Cats return to home court to face Davis, NAU

By Michael Schwartz
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, January 21, 2005

After a full slate of road tournaments, the Arizona women's tennis team makes its first home appearance of the season today at 2 p.m. against UC Davis at the Robson Tennis Center.

However, the stopover in Tucson will be brief for the No. 42 Wildcats, who hit the road to take on NAU in Sedona Sunday at 2 p.m.

Coming off a strong showing at the Pacific 10 Conference Indoor Championships last weekend, the UA opens its spring schedule against the unranked Aggies.

The doubles team of senior Kelly Perry and junior Stephanie Balzert won the Flight II Doubles championship in Seattle, and sophomore Kasia Jakowlew won the Flight III Singles final.

After playing everywhere from Philadelphia to Hawaii in the fall tournament season, the team, said senior Maja Mlakar, is ready to return home.

"We can't wait," she said. "It's just so great to play at home, especially in this weather. It's great and everything, I mean we get fans and it's great to play on our home court."

After a mediocre preseason, the UA doubles team of senior Dianne Hollands and Mlakar lost its place as the top doubles team in the nation, falling all the way to No. 17. Hollands dropped from the preseason's No. 7 singles player down to No. 23, and Mlakar rose from No. 102 to No. 63.

However, the girls have nothing to prove this weekend, said assistant coach Brian Ramirez.

"We're more concerned with making sure the girls continue moving forward and continue to have progress with their ability to execute game plans and their ability to compete," he said. "That went well in Seattle, and we want to continue to move forward with that."

Arizona enters its non-conference season this weekend, preparing for tough Pac-10 competition. They will play eight matches before conference play begins.

"I think we can get through those 8-0 or maybe 7-1, something like that," Ramirez said. "There are some tough teams in that. I would like to get through this playing well and having the girls compete well like they did in Seattle at the Pac-10 Indoors where they did an excellent job."

He also said the coaches have focused on game plan execution and getting the girls mentally prepared to compete this week in practice. There will also be an added emotional component to the second match, with the opponent being state rival NAU.

"There's just more motivation to beat them for us," Mlakar said.

Mlakar said the upcoming team season is the best part of the year. Ramirez agreed, saying the entire team is excited to start the campaign.

"Everyone here really feels like this is going to be a good year for us," he said. "We expect a lot from the girls, and the girls expect a lot from themselves, and the end result should be everyone really playing well and competing well."

"The byproduct of a successful weekend would be 2-0," Ramirez said, "but it's not so much the wins and the losses that we're focused on as much as it is the girls really continuing to compete well. Then, the wins and losses will take care of themselves."