By Craig Sanders
Arizona Daily Wildcat
It's time to polish their games.
After being roughed up in three straight matches, members of the Arizona women's tennis team will have one last chance to recover from their injuries and put the spring back in its step as they play in the Pacific 10 Conference Championships today in Ojai, Calif.
"It's a good tournament to get our players ready for the NCAAs," Coach Becky Bell said. "The Pac-10 is a tough conference and this tournament proves it. This can only help us now."
A three-match losing streak has worn much of the glitter away from the Wildcats' record-setting season. The fourth-ranked Wildcats (16-6 overall, 5-5 in the Pac-10) had lost only three matches all season before the Bay Area trip earlier this month. The No. 4 ranking is the highest for any women's tennis team in UA history.
The championships are an individual tournament and no dual matches will be played. The Pac-10 has 23 women (seven in the top 15) individually ranked in the latest Rolex Collegiate Rankings. Eight of the top 20 women players are from the Pac-10. All six Pac-10 South teams are ranked and five are in the top 10.
The tournament is similar to the Pac-10 Indoors, in which Arizona competed in January. In that tournament, Eva Maria Schurhoff advanced to the Flight No. 2 singles finals, where she lost to Kim Shasby of Stanford 1-6, 6-3, 6-3. Schurhoff also teamed with Vicky Maes as the duo captured the Flight No. 1 doubles title, defeating UCLA's team of Keri Phebus and Susie Starrett in straight sets 6-1, 6-2.
Five Wildcats will make the trip, including Angela Bernal, Melody Falco, Stephanie Sammaritano, Maes and Betsy Miringoff. Each will compete in singles with Bernal/Miringoff and Sammaritano/Falco teaming up in doubles.
The Wildcats will be without Schurhoff, who returned to Germany and will not make the trip to California. Schurhoff is Arizona's No. 2 singles player and half of its fifth-ranked doubles team. She is expected to be back for the NCAA Championships in Malibu, Calif., May 12-20.
The Wildcats had won six straight matches, including a 5-4 victory over second-ranked Texas. That streak ended abruptly on a California road trip on which they lost 6-0 to 10th-ranked Cal
and 7-2 to seventh-ranked Stanford. The Wildcats were unable to rebound at home as their match with New Mexico was rained out. Then, after a long week in which injuries and illness slowed the team, they went north to Tempe. The Sun Devils avenged an earlier 6-0 loss with a 6-3 victory Saturday.
Every loss this season has come against a top 10 team.
"These losses may have hurt our seeding (for the NCAAs)," Miringoff said, "but I don't think it matters what seed you are. Our team can beat anyone on any given day. Hopefully we can prove that in Ojai.''
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