April 21, 2010
NEW ORLEANS - The Tulane University women's tennis team will open play in the 2010 Conference USA Women's Tennis Championship on Thursday, April 22, when they take on UAB at 10 a.m. at the Case Tennis Center on the campus of the University of Tulsa.
After going 12-8 during the regular season, including a 4-2 showing in league, play, the Green Wave earned the tournament's No. 6 seed. That is a four-seed improvement over last season when the upstart Tulane team entered the tourney as the 10th seed. The Wave also enter the 2010 C-USA Tournament with a head of steam after closing out the 2010 regular season with four consecutive victories.
"Obviously, anytime you go into a conference tournament, you want to go into it with the mindset that you want to win the tournament," Tulane head women's tennis coach Terri Sisk said. "I think this year, we honestly have a good chance of doing that. The girls realize that at tournament time, anything can happen. It's all about who shows up to play and I know the girls are completely capable of making it happen.
"They want to bring home a victory for Tulane. They want to make something happen in our second year back. I think with everybody believing, plus we finished the regular season so well, I think it can be a reality if everyone keeps believing in what this team can do."
As a team, the Green Wave went 121-86 in singles play during the 2009-10 season, including a 71-43 mark in dual-match competition. Sophomore Mariam Kurdadze leads Tulane with a 25-8 overall record and sports a 17-3 mark as the No. 1 player in dual-match action. Freshman Emma Levy is next on the team with a 20-10 overall mark and a 14-6 record in spring play, while sophomore Lindsay Dvorak is next at 19-11 overall and 13-6 in dual-match competition.
In doubles, Tulane is 56-44 on the year with a 31-21 showing in head-to-head play. The No. 1 tandem of Kurdadze and Levy leads the Green Wave with an 18-11 overall record while going 12-6 in spring play. Tulane's No. 3 duo of freshman Hila Elster and sophomore Elizabeth Hamlin, meanwhile, actually pace the squad in doubles winning percentage with a .722 mark (13-5) overall and a .786 clip (11-3) in dual-match action.
"To win three or four matches at this level, because Conference USA has become a legitimate women's tennis conference, I think it's going to take a lot of things to win the tournament," Sisk said. "I think it's going to take a lot of believing and a lot of playing with heart. You can never have the attitude that `They're just better than us.' I truly believe that nobody in this conference is better than us. I believe that everyone is at the same level.
"You're going to have to be physically prepared and you're going to have to be mentally prepared. Every match that we'll play this week will be a true battle in every sense of the word. You also have to understand that there are going to be ups and downs inside of every match, and you're going to have to rebound from those in a positive way. I think if we can do all of those things at the same time, from one to six, and everybody can grasp the concept that it's not going to be easy, we can do it if we just keep plugging away at it."
UAB, meanwhile, enters postseason play as the C-USA Tournament's No. 11 seed after going 10-10 in dual meet action during the spring. As a team, the Blazers are 59-63 in singles matches and 20-34 in doubles play.
Jenny Cape paces UAB with a 14-5 singles mark after going 0-1 at No. 4, 6-1 at No. 5 and 8-3 at No. 6. Girogia Romeo is next on the Blazers' stat sheet with 12 wins while Paula Alvarez and Evelien Strijker each have 10 singles victories.
UAB has used 12 different doubles tandems during the spring and the duo of Romeo and Strijker lead the Blazers with a 9-3 record. Alvarez and Cope, meanwhile, sit second on the team with a 5-6 doubles mark.
Thursday's match marks the second time this season that Tulane and UAB will square off on the tennis court and the Green Wave will look to make it a clean sweep after downing the Blazers, 4-0, back on March 22 in Birmingham, Ala., That victory started a four-match winning streak as Tulane followed up its win with a 7-0 decision over UTEP on April 9 and back-to-back 5-2 contests against Memphis and Southern Miss on April 10 and 11, respectively.
"Winning the last four Conference USA matches was big for us," Sisk said. "We borrowed the phrase `Finish Strong' from the Saints this year because that's what we truly believe we can do. It gives us a lot of confidence and it gives us a lot of momentum. It's much easier to go into a conference tournament knowing you just won your last four as opposed to losing your last four.
"I told the girls, `Look, you beat them but when it comes to tournament time, it doesn't matter. What happened in the past doesn't matter. You've got to be prepared to play.' I think that momentum will go a long way for us, especially having such a young team."
While entering the C-USA Tournament with some momentum will no doubt help the team's overall confidence, the biggest edge for the 2010 Green Wave will likely be the experience it picked up while taking its lumps the previous season when a nine-freshmen squad went 12-11 during the regular season before losing 4-0 to UCF in the first round of the tournament in Houston.
"Going in this year, they know what to expect," Sisk said of her team. "They know all the fans are going to be there and all the teams are going to be there. Other coaches are watching you play if they've got a first-round bye. So there are a lot of things at stake here. I think the girls have really adapted well in the past year. What we didn't have last year was we didn't have any upperclassmen to tell them what it was going to be like. This year, we actually have seven upperclassmen who are going to tell those three freshmen, `Hey, this is what it's going to be like. This is what to expect. Don't pay attention to this, pay attention to this.'"
The winner of Thursday's Tulane/UAB match will advance to take on third-seeded Rice on Friday at 10 a.m. The semifinals are slated for Saturday at noon and the championship match will be played on Sunday at 10 a.m. The winner of the C-USA Women's Tennis Championship will earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
2010 CONFERENCE USA WOMEN'S TENNIS SCHEDULE
Thursday, April 22
Match 1: No. 7 East Carolina vs. No. 10 Houston, B Courts, 10 a.m.
Match 2: No. 6 Tulane vs. No. 11 UAB, A Courts, 10 a.m.
Match 3: No. 8 Southern Miss vs. No. 9 Memphis, B Courts, 2 p.m.
Match 4: No. 5 UCF vs. No. 12 UTEP, A Courts, 2 p.m.
Friday, April 23
Match 5: No.2 Tulsa vs. Match 1 Winner, A Courts, 10 a.m.
Match 6: No. 3 Rice vs. Match 2 Winner, B Courts, 10 a.m.
Match 7: No. 1 SMU vs. Match 3 Winner, A Courts, 2 p.m.
Match 8: No. 4 Marshall vs. Match 4 Winner, B Courts, 2 p.m.
Saturday, April 24
Match 9: Match 5 Winner vs. Match 6 Winner, 12 p.m.
Match 10: Match 7 Winner vs. Match 8 Winner, 12 p.m.
Sunday, April 25
Match 11: Match 9 Winner vs. Match 10 Winner, 10 a.m.