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Wednesday December 6, 2000

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Women's tennis finishes mediocre season

By Lindsey Manroel

Arizona Daily Wildcat

No. 3 doubles team disappointed with Fall performance

The Arizona women's tennis team has depth, talent and enough motivation to defeat any opponent it faces.

Unfortunately, it was just hiding somewhere at the Robson Tennis Center this fall season.

"Our performance varied throughout the team," head coach Brad Dancer said. "Result-wise, we didn't have a great fall, but we hope that our final product is the result of a great spring season."

Dancer is referring to a slow start from a Wildcat squad, who has its work cut out if it wants to perform well in the Pacific 10 Conference.

Senior Michelle Gough, UA's top singles player, once again proved she is the guiding force behind Dancer's Wildcats.

Gough, who maintained a record of 11-6, battled her way into the championship match of the ITA Regionals, Nov. 9-13.

Despite loosing to Jewel Peterson of Southern California, 6-4, 6-3, the junior said the tournament was a success.

Gough qualified for the 2001 Rolex National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships in February - a tournament offered to only the top players in collegiate tennis - an accomplishment that Dancer felt could not be more deserving for his oldest Wildcat.

"I'm really happy for Michelle," Dancer said. "I've just been waiting for her to have some success, and her success at the ITA Regionals is long overdue."

Although she was unable to bring any championship trophies back to Tucson, Gough, who cites her one downfall to be her lack of "cockiness" on the court, is confident in what she and her squad are capable of doing.

Junior Lindsay Blau - who got off to a slow start due to a knee injury that sidelined her for three tournaments, including the Clay Court Championships in Baltimore - quickly recovered and was able to finish out the remaining portion of her mediocre fall season.

"My injury just cut my season in half," Blau said. "I think my performance was just OK. I don't think it was great, but it wasn't bad. I've learned that I just need to be physically stronger."

Blau, who said her knee has been 100 percent better since returning to tournament play, executes a strong all-court game - a key component that was missing in her season and attributed to her 6-5 record.

Despite the slow start attained in singles, Arizona's disappointing factor in the season came from the doubles play of Gough and Blau.

"They set very high expectations for themselves," Dancer said. "They've got some work to do."

The tandem - which prior to the fall season was ranked No. 3 in the country - will likely see a drop in their status due to a loss at the ITA Regionals. UA's team was defeated 9-8 by Mhari Brown and Allison Bradshaw of ASU.

The loss has both teammates disappointed in their performance.

"I don't think that we played up to our status," Blau said. "We're definitely capable of more."

Arizona's doubles team will not know just how their status will be effected until the national rankings are released next Monday.

The fall season did provide much experience for Debbie Larocque. With no collegiate tennis experience, the UA freshman demonstrated what Dancer called great determination and spirit.

"We feel as though we have a bullfighter on our team," Dancer said. "She's always going to go out and battle her opponent - no matter what."

Larocque's enthusiasm has been acknowledged by her teammates as well.

"Debbie brings a lot of energy, it's a part of her personality," Gough said. "She's really young and enthusiastic, and it has rubbed off on some of us. She's super competitive and tries her heart out."

In her first year as a Wildcat, Larocque achieved a record of 13-4 in singles and 2-4 in doubles.

Prior to the 2000 fall season, Dancer cited a top Arizona team goal was to finish among the top-10 schools in the country. After closing the books on the fall season, Dancer's standards have not changed.

"Our No. 1 goal is that we want to be competitive against every team we play," Dancer said. "I think that unless we have injuries, this squad is capable of that. Right now, we are not playing there. This team can do better."

If Arizona is going to make a run at the top-10, the team will have to prepare for two of the conference's top teams - Stanford and arch-rival Arizona State.

"On paper, (Stanford and ASU) are going to be the strongest in the conference," Dancer said. "We can play at their level, but we're going to have to get better to beat them. We're capable of doing that, but we have a lot of work to do."

Lindsey Manroel can be reached at