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Wednesday November 15, 2000

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Gough and Blau cannot defend championship title

By Lindsey Manroel

Arizona Daily Wildcat

UA junior takes home title in consolation play

Arizona had a championship title to defend and a player to eliminate. Unfortunately, they came up empty-handed in both categories.

While battling in the ITA Regionals in Irvine, Calif. the Arizona's third-ranked doubles team of senior Michelle Gough and junior Lindsay Blau were unsuccessful in defending their 1999 championship title.

The Wildcat duo was challenged in the finals by the No. 1 duo of Ipek Senoglu and Paoloa Palencia of Pepperdine.

Despite battling, Arizona's defending champions lost their title, 8-4.

"It's always disappointing when you're a defending champion and aren't able to defend your title," head coach Brad Dancer said. "They were challenged in the finals and had to bring their 'A' game with them in order to be competitive after only playing their 'B' game."

The question that remains now for Gough and Blau will not be whether they will loose their current national ranking but by how much.

"They'll definitely drop," Dancer said. "They've won matches but haven't beaten any top teams - they've only lost to the top ranked teams."

The next NCAA tennis rankings will not be published until Dec. 12.

Just as her doubles team faltered, Gough was also unable to defeat a powerhouse from Southern California.

No. 3 seed Jewel Peterson caused tremendous difficulty for Gough and knocked off the senior in the finals.

"She's been a huge pain in our side," Dancer said. "But, she's a tremendous model for us. She had a great fighting spirit and is a tremendous competitor. That is something that we can shoot for and pattern ourselves after."

Although Gough was not able to convert either her singles or doubles matches into championship wins, her berth in the final singles round earned her an automatic bid to the 2001 Rolex National Intercollegiate Indoor Championship.

While the Wildcats came up short in the tournament's main draw, Debbie Larocque was successful in producing a win for Arizona in consolation play. After being eliminated from the main draw, the UA freshman brought home a championship win against freshman Zana Zlebnik of UCLA, 6-0, 7-5.

Larocque said the victory will help her play with more intensity going into the spring season.

"It gives me more confidence," Larocque said. "My game started out slow, but I gained more confidence and I was more on my game. It was a good win."

The ITA Regionals - which wrapped up the Wildcats' fall season - provided UA with a stepping stone for the 2001 spring season.

However Dancer said there is still plenty of work in store for his squad if it expects to fulfill its top priority - to finish as one of the top-10 schools in the country.