FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas women’s tennis team is ready to begin the 2007 season as they welcome No. 32 North Carolina State Wolfpack to the Dills Indoor Tennis Center on Saturday, Jan. 27, at 1:00 p.m.
This Saturday’s match marks the first time the Lady Razorbacks have ever opened a season against a ranked opponent. The match also puts the Lady’Backs against their highest-ranked non-conference opponent since the 1999 season in which Arkansas faced No. 5 Stanford.
“It’s exciting to open the season at home,” said Arkansas head coach Michael Hegarty. “North Carolina State is a strong team, so we will know where we stand right away.”
In spring season openers, the Lady’Backs are 24-3 dating back to the 1980 season. However, they have not lost a season opener since 1993, a 12-year streak. In the last two seasons’ openers, both against Oral Roberts University, Arkansas only lost 14 games total, while winning 192. In 2005, the Lady’Back singles ladder did not lose a single game.
Saturday’s match hopes to continue strong match play from the 2006 fall schedule. The Lady’Backs were paced in singles by junior Maryori Franco, who climbed to a 12-4 record through a tough field at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Central-East Championships. Franco advanced to the final round by knocking off several opponents representing the Big 12 Conference.
Sophomore Ela Kaluder cemented herself at or near the top of the Arkansas lineup with 12-6 fall singles record and national ranking of 65. Kaluder also earned a main draw bid to the ITA Central-East Championships, advancing all the way to the semifinal round. This fall, Kaluder picked up wins over two top 20 opponents in Georgia’s No. 20 Darya Ivanov and Marshall’s No. 18 Kellie Schmitt. In her career at Arkansas, Kaluder now has three wins over top 20 opponents.
“We are a little unsure of our lineup as of right now,” Hegarty said. “Maryori (Franco) and Ela (Kaluder) are somewhere near the top, but nothing is set in stone.”
Also, stepping up in singles from the first-year Arkansas players were sophomore Nanar Airapetian and freshman Melissa Hoffmeister. In singles this fall they were 9-3 and 9-5, respectively.
In doubles play, there were two teams that made a splash this fall. Franco and Airapetian finished with 8-3 overall record. One of those eight wins propelled the junior-sophomore team to the doubles final at the ITA Central-East Championships over Imke Reimers and Maria Ring of Nebraska.
“Nanar (Airapetian) lit it up this fall,” Hegarty added. “She is a good doubles player, and is going to e every bit as good in singles.”
Also in doubles, Kaluder and junior Audrey Bordeleau finished the fall with an 8-2 record. Their only losses came at the hands of the No. 1 doubles team in the country in William and Mary’s #1 Megan Moulton-Levy and Katarina Zoricic and in the semifinal round of the ITA Central-East Championship to Kansas’ Elizaveta Avdeeva and Edina Horvath.
If you can’t make it to Saturday’s match, the Lady’Backs are back in action the following day against Tulsa. Admission to both matches is free. For more information on Arkansas tennis or any other Lady Razorback sport, please visit LADYBACKS.com.