a win. Unfortunately, there is no official way to measure how close the Lady’Backs have come to pulling an upset. But, there is more than one time Arkansas put itself in prime position for a win.
Exhibit A: March 3, 2005- The Lady’Backs open SEC play on this day against 26th ranked South Carolina. Arkansas opened by corralling their seventh doubles advantage of the year and forcing six set tiebreakers. Four third sets were forced, with each sliding away from the Lady Razorbacks to give South Carolina a win.
Exhibit B: The 55th ranked Lady’Backs are in Nashville, TN battling the fifth ranked Vanderbilt Commodores. Vlatka Jovanovic collects the biggest win of her career over eighth ranked Audra Faulk to tie the score after a dropped doubles point. Audrey Bordeleau, Yawna Allen and Karina Ledaja all won their first set. In the middle of Allen’s second set, a backhand goes a rye and she sustains a torn ACL. The injury took the wind out of the Lady’Backs sails, spiraling the Lady’Backs to a 6-1 loss.
Winning streak- Lone Arkansan Melissa Cornett is currently on a three-match conference winning streak. Cornett won her third consecutive match against the LSU last Saturday with a 3-6, 7-5, 1-1, ret. LSU’s over Natalie Staten Spencer. One week prior, Cornett took the state of Alabama by storm with wins over Alabama and Auburn. The wins puts her career record against the Crimson Tide at 2-1.
Senior- Lone Lady’Back senior Iliana Pacheco also notched her first conference win of the season with a 6-1, 5-7, 1-0(8) win over Auburn’s Ashley Cowart. The team win over Auburn marks the first SEC dual win of Pacheco’s career.
Ledaja wins, again and again- Karina Ledaja picked up two key SEC singles wins for the Lady’Backs midseason, first against Tennessee and then over Georgia. The pair of wins marks the Lady’Backs first back-to-back conference wins this season, and puts Ledaja tops among the team for total conference games won.
Out for the season- Freshman Yawna Allen is out for the remainder of the 2004-05 tennis season after sustaining a torn ACL in last Friday’s match against Vanderbilt. Allen took the first set in a tiebreaker against VU’s Annie Menees, but was down 2-1 in the second set when she injured herself on a backhand. A successful surgery for Allen took place early this month.
The road to 10-0- The Lady’Backs opened their record setting winning streak at home with three 7-0 shutouts in one short weekend over Oral Roberts, Wichita State and Saint Louis. In the 7-0 shutout against Oral Roberts, Arkansas swept the six singles points with six identical scores, 6-0, 6-0. After opening weekend, the Lady Razorbacks traveled to Tulsa for a match against a higher ranked Golden Hurricane squad. The Lady’Backs were tested, but not outmatched as they fought their way to a 4-3 upset. Two days later, Arkansas defeated Oklahoma State by the same score. The Lady Razorbacks returned home the next weekend for Tennispalooza, a five-day, five-match tennis extravaganza. At the weekend matches, Arkansas used its momentum to shutout Southwest Missouri State, 7-0, edge Kansas State, 4-3, and down North Texas and Abilene Christian in a Sunday doubleheader, 6-1, 7-0, respectively.