With a young and talented squad, the 2012-13 Arkansas Razorback women’s tennis squad put together a strong season while building towards the future with a number of breakout performances. Featuring a roster that was one of the youngest in the country, composed of seven freshmen and one sophomore combined with just one senior, the youthful Razorback team battled hard all year and set a number of notable marks along the way.
The team finished the regular season at 13-15, and was 4-9 in SEC play, as Arkansas recorded a double digit amount of victories for the ninth consecutive season. The Razorbacks finished the season ranked No. 52 in the ITA National rankings. The freshman class, representing seven of nine players on the roster, combined for 56 of the 85 singles victories on the spring season (65 percent) and the squad was a combined 85-76 in singles and 36-33 in doubles for the season, while winning 13 doubles points.
The Razorbacks got off to a good start to the season, sitting at 4-1 after splitting a pair of matches at the ITA Kickoff Weekend in Evanston, Ill. With a 5-2 victory at the ITA Kickoff over Washington State, head coach Michael Hegarty etched his name into the Razorback record books. The victory was the 125th of his career as Arkansas head coach, passing his predecessor Kevin Platt for first place in wins among all Arkansas women’s tennis coaches.
The Razorbacks battled through a tough nonconference schedule, suffering four consecutive tight 4-3 losses. They recovered with a pair of 4-3 wins, a big win over Tulsa in the nonconference finale before starting SEC play with a win over Kentucky. The Razorbacks held tough through an extremely challenging nonconference schedule, facing 12 ranked opponents and nine future NCAA Tournament teams. After the win over the Wildcats, Arkansas also defeated Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and LSU.
Throughout the season, Arkansas was continually led by two players – the freshman breakout season of Yang Pang and the strong senior campaign of Claudine Paulson. Spending the entire season at No. 1 singles, rising star Yang Pang had a breakthrough season with 11 wins, and each one of her loses came against a ranked opponent. She was strong in conference play, with a 7-6 SEC singles record, and had the top victory of the year for the program with a win over Alabama’s No. 20 Mary Anne MacFarlane. She was named to the First Team All-SEC, as well as the All-Freshman team and Central Region Rookie of the Year, finishing the season ranked No. 56 in the ITA national rankings. Pang also earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors for her play in the first two matches of the conference season. The recognition was the first weekly honor for the team in two years, and was replicated later in the season when fellow freshman Brittany Huxley earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors.
As the team’s lone senior, Claudine Paulson led the team with 20 singles victories. She was also 10-3 in SEC play, tying for the most dual singles wins in the SEC and finishing tied for third in SEC singles victories. Paulson was named to the Second Team All-SEC and the SEC Community Service Team. She earned the team’s second ITA ranking, finishing No. 73 in the ITA rankings. Paulson also had a strong doubles season, playing the entire year at No. 1 doubles. Paulson and her partner, freshman Segou Jonker, were ranked No. 67 in the nation in doubles.
In addition to their strength at the top, the Razorbacks got strong contributions from throughout their roster. Four players finished the season with double digit victories, including three freshmen in Ana Lorena Belmar Hernandez (15), Pang (11), and Huxley (11). The Razorbacks’ leading doubles record also came from an all-freshman pairing, as Huxley and Pang combined for a 10-9 mark. Another freshmen pairing also finished the year strong, as Belmar Hernandez and Kimberley – Ann Surin settled in during conference play and finished with an 8-3 record.
While the Razorbacks did not qualify for postseason play as a team, Pang was rewarded for her stellar season with an at-large bid to the NCAA Individual Singles Championship. She competed on May 22 at the event hosted by the University of Illinois. Pang faced Nicole Gibbs in the first round, falling 7-5, 6-4. Gibbs went on to win the singles championship for the second consecutive year.
With a strong season from a very young squad, the Razorbacks are positioned for great success in the future. With the addition of highly rated recruit Shannon Hudson, and the return of the majority of the roster, the Arkansas women’s tennis team is set up for great achievements in the future.