Beginning its 43rd season of competition, the University of Arkansas women’s tennis team opens up its 2015 spring schedule with a home doubleheader Saturday, Jan. 17, at the Billingsley Tennis Center. Admission is free. The 54th-ranked Razorbacks square off with No. 55 Wichita State at 11 a.m. and face Mercer at 5 p.m. Arkansas will be playing a ranked opponent to open the season for the fourth time under 12th-year head coach Michael Hegarty. The Razorbacks are 3-0 against ranked foes in season openers under Hegarty, defeating No. 32 NC State in 2007, No. 28 BYU in 2008, and No. 66 North Texas in 2011.
“It’s always nice to begin the spring season at home,” Hegarty said. “Wichita State is a quality program and very well coached so it’s a great way to test ourselves immediately.”
11 a.m. match: first 200 fans will receive an Arkansas tennis t-shirt.
5 p.m. match: serving challenge – children will have the opportunity between doubles and singles to serve a tennis ball. If they hit an item on the other side of the net, they get to keep it. An iPad will be one of the items available.
Arkansas is 32-3 (.914) in season opening matches, including a perfect 11-0 under Coach Hegarty.
In the Polls
In the Jan. 6 ITA poll for the upcoming spring season, the Razorbacks checked in at No. 54. Arkansas has been ranked in 115 consecutive weekly ITA polls dating back to 2008.
Scouting the Shockers
For the second consecutive season, Arkansas will serve up its season by playing Wichita State. Last year, the Razorbacks beat the Shockers in a season-opening double header, 4-2 and 4-3. In a series dating back to 1980-81, Arkansas is a perfect 18-0 in program history against WSU. The Shockers appeared in the 2014 NCAA Tournament following a season in which they finished 19-6 and claimed the Missouri Valley Conference championship. WSU begins 2015 ranked No. 55 under sixth-year head coach Colin Foster.
Breaking Down the Bears
Arkansas will be exchanging groundstrokes with Mercer for the first time in program history. Mercer finished the 2013-14 season with an 8-10 overall record, and were 3-8 in away matches. Eric Hayes is in his second season as head coach.
The Razorbacks finished the 2013-14 season with a 13-16 overall mark, including 2-11 in SEC play. Arkansas finished the season ranked No. 59 in the final ITA poll.
Arkansas brings back four players from last year’s squad. Returning are juniors Yang Pang and Flavia Araujo and sophomores Shannon Hudson and Oleksandra Shkorupeieva.
At a Glance: 2014 Fall
The Razorbacks competed in six team tournaments throughout the fall schedule. Sophomore Oleksandra Shkorupeieva led the team in wins, posting a 12-2 record. Additionally, she won her flight championship at the Oklahoma Sooner Invitational and also won three straight matches at the ITA Central Regional Championships, advancing out of the qualifying bracket and into the main draw’s Round of 32. Sophomore Shannon Hudson was selected to compete in the singles qualifying draw at the Riviera/ITA Women’s All-American Championships and finished the fall with an 8-6 singles record. Junior Makenzie Craft posted an 8-7 fall singles record and advanced all the way to the Round of 16 at the ITA Central Regional.
The Razorbacks open the season with six straight matches at the Billingsley Tennis Center and seven of their first eight will be at home. Overall the Razorbacks will have a total of 14 home matches on 12 home dates. Under Coach Hegarty, the Razorbacks have defended their home alleys tough, with a record of 85-50 (.630) at home since the 2003-04 season.
Hudson Year Two
After a dynamic freshman season in which she lead the team in dual wins with 13, sophomore Shannon Hudson is back for more. The Virginia Beach, Va., native and fourth-generation Razorback competed primarily on court two in singles last season and is expected to play near the top of the lineup again this spring. She started off the 2014 fall season being selected to the singles qualifying draw of the prestigious 2014 Riviera/ITA Women’s All-American Championships. Hudson was the 21st Razorback under Hegarty to compete in the nationally renowned tournament.
