Arkansas women's tennis spring 2013 preview
Photo Courtesy: UA Athletics
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (Univ. of Ark.) -- Coming off of five straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament, the Razorbacks have their goals set on number six for 2013.
In pursuit of that goal, Arkansas enters the season with a youthful squad that is eager to re-energize the roster after the 2012 club went 12-14 overall, and 3-8 in the Southeastern Conference. The squad enters the upcoming season ranked 36th in the nation.
The Razorbacks will be led this season by an influx of highly touted young talent, as they will be one of the youngest squads in the country. Arkansas brought in a strong four-member freshman class this fall that was ranked No. 12 nationally. In addition, UA secured a key transfer and added three exciting freshmen in time for the spring season. Head Coach Michael Hegarty is excited to have such a wealth of talent making their Razorback debuts this season.
"Our youth is our biggest strength this season," Hegarty said. "Our talent is obvious, and this recruiting class is clearly the best one we have ever had, so I expect a tremendous impact from the young players on our squad."
Last season's performance earned them a trip to the NCAA Tournament, where they fell against Long Beach State. They finished the year ranked No. 37 in the country, and had wins over eight ranked opponents.
It will be senior Claudine Paulson returning to anchor the Arkansas roster, bringing three years of solid SEC experience. After a strong season at the No. 1 position in doubles last year, Paulson enters her senior season with a career doubles record of 69-42, and a 60-42 career record in singles. Paulson will be key for the Razorbacks in providing stable leadership for the youthful squad.
"Claudine has already demonstrated great leadership as our lone senior," Hegarty said. "She has experienced a lot of success in her career in terms of team and individual NCAA participation, so she knows exactly what it takes for us to be successful."
Sarah McLean comes to Arkansas for her sophomore season from Florida International University, spending last year primarily as FIU's No. 1 singles player. McLean will bring valuable collegiate experience to the team.
The freshmen class is full of rising stars, and Yang Pang really broke through in the fall season. During the fall season, Pang had three wins over ranked players, all upperclassmen, and advanced to the
quarterfinals of the ITA Central Regionals. She is poised for a breakout in the spring season.
"This fall our squad already showed they can compete nationally," Hegarty said. "That was very important for our confidence as we enter the spring season. Pang in particular showed that we have great strength at the very top of our lineup."
Kimberley - Ann Surin enters the 2013 season as a highly regarded newcomer. Surin became the first Razorback to compete at the US Open Juniors under head coach Michael Hegarty this fall, where she was competing for the second straight year. She recorded a strong 5-4 singles record this fall for Arkansas.
Ana Lorena Belmar Hernandez brings a rich tennis pedigree to the team this year. Her mother earned a national championship at USC, her father won the Pac-10 title at USC in 1984 and both parents were Mexican national champions. Her uncle is a former No. 1 player in the world who won titles at the U.S. Open and Wimbledon.
Kristen Mee is another freshman who posted a strong fall debut. She is a four-time Texas High School state champion who posted a winning record in the fall in both singles and doubles.
The Razorbacks will welcome three new freshmen to the lineup in time for the spring season. Flavia Araujo joins the Razorbacks from Sao Paulo, Brazil, Brittany Huxley enters from Grafton, Australia, and Segou Jonker comes to Fayetteville from Krimpen, Netherlands.
"The three new additions will provide great talent and depth to our lineup," Hegarty said. "I expect all three players to contribute immediately and what's especially exciting is that all three players excel on the doubles court."
The 2013 edition of the Razorbacks will look to harness the young talent for a successful season. The talent will be on display during a challenging schedule that features 19 matches against ranked teams. UA faces eight teams ranked in the top 25, including three SEC matches against top 10 teams.
"I'm most excited to see the growth in our team," Hegarty said.
"When you have such a young team you hope that this growth happens steadily and positively and I'm extremely excited to contribute to that growth."
Arkansas will host nine home matches this season at the Billingsley Tennis Center, as the Razorbacks look to cement themselves as one of the top teams in the SEC and earn a trip back to the NCAA tournament.