By Craig Sanders
Arizona Daily Wildcat
The Arizona women's tennis team clawed its way into Madison, Wis., this weekend and shredded two highly-ranked opponents before falling to UCLA in the semifinals.
"We had an outstanding tournament," Coach Becky Bell said. "We beat the 10th-ranked Jayhawks on Thursday and followed it up the next day with a win over Florida. I think it's great. Everyone is playing a vital part."
The Wildcats competed in the ITA Women's National Team Indoor Intercollegiate Tennis Championship from last Thursday to last Sunday. The field had seven top-10 teams competing, including No. 1 Georgia, the winner of last year's national championship. Three other Pacific 10 Conference teams were invited, including third-ranked Stanford, seventh-ranked UCLA, and No. 11 Southern Cal.
17th-ranked Arizona entered the tournament with a surprising 8-1 record on the season, including victories over the Bruins and No. 4 California. The
Wildcats' only loss came at the hands of the third-ranked Stanford.
Arizona faced off against 10th-ranked Kansas in the first round. The Wildcats used dominating performances by five of their six singles players on the way to a 5-1 victory.
"To beat a team of Kansas' quality in singles is amazing," Bell said. "We are a team that usually relies on our doubles play. This was a big bonus."
No. 5 Florida, which had never been to the losers' bracket in this tournament, flexed its muscles early as its No. 1 singles player defeated Arizona's Vicky Maes in a tough 7-6, 6-4 match.
The Wildcats were up to the challenge, however, as they won four of their next five singles matches. Arizona's top doubles team of Eva Maria Schurhoff and Maes then downed Bonnie Bleecker and Dawn Buth 7-6, 3-6, 6-3 to clinch