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Women's tennis opens Pac-10 play with a win

By Brian Penso
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday Feb. 19, 2002

Head coach Vicky Maes was not concerned that her women's tennis team would come out flat last weekend after not playing for over a month.

The first-year coach was right.

UA opened its Pacific 10 Conference schedule on the road against Oregon and won 5-2.

The Wildcats (4-0 overall, 1-0 Pac-10) earned their fourth win of the season.

The score, however, was not indicative of the struggles UA overcame to win the match.

The match started out rough for the Wildcats as they saw themselves down 1-0 after losing the doubles portion of the match.

Arizona's top doubles team of sophomore Debbie Larocque and freshman Maja Mlakar lost 9-7 to the Ducks' (6-3, 0-2) top duo of freshman Ester Bak and senior Janice Nyland.

"I was pleased we carried the doubles," Oregon head coach Jack Griffin said. "I'm more than proud to sweep. We competed very well, but at the end of (the) match, we gave away too many points."

After regrouping and moving on to singles competition, Arizona once again found themselves in a hole that Maes thought may have been too big to overcome.

The Wildcats were behind in five of the six singles matches, but they never lost focus.

UA came back to win four of the matches they were behind in to take the 5-2 victory.

"We were fired up to play this weekend," Maes said. "We lost the doubles early and we were facing a hostile crowd. Everyone on the team fought hard and we were able to turn it around and come away with the victory."

The Wildcats were led by Mlakar, who breezed to a 6-2, 6-2 victory against the Ducks' top player, Nyland.

"Maja is our consistent force," Maes said. "She is such a reliable No. 1. She overpowers everyone and we count on her giving us a point every time she steps on the court. She is just an amazing player."

Arizona's No. 2 player, Larocque, struggled against Oregon sophomore Devina Mendiburu at the start, losing the first set 2-6.

However, consistent with the play of each of her teammates, Larocque battled back to win the match 2-6, 6-3, 7-5.

Earlier in the year at the Pac-10 Indoor Championships, Larocque lost to Mendiburu, and Maes said she was very pleased with Larocque's ability to overcome her mistakes and prevail in this match.

With the team traveling to Los Angeles this weekend to face No. 7 USC and No. 15 UCLA, Maes said winning on the road against Oregon will help the team face the tough challenge they have ahead of them.

"The team really came together this weekend," Maes said. "It was a very intense match, and the way we fought back will help us against UCLA and USC. I saw the fight and will to win that we have and that impressed me the most. We will be ready for our trip this weekend."


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