By Michael Schwartz
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, November 4, 2004
After disappointing early-season results, UA doubles squad Dianne Hollands and Maja Mlakar take their preseason No. 1 ranking into the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Indoor Championships today through Sunday at the University of Michigan Varsity Tennis Center.
The senior duo will be seeded fourth at the event after falling in the quarterfinals of its first three tournaments this season, including a recent 8-3 defeat to University of Southern California's duo of Lindsey Nelson and Carine Vermuelen in the quarterfinals of the ITA Women's Western Regional Championships.
Assistant coach Brian Ramirez said the doubles team qualified with an at-large bid by virtue of their top ranking. Hollands also qualified for the singles bracket where she will be seeded between fifth and eighth.
Ramirez said that results do not tell the whole story in quantifying early season performances.
"I'm seeing progress in their games, in particular in Dianne and Maja, and that's the key," he said. "The things that happen early in the year are not very important. It's the things that happen at the end of the year that are very important."
Hollands and Mlakar will get the chance to show this progress this weekend. The pair takes on high-ranked teams, including Notre Dame's second-seeded twin duo of Catrina and Christian Thompson, who knocked UA out of the ITA All-American tournament. Arizona opens against host Michigan's duo of Michelle DaCosta and Kara Delicata.
"I think it's important because starting out in the spring semester we really want to let people know that we deserve it," Hollands said. "We know we do, it's just a matter of putting all of that in a match."
On the other hand, Ramirez said that people read too much into rankings and seedings.
"It's not so important for them to prove to anyone that they're the best," he said. "The results have not been there yet this year in doubles, but what's really important is that they show everyone else that in order to beat them you're going to have to really compete hard. Later in the year they're going to be very, very hard to beat and that's what's important."
In the first round of the 32-player singles field, Hollands will face DaCosta knowing that a potential showdown against Northwestern's top-seeded Audra Cohen, who has won the singles tournament in all three of her events this year, looms in the quarterfinals.
Hollands enters this draw after falling short in the West Regional semifinals losing to eventual champion Riza Zalameda of UCLA, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.
"There were only three points I think that really made it and it was on my serve and on a forehand so I worked on those two things," said Hollands, the No. 7 player in the country.
Hollands, who reached the quarterfinals of this event last year, said she will enjoy the indoor playing surface because she won't be bothered by wind or sun. She also said she looks forward to playing matches against the best players in the country whom she will face in the spring semester.
"I would say a successful weekend is going out there and playing the way I want to play and the results will come from playing aggressive, using the right shots and really working on my shot selection," she said.
This tournament will feature several players from the competitive Pacific 10 Conference, which Ramirez said is home of five of the top 10 teams in the country.
"This is a tough event whether you're the girls from Stanford or the girls from Arizona," he said. "I expect they're going to go to this event and they're going to absolutely compete as well as they possibly can. They're going to go out and absolutely bust their butts and bend over backwards to compete as well as they can this weekend, and if they do that, the results will show."
The remainder of the healthy Wildcats will head to Palm Springs, Calif., for the Fall Desert Classic today through Sunday. Arizona will represent all classes by taking senior Kelly Perry, junior Stephanie Balzert, sophomore Kasia Jakowlew and freshman Camelia Todorova.
"I think that group of girls will do well at that event," Ramirez said. "Those girls have been a little more on track in terms of results early in the year and I would expect they will continue down that same line. Some of our younger players are really doing a good job of feeling out college tennis and getting used to it."