In honor of Black History Month, the Razorback Athletic department will release “Trailblazer” stories throughout February celebrating the success and accomplishments of some of the first African-American student-athletes in University of Arkansas history.
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The first African-American women’s tennis player at the University of Arkansas, Kendra Howard was a member of one of the Razorbacks’ great teams: The 1998 NCAA Championships round team that became the first to advance past the opening first and second rounds.
A four-year standout for Coach Kevin Platt, Howard was one of Platt’s top recruits in 1994 when she signed with Arkansas from Detroit (Mich.) Country Day High. An accomplished player in the USTA youth system, Howard was a top-100 singles player for the Razorbacks during her junior season.
As a senior, Howard was one of two seniors on the team that went 22-9 overall, ranking 16th in the nation. Howard posted a 25-6 mark in dual match singles and 23-11 in doubles as the Razorbacks posted their best performances to date.
The 1998 team went 7-4 in Southeastern Conference action and won the 1998 NCAA Southwest Regional by defeating Rice and Houston 5-0 each before defeating the host LSU Tigers 5-2. The win put the Razorbacks into the NCAA Championship — the round of 16 — for the first time.
Arkansas lost to fifth-ranked Duke 5-1 in the event opener, which was hosted by Notre Dame.
It was the 1998 team’s achievement that the 2008 Razorback squad surpassed by advancing to the championship and then into the Round of Eight during the spring. Howard’s career coincided with a rise to national power for the women’s tennis team as she played on four straight NCAA tournament teams for Arkansas.
Today Howard still ranks in the career top-10 for match wins with 89 to tie for eighth with two-time All-American Chin Bee Khoo. Her 34 overall wins in 1998 is tied for the seventh-best single season performance.