Following a season-opening tripleheader Jan. 17, the University of Arkansas women’s tennis team is set to play a weekend slate of matches beginning Friday. The No. 58 Razorbacks host a doubleheader on Friday, Jan. 23, facing UC-Santa Barbara at 11 a.m. and Southern Illinois at 5 p.m. Arkansas will then be right back in action Sunday, Jan. 25, to face the 24th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners at 12 p.m. All matches will be held at the Billingsley Tennis Center and admission is free.
“We are all excited to take a step forward this weekend and build on our performances so far,” head coach Michael Hegarty said. “Practices continue to be excellent and all signs point to a strong weekend.”
Southern Illinois match: drawing for a chance to win basketball tickets to Arkansas vs. Auburn women’s basketball on Jan. 29.
Oklahoma match: serving challenge following the match for a chance to win prizes, including an iPad.
Last Point Played
Arkansas rounded out its season-opening tripleheader last Saturday with a 2-1 record. The Razorbacks dropped a 4-3 decision to No. 55 Wichita State in the morning match and then swept an afternoon doubleheader against Mercer with a score of 4-0 in both matches. Sophomore Oleksandra Shkorupeieva won all three of her singles matches, while junior Yuliya Lysa shined in her Razorback debut, finishing 3-0 in doubles and singles combined.
In the Polls
In the Jan. 20 ITA poll, the Razorbacks checked in at No. 58. Arkansas has been ranked in 116 consecutive weekly ITA polls dating back to 2008.
A Glance at the Gauchos
Friday’s match will be the first ever between Arkansas and UC-Santa Barbara, out of the Big West Conference. Simon Thibodeau is in his third season as head coach following a nine-year stint at Fresno State. The Gauchos have yet to record a result this spring as their Jan. 14 match against USC was cancelled.
Sampling the Salukis
Southern Illinois is 1-1 to start the season, defeating Morehead State 5-2 and losing to No. 63 Louisville 7-0. Arkansas and SIU both competed at the Colorado Invitational during this past fall schedule. The Razorbacks and Salukis met six times in singles, and both teams finished with a 3-3 record. Arkansas leads the all-time series with the Salukis 3-0. The Razorbacks swept SIU in the last meeting, Feb. 1, 2014, in Fayetteville. Sophomores Shannon Hudson and Oleksandra Shkorupeieva and junior Yang Pang all were winners in their singles matches against the Salukis last year. Audra Anderson is in her seventh season as head coach.
Sizing up the Sooners
Oklahoma enters Sunday’s matchup with a national ranking of 24 and a record of 1-0 after defeating No. 66 North Texas in its season opener Jan. 20. Oklahoma will also play UC-Santa Barbara and Southern Illinois on Saturday. The Sooners lost four players from last year’s team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and ended the season ranked No. 18. Five newcomers enter the fold for sixth-year head coach David Mullins. Arkansas competed at the Oklahoma Sooner Invite this past fall and faced the Sooners five times in singles action, posting a 3-2 tally. Arkansas leads the all-time series with the Sooners 16-14, but have lost the last two meetings in a row. The two teams last met Feb. 14, 2014, in Fayetteville and Oklahoma came out on top, 5-2. Shkorupeieva won her match on court six over OU’s Abbi Melrose, 6-2, 6-2.
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 87-51 (.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. Hudson’s spring slate is off to a quick start, as she is 1-0 in both singles and doubles.
With junior Yuliya Lysa enrolling at Arkansas this spring semester, she joins sophomore Oleksandra Shkorupeieva as the second Ukrainian on the roster. Both Lysa and Shkorupeieva have begun their 2015 season on high notes as Lysa is 2-0 in singles play while Shkorupeieva is 3-0.
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. Expected to be a key contributor to the lineup this spring, Craft had a narrow singles defeat to Wichita State on court one in her 2015 dual debut.
Fresh faces are abound in the George M. Billingsley Tennis Center this season. A total of seven 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. Junior Yuliya Lysa is in her first season and comes to Arkansas by way of Khmelnytsky, Ukraine. 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 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 seventh 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 also 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 149-130 (.534), Michael Hegarty (Auburn, ’94) is in 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 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 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)
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