No. 31 Women's Tennis Opens Season With ITA Kick-Off Weekend
Jan. 24, 2014
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The No. 31 University of Memphis women's tennis team opens their dual season Saturday when they travel to Chapel Hill, N.C., to take part in the sixth-annual ITA Kick-Off Weekend.
The Lady Tigers' first match squares them up against No. 39 VCU (2-0), the first meeting between the two schools, at 8 a.m. (CT) Saturday. The winner of the match will face off against either No. 3 North Carolina or No. 62 Denver on Sunday at 12 p.m. (CT) for a chance to advance to the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, Feb. 7-10, in Charlottesville, Va.
Memphis will compete in its second Kick-Off Weekend in program history, first appearing in 2013 when the Lady Tigers played in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Memphis came in last season as the No. 4 seed, facing No. 9 Alabama in the first round where the Lady Tigers fell 4-0. In the consolation bracket, Memphis came up just short with a 4-3 loss to former Conference USA foe and No. 24 Tulsa.
Senior Stefanie Mikesz will lead the Lady Tigers this weekend at No. 1 singles. Hampered by ankle injuries the past two seasons, her time on the court has been limited in singles play. During her sophomore season, Mikesz reached a career-high ranking of No. 51 and posted a team-high 29 wins. At No. 2 and 3 for Memphis will be sophomore Skylar Kuykendall and junior Alyssa Hibberd, who led the Lady Tigers during the 2013 dual season with 16 wins apiece. Sophomore Caroline Wegner, who will play at No. 4, had the most successful fall for Memphis with 10 wins to lead the Lady Tigers. At No. 5 and 6 will be the newest Lady Tigers - freshmen Marta Morga and Anki Wind - who will be playing in their first career dual matches.
"That's something that is unpredictable," said head coach Lee Taylor Walker. "Marta and Anki are both really good but you don't know how they're going to respond in a team setting. We trust them, and we feel like they're prepared to do that. But it will be a brand-new experience for them."
VCU is off to a 2-0 start for the season after defeating Georgetown, 5-0, and Campbell, 3-2, last weekend at home. The Rams' No. 1 player, Cindy Chala, comes into this weekend with a 10-2 record this season. Backing up Chala is No. 81 Yukako Noi at the No. 2 singles position. Noi brings an 8-5 mark into the weekend.
"They've had a consistent top-50 program for years so I think they'll have a lot of good experience," Walker said.
Last season, the Rams advanced to the NCAA Tournament after claiming the Atlantic 10 Championship while carrying a 22-4 record. VCU ended up falling to No. 31 Tennessee, 4-0, in the first round in Chapel Hill.
The reigning ITA National Team Indoor Champions, North Carolina (2-0) sports a youthful roster with five underclassmen listed on their singles lineup this weekend. Freshmen Jamie Loeb and Hayley Carter lead the Tar Heels with national rankings of No. 3 and No. 5, respectively. Whitney Kay (88) and Ashley Dai (118) are also ranked for UNC. In doubles, Kay and Caroline Price are ranked No. 10 in the country, while the duo of Loeb and Carter are No. 12. The team of Laura Slater and Kate Vialle come in at No. 42 in the nation.
Denver enters its 2014 campaign as the preseason favorite to win the Summit League. The Pioneers finished 2013 with an 18-4 mark and an unblemished WAC record before falling 4-3 to San Jose State in the WAC Tournament Championship. The Pioneers return their No. 2 player in Caroline Schnell and No. 5 with Kathryn Hughes this season.
Fans can follow along with all of this weekend's matches by visiting the ITA Matchday Central page.