FAYETTEVILLE – The 21st-ranked Arkansas women’s tennis team is set to host the 2011 NCAA Regional on Friday and Saturday and face No. 47 Sacramento State in the first round of the tournament on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Billingsley Tennis Center. No. 15 Clemson and Wichita State face off in the first round as well, at 10 a.m.
The Razorbacks head into the NCAA Tournament with a 17-9 record and closed out Southeastern Conference play 6-5. UA made it through to the second round of the SEC Tournament in Athens, Ga., before falling to the host Bulldogs in the second round.
"We are very excited to be hosting the NCAA Regional," head coach Mike Hegarty says. "Both first-round matches should be competitive. There’s not an easy match in sight. It’s an excellent regional with four very good teams. We’re expecting three really good matches."
The No. 47 Sacramento State Hornets make their 10th consecutive post-season appearance on Saturday against the Razorbacks. The Hornets recently clinched the 2011 Big Sky Conference title for the 10th year and head coach Dima Hrynashka was named the Big Sky’s women’s tennis coach of the year for the fourth straight time.
Arkansas has met the Hornets just one time in program history. During the 1992-23 season, Arkansas took a 6-2 win over Sacramento State in California.
This season marks the fourth straight NCAA appearance for the Razorbacks. In 2008, Arkansas won the Chapel Hill Regional in North Carolina and advanced to the Elite Eight. In 2009, UA won the Fayetteville-based regional before making it into the Sweet Sixteen. Last season, the Hogs made it to the second round of the tournament, beating out host Oklahoma and finishing the season ranked 22nd with an 18-10 record. Arkansas is the only team in the SEC’s Western Division to earn an NCAA bid each of the last four seasons.
"Two years ago, we hosted for the first time and we were able to get to the Sweet Sixteen," Hegarty says. "Last year, after losing three seniors, we were able to go to OU and beat Oklahoma and then had a really close match in a loss to Texas in the second round. Everybody except for Jade (Frampton) was involved in that Texas match. Now we’re a year older and a year stronger. We hope that is the difference for us."
Arkansas has six NCAA Tournament wins over the last three years. That total ranks third in the SEC, trailing only Florida with 10 and Georgia with seven.
Arkansas is led this season by three-time All-SEC team member Anouk Tigu. The senior ranks 33rd in singles by the ITA and boasts a 24-9 singles record. In doubles play, Tigu and sophomore partner Claudine Paulson hold a 26-9 record this season.
Tigu is one of five Razorbacks with 20 singles victories. Junior Emily Carbone is 23-16, Paulson is 20-10, junior Stephanie Roy 22-14 and freshman Jade Frampton 23-12.
"We’ve continued to get better as the season has progressed," Hegarty says. "The team is playing some good tennis. We are very healthy and a little older than this time last year when we entered the post-season."
The winners of Saturday’s matches compete in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Arkansas’ Projected Lineup:
Doubles:No. 1 #14 Anouk Tigu and Claudine Paulson (26-9)
No. 2 Kate Lukomskaya and Stephanie Roy (13-9)
No. 3 Jade Frampton and Valentina Starkova (17-12)
SinglesNo. 1 #33 Anouk Tigu (24-9)
No. 2 Stephanie Roy (22-14)
No. 3 Claudine Paulson (20-10)
No. 4 Kate Lukomskaya (11-22)
No. 5 Emily Carbone (23-16)
No. 6 Jade Frampton (23-12)