Sophomore Oleksandra Shkorupeieva, known as Sasha, arrived in Fayetteville in January 2014 and was able to make an immediate contribution as a freshman. She tallied 12 wins in dual play, the second-most on the team
In her first fall semester, Shkorupeieva continued to build on her freshman year’s success as she led the team in singles wins with a mark of 12-2. Shkorupeieva’s 2014 fall was highlighted by her winning three matches at the ITA Central Regional Championship, advancing out of the qualifying draw and into the main draw’s round of 32. She also won her flight at the Oklahoma Sooner Invite in September.
After transferring in this season, junior Makenzie Craft has certainly made quite the splash in her first few months as a Razorback. Craft has brought a championship pedigree with her to Fayetteville as she helped Georgia win the SEC Championship in 2012-13 and Baylor win the Big 12 Championship in 2013-14. She continued her winning ways with Arkansas during the fall 2014 schedule. Craft produced an 8-7 overall singles mark, including a run to the round of 16 at the ITA Central Regional Championship and a runner-up finish in her flight at the Oklahoma Sooner Invite.
Fresh faces are abound in the George M. Billingsley Tennis Center this season. A total of six newcomers come aboard for the Razorbacks this season. Here’s a breakdown of the newcomers. Junior Makenzie Craft (Frisco, Texas) transferred in after spending her freshman season with Georgia and her sophomore season with Baylor. Craft certainly brings with her a championship pedigree as she was a part of Georgia’s 2013 SEC Championship team and Baylor’s 2014 Big 12 Championship team. She compiled a 27-22 overall singles record during her first two collegiate years. Junior Nicole Breaux (Lafayette, La.) comes to Fayetteville after transferring from Louisiana-Lafayette. Breaux competed at the top of the singles and doubles lineup for the Ragin’ Cajuns, amassing a 28-34 singles record over two seasons. Sophomore Nastassia Rubel (Minsk, Belarus) is in her first season with the Razorbacks, bringing with her a world ranking of No. 188 on the ITF junior tour. Sophomore Elly Fryberger (Littleton, Colo.) is in her first season after transferring in from Kansas. Freshmen Mia Jurasic (Ogulin, Croatia) and Peyton Jennings (Tulsa, Okla.) will both be competing in their first collegiate matches. Jurasic is the Croatian 16 and under national champion while Jennings claimed back-to-back Oklahoma state titles at No. 1 singles her junior and senior year.
The sixth newcomer is assistant coach Luc Godin. Godin joins Hegarty’s staff and the Razorbacks after previously serving as the men’s and women’s assistant at Louisiana-Lafayette in 2013-14. He is familiar with the SEC, however, as he was an assistant for the Auburn women’s team from 2011-13.
Araujo Named Red Tie Honoree
Junior Flavia Araujo was named a 2014-15 Red Tie Honoree for the Spirit of the Razorback Award, as announced by the University of Arkansas Athletic Department and the Razorback Foundation on Dec. 31. Each year, the Razorbacks recognize student-athletes whose performance throughout his or her career serves to lift up their sport to new heights and whose character exemplifies the goals of the athletic department. The 18th annual Red Tie Dinner will be held Feb. 21, 2015, in Rogers, Ark. A steady contributor on the court, Araujo was named the 2013-14 Lee Spencer Individual champion for her community service endeavors and overall commitment to the university.
Arkansas women’s tennis all-time winningest coach with a record of 147-129 (.532), Michael Hegarty (Auburn, ’94) begins his 12th season as head coach of the Razorbacks. He has led the Hogs to seven NCAA Tournament appearances in his first 11 years.
The ITA Shortened Format:
• No-ad scoring in singles and doubles.
• Three doubles matches played, each match one set to 6, with a tie-break at 6-all.
• Followed (after a brief intermission; time TBD) by six singles matches, each match 2 out of 3 sets, with tie-breaks at 6-all.
• No warm-up with opponents (in doubles and in singles)
For more information on Arkansas women’s tennis, follow @RazorbackWTEN on Twitter.