FAYETTEVILLE — Bringing in a four match winning streak, the 32nd-ranked Razorback women’s tennis team will have its toughest test of the season as No. 31 Oklahoma and No. 25 Yale visit the Billingsley Tennis Center this weekend to face the Razorbacks this weekend. After the two matches have completed, Arkansas will have faced five ranked opponents in its first eight matches.
The Hogs are coming off a strong weekend that saw the team earn three victories against North Texas, Oklahoma State and No. 53 Kansas State. In their two matches with UNT and OSU, the Hogs battled back from lost doubles points to win four out of six singles matches and get two wins the hard way.
Junior Claudine Paulson led the way at the number four position where she won all three of her singles matches in straight sets and has yet to drop a set in any dual match this season. Freshman Catherine Parenteau has also been coming into her own as she won two out of three singles matches last week and even won the clinching point against Kansas State after a thrilling three-set, 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(8) victory over Carmen Borau Ramos. Parenteau has a nearly identical record in singles as Paulson does as she sits second on the team with a 5-1 dual record.
“It was obviously a very successful weekend,” head coach Michael Hegarty said. “We knew that it was going to be challenging. We played three good teams in three days and see where we were at. We passed with flying colors and I thought all three teams were better than I expected. I’m very excited for our players and they gained some confidence from those matches.”
Along with leading the team in overall singles wins, Paulson will bring in a six-match winning streak to this weekend. The Ecuador native is the only Razorback with double-digits in the win column, but sophomore Laurie Gingras is right on her heels as she sits second on the team with a 9-6 record. Gingras played at both the five and six positions last week and won two matches at the five spot. As a winner of three of her last four, Gingras a key component along with Parenteau at the bottom of the Arkansas lineup.
“You can almost lump Claudine in with our seniors,” head coach Michael Hegarty said. “She’s been through a lot and had a lot of success here, so she’s a little like our fourth senior. A lot is expected of her, being talented and having a lot of experience already. She’s exceeded our expectations this year, taking on a more leadership role which is good because outside of her and our seniors, we don’t have a lot of experience.”
This weekend, Arkansas will have the opportunity to win against two highly ranked teams and possibly throw itself back into the Top-25 discussion. Oklahoma comes in at 4-2 on the year with wins over Drake, Arkansas-Little Rock, North Texas and Utah. Leading the way for the Sooners is Marie-Pier Huet and Whitney Ritchie, who are the No. 22 ranked doubles team in the nation. The duo is undefeated this season at the No. 1 position for Oklahoma.
Yale enters with a 1-1 record this season and boasts three ranked doubles teams. Hanna Yu and Victoria Brook are tops on the team sitting at No. 16, while Blair Seideman and Stehpanie Kent are at No. 39. Amber Li and Annie Sullivan round out the trio of ranked doubles teams as they barely make it in the rankings at No. 59. Even though it is a tall order for the Razorbacks this weekend, Hegarty is confident in his team and knows that they have the upper hand playing on their home court.
“It’s great that we’re playing at home for the second straight weekend,” Hegarty said. “We have two really good teams coming to see us. I think the one thing we know is that we’re going to get two high quality matches. All teams are highly ranked and playing at home for us is a big advantage for us. We just want to do everything we can to improve, make good things happen out there, build our resume and get ourselves ready for SEC play. I know these two teams are going to help us do that and we’ll just try to see if we can come out on top.”
Arkansas’ match with Oklahoma is set to be played on Friday at 11 a.m. at the Billingsley Tennis Center. Sunday’s match with Yale will have first serve go up at 11 a.m. as well. Live stats and the live blog will be available during the match. A full recap and complete results will be posted online following each match.