Wildcats Readied for NCAA Championship
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 22 Kentucky women’s tennis team is geared up for the 2016 NCAA Championship after earning its third straight and 23rd all-time bid in program history. After posting a 17-9 regular-season record and a 6-7 mark in arguably the toughest top-to-bottom conference in the nation, the Wildcats earned a No. 2 seed and will head to Ann Arbor, Mich., for the first and second rounds of the national tournament.
Michigan will play host to the first and second rounds for the sixth time in the last seven seasons, which will be held at the Varsity Tennis Center.
Kentucky will have a similar setup as last season’s first round, when it also traveled to Ann Arbor and took on the Big East Conference champion in the tournament opener while the Wolverines squared off with the champion from the Mid-American Conference. This year, Kentucky will face first-time conference champion and No. 3 seed Xavier at 10 a.m. ET on Friday, followed by top-seeded Michigan’s match with No. 4 Ball State at 1 p.m. The two match winners will face each other on Saturday at 1 p.m., with the victor advancing to the Sweet 16 in Tulsa, Okla., on May 19-24.
The Wildcats hold a 19-22 all-time record in the NCAA Championship, and advanced to the quarterfinals in 1988 and 2005. The last time that UK earned three straight tournament berths was in 2007-09, a run that marked the end of a school-record 13 consecutive tournament bids.
Kentucky is fresh off a myriad of accolades, most recently being the announcement of the ITA Regional Awards. UK earned a program-high three regional awards, marking the fourth consecutive year that a Kentucky player or coach has been recognized by the region. Head coach Carlos Dradá was named the Wilson/ITA Ohio Valley Coach of the Year for the second time in his career, while Kevin Calhoun garnered his second ITA Ohio Valley Assistant Coach of the Year honor. Additionally, Nadia Ravita was named the recipient of the Cissie Leary Award for Sportsmanship, becoming the third Wildcat to do so.
Another notable release was that of the NCAA Championship singles and doubles participants. Kentucky’s lead doubles team of Mami Adachi and Aldila Sutjiadi earned the No. 2 overall seed, locking down All-America honors for the tandem that went 15-2 and played a heavy hand in Kentucky’s dominant doubles effort this season with just three doubles points dropped throughout 26 matches. Additionally, Sutjiadi was named an at-large qualifier for the singles tournament after becoming the first Wildcat since 2006 to be named to the All-Southeastern Conference First Team. With the release of the All-SEC teams, Justina Mikulskyte was also named an SEC All-Freshman selection after holding down the No. 1 singles spot for the majority of the season and going nearly undefeated with Ravita in doubles, posting a 16-1 record as a pair.
Xavier moved into its highest spot this year in the Oracle/ITA rankings, sitting at No. 67 in the nation following an upset of top-seeded DePaul in the BIG EAST Championship. The Musketeers posted a 20-5 record under the 2016 BIG EAST Coaching Staff of the Year, including 7-1 within league play with the only loss coming by way of a regular-season 4-2 setback to DePaul. Sidney Liggins, a three-time All-BIG EAST selection and the 2016 BIG EAST Player of the Year, played the entire season in the No. 1 singles slot, compiling a 19-4 record that included a ranked win over DePaul’s No. 85 Yulia Shupenia in straight sets during the conference tournament final. The junior also plays on the top doubles team along with Amina Ismail, with the two posting a 15-8 record during the year, including a 10-match winning streak entering Friday’s contest. Also posting an impressive singles record is the Musketeers’ No. 2 player and All-BIG EAST honoree, Cristina Di Lorenzo, who compiled a 16-6 mark during the campaign. Di Lorenzo is a familiar face to Kentucky’s Mikulskyte, as the two squared off in the Round of 32 of the USTA/ITA Ohio Valley Regional Championships with the Wildcat advancing courtesy of a three-set win.
The No. 10 seed overall in the tournament behind a 20-6 (10-1 Big Ten) record, Michigan is led by senior Ronit Yurovsky in the No. 1 spot. Yurovsky was one of two unanimous All-Big Ten selections behind a 15-5 overall singles record, and was also named the ITA Midwest Senior Player of the Year and the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award winner. An automatic All-American, she is one of two Wolverines to have punched a ticket to the NCAA Singles Championship, earning the No. 16 seed. Fellow All-B1G selection Brienne Minor is a key player in both singles and doubles, sporting a 16-5 record between the No. 2 and 3 singles spots and a 9-2 record in No. 1 doubles with Mira Ruder-Hook. Minor and Ruder-Hook claimed the B1G automatic qualification to the NCAA Doubles Championship, while Minor will also earned an at-large bid to the singles tournament behind a No. 19 ranking in the latest Oracle/ITA release.
Ball State won its first MAC title in program history under the guidance of 2016 MAC Coach of the Year Max Norris. The Cardinals landed their top two players on an all-conference team, with Peyton Gollhofer earning first-team honors while Carmen Blanco was named to the second team, both career firsts for the underclassmen. Gollhofer posted a 9-5 record in the top singles spot during her rookie career, taking just two victories to extra sets. Blanco split time between No. 1 and No. 2 singles for the Cardinals, going 16-5 between the two spots.
Visit UKathletics.com for the most up-to-date information on the Kentucky women’s tennis team and all 22 varsity sports. For additional info, notes, and behind-the-scenes updates, follow the team on Twitter at @UKWomensTennis and on Facebook.