NASHVILLE, Tenn. — With a solid weekend in the books at Ohio State, the 32nd-ranked Razorback women’s tennis team has concluded the non-conference portion of their schedule and will begin conference play this week on the road at No. 35 Vanderbilt and No. 74 Kentucky on Friday and Sunday respectively.
Arkansas (7-3) is coming off a weekend where they split matches with No. 38 DePaul and Ohio State. In their match with the Blue Demons, the Hogs won the early doubles point, but then struggled in singles to fall by a score of 4-3. However, the team had a good bounce back day against Ohio State as they got some clutch performances from senior Emily Carbone and freshman Catherine Parenteau in singles to come away with the 4-3 win, their fourth win this year decided by one team point.
“I think the weekend was exactly what we were hoping for and needed as we enter into conference play,” head coach Michael Hegarty said. “They were two really competitive matches. Unfortunately, we lost the first one to DePaul. They are a very tough team, but I thought we played pretty well. Then, we came back the next day and beat a good Ohio State team in very similar fashion. I’m glad we were involved in some close matches because we see that a lot in SEC play. I think it was good preparation for us that way.”
Throughout the season so far, Arkansas has shown its depth, getting good performances from everyone on its roster. Four out of six of their starters have already reached the ten win plateau for the season as junior Claudine Paulson leads the way with a 13-8 overall record. Ever since the start of dual play, Paulson has been a strong No. 3 player for the Razorbacks, winning eight of her first ten matches and beginning the spring on a six-match win streak.
As all six players are starting to establish themselves in their roles, the Hogs have also started to get consistent strong play in its doubles lineup. After winning both doubles points over the weekend, the Razorbacks have come away with the first team point in four of their last five matches. Seniors Stephanie Roy and Emily Carbone are the only Arkansas team at the moment with ten wins or more. They are 11-8 on the year with six wins coming in dual play, but Paulson and sophomore Laurie Gingras have started to settle in at the one spot as they have six wins together with five coming this spring.
“We’ve established three doubles teams right at the start of the spring that have stuck together and are getting better every time they play,” Hegarty said. “In some seasons you’ll switch your doubles up here and there and it’s harder to get some continuity in those situations. Our teams right now have played together for 10 weeks and are certainly blending better as the semester goes on. I hope that continues.”
Vanderbilt will be Arkansas’ first opponent this weekend as the Commodores bring in a No. 35 ranking and an 8-4 overall record. Vandy has had some solid wins against DePaul and Arizona, but suffered a three-match losing streak at the end of January, losing to Texas, Michigan and Notre Dame, all on their home court.
The Commodores also brings in two nationally ranked singles players in Jackie Wu (#29) and Lauren Mira (#98), who have combined for 16 wins this year, all in dual play. The two players have also teamed up to be one of the top-ranked doubles teams in the nation as they No. 19 in the latest polls according to ITA.
Kentucky broke into the rankings this week at No. 74 as they have built up an 8-3 record with wins against Marshall, Winthrop and Cincinnati. Sophomore Cece Witten has been the consistent player for the Wildcats this year as she has gone 8-0 in dual play at the No. 5 and 6 singles positions. UK owns a 15-7 record all-time against the Razorbacks, but Arkansas has had their number as of late, winning the last four matchups.
“We’ve had very close matches with both Vanderbilt and Kentucky over the last few years,” Hegarty said. “We’re expecting good, high-quality matches from both of them again. Playing at Vanderbilt is always challenging because we play them on Friday, which is always a late afternoon match. We’re expecting a very competitive match from them as they are a highly ranked team and play extremely hard. Same thing goes for Kentucky as we expect a very spirited match from both teams.”
Arkansas will begin its weekend against Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn., with the first serve slated for 2:30 p.m. Sunday’s match with Kentucky is set for an 11 a.m. start in Lexington, Ky. A full recap and complete results will be available online following each day’s play.