FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (Univ. of Ark.) - After a 4-0 road trip over spring break, the No. 44 University of Arkansas women's tennis team returns home this weekend for two conference matches at Billingsley Tennis Center. The Razorbacks (10-10, 3-5 SEC) will host No. 31 South Carolina at 2 p.m. on Friday, and then face No. 2 Florida at 12 p.m. on Sunday.
Arkansas is on a four match winning streak, which started with two wins over Jackson State last Wednesday. The team continued their hot play over the weekend, getting back into conference matches. The Razorbacks earned a strong 4-0 victory over Mississippi State on Friday, before earning a comeback 4-3 win at Ole Miss on Sunday. Against the Rebels, UA was down 2-0, and 3-2, but rallied back, with a pair of freshmen clinching the final two singles points.
"At this point in the season, everything we're doing right now is important because it's setting the tone for the second half of the spring season," Arkansas head coach Michael Hegarty said.
"It was really important for us to have a good trip. We've been building this young team up really, really well since the start of the spring. The team is starting to play some really good tennis. I expect really tough matches this weekend, and hopefully we're going to continue to grow in the right direction."
As the lone upperclassman on a team featuring seven freshmen and one sophomore, senior Claudine Paulson has been a strong leader for the Razorbacks. Paulson has been one of the hottest players in the SEC since conference play began, and is off to the best overall start of her career, currently sitting at 16-2 overall in singles, with an 8-0 record in conference matches. She is the only player in the conference to this point with eight SEC wins, and is also tied with Kentucky's Nadia Ravita for the most overall wins in the conference with 16.
"Claudine has been a great leader," Hegarty said. "She's always been a great team player; you haven't had many team players better than Claudine. This year her role has expanded more into leadership, and it's been a joy to see her blossom this way. For her to have the most victories of anyone in the SEC to this point is really amazing."
South Carolina enters Friday's match at 9-8, 2-5 in the SEC. The Gamecocks have lost four of their last five matches, but the lone win was an upset of No. 18 Auburn last weekend. Florida is ranked No. 2 in the country, and is the two-time defending national champions. The Gators are 13-2, 6-1 in the SEC, and will be at LSU Friday before coming to Fayetteville. UF features seven ranked singles players, including No. 1 Lauren Embree. Arkansas features a 6-18 all-time record against South Carolina, and a 1-23 record versus Florida.