LOS ANGELES — The 33rd-ranked Razorback women’s tennis team is set to begin its NCAA Tournament run when it faces off with 46th-ranked Long Beach State tomorrow at noon. Arkansas comes in to the Los Angeles Regional as the No. 2 seed while the 49ers of Long Beach State are the No. 3 seed. The winner of tomorrow’s match will face the winner of No. 1 overall seed UCLA and Eastern Kentucky on Saturday.
The Razorbacks are coming off a quarterfinal appearance in the SEC Tournament two weeks ago after defeating LSU in the first round. It was their second straight week to beat the Tigers after defeating them in the regular season finale and also was their third straight year to record at least one win in the season-ending conference tournament. Arkansas really took advantage of ending the season on a high note and jumped up nearly ten spots in the rankings in the final weeks to complete the push for yet another NCAA Tournament bid.
This is the fifth straight appearance for the team in the national tournament and 13th all-time. The Razorbacks have actually been participants in the NCAA Tournament in six of the last seven years, all under current head coach Michael Hegarty. After guiding the Razorbacks to an Elite Eight appearance in 2007-2008 and then following that with another Sweet 16 appearance in 2008-2009, Hegarty, once again, has his team in the middle of the national scene.
“We’re definitely excited to be in California to start the NCAA Tournament,” Hegarty said. “It’s a thrill for the team to get to this point. Obviously, when we start at the beginning of the season, we hope this is where we’ll be at the end of the season and nothing is ever guaranteed. We’re extremely proud of the performances that got us to this point and got us to where we can be a two-seed at this regional. It’s a very strong regional. I think our first round match with Long Beach State is as tough a first round match as we’ve had over the years and that’s really all we’re worried about right now.”
Seniors are a big part in helping a team reach the NCAA Tournament and this year was no different for the Razorbacks. Stephanie Roy, Emily Carbone and Kate Lukomskaya have all been integral parts in helping the Razorbacks to a fifth straight NCAA appearance, especially down the stretch in their last three matches. All earned key wins in both LSU matches to help the team win two of its last three. Combined, the three seniors account for 45 percent of the team’s singles wins and over half of the team’s doubles wins. Lukomskaya leads all seniors with 14 singles wins, but it was Roy, who kicked it into high gear at the start of conference season. Roy led all seniors and nearly led all Razorbacks with four conference wins.
“Our seniors have never missed the NCAA Tournament,” Hegarty said. “Obviously, all year long we’ve relied on their leadership and we’ll need that again this weekend. They came up big in the two matches against LSU and they have played in a lot of big matches before in the postseason. In each of their previous three years, they’ve played their best tennis in the postseason. I think that gives us a lot of confidence that they have traditionally done well at this time of year.”
The team has also heavily relied on its underclassmen, sophomore Laurie Gingras, junior Claudine Paulson and freshman Catherine Parenteau. Each has over 10 singles wins and both Gingras and Paulson lead the team in wins altogether. Gingras leads all Razorbacks with 18 singles wins and Paulson is right behind her with 16 wins and five conference victories.
First round play for the Razorbacks against Long Beach State is set to begin tomorrow at noon CST. Live stats and the live blog will be available during the match and a complete match recap with results will be posted online following play.
For complete coverage of the Razorback women’s tennis team or University athletics, please log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.