FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Three matches remain on the regular season schedule for the 17th-ranked Razorback women’s tennis team, and two of those matches will be played this weekend at the Billingsley Tennis Center as No. 21 Vanderbilt and Kentucky will take on Arkansas in a crucial conference weekend.
Last weekend, Arkansas (14-7, 4-4 SEC) competed in their final road matches of the regular season at Alabama and Auburn. After dropping a very close, 4-3, match with the 27th-ranked Crimson Tide, the Razorbacks were able to rebound in a huge way with a 6-1 win over the Tigers from Auburn to break a three-match skid the Hogs were on heading into that match. As a result of the last two matches, the Hogs moved into a tie for second place in the SEC Western Division with LSU heading into this weekend.
“It was a really strong weekend for us,” said Arkansas head coach Michael Hegarty. “We had a great match on Friday and came up about an inch short against Alabama, but had a real strong comeback and beat Auburn on Sunday. We were pleased with both matches. We got a lot better and that’s the key at this stage of the season, getting closer and closer to postseason play. We’re just trying to focus on how good we can be at the end of the season.”
To kick off the weekend, the Hogs will first take on the Kentucky Wildcats, who come in winners of 4-16 overall on the year, but two of those wins have come in conference play. Last weekend, UK faced Florida and South Carolina, but dropped both matches 7-0 and 6-1 respectively. The one win came from Khristina Blajkevitch against the Gamecocks, who is tied for the team lead in singles victories. She has eight so far on the season. In doubles, the team of Blajkevitch and senior Megan Broderick lead the way with four victories this year.
Finally on Sunday, the No. 27 Vanderbilt Commodores will come to Fayetteville and they bring along with them an identical 4-4 conference record with the Razorbacks. Vandy also recently played Florida and South Carolina, but were able to come away with a 4-3 win over the Gamecocks and getting the clincher from senior Keilly Ulery for the third time this season. Ulery’s win total (10) is good for second on the team in dual match play, while Chelsea Preeg holds the team lead with 11 dual wins in singles. Over in doubles, Alex Leatu and Rachael Dillon have compiled 18 total wins and nine in dual play, but Ulery and Lauren Mira have had quite the spring with 11 dual wins.
“We’re excited we get to spend these last three conference matches at home,” said Hegarty. “There’s obviously a lot of things to play for immediately with the Western Division up for grabs and we’re excited to be able to play for that at home and continue to keep our focus on the bigger stuff.”
The Razorback go into the final weeks really starting to show their strength and hitting their stride with each match. One player hasn’t shown that any more than 27th-ranked senior Anouk Tigu, who won both her singles matches over the previous weekend against Alabama and Auburn and has now tallied 20 wins for the season and 10 wins for the dual season. Also, junior Stephanie Roy has continued to roll right along this spring to lead the team with 15 dual singles wins. In doubles, the top-team of sophomore Claudine Paulson and Tigu didn’t go undefeated last weekend, but still notched one more to the win column as they now sit at 21-9 overall and 24th in the nation.
Friday’s match against Kentucky is set to begin at noon at the Billingsley Tennis Center, while Sunday’s match will also start at noon with Vanderbilt. Both matches will have live stats available as well as the live blog. Full match recaps will be available post-match on ArkansasRazorbacks.com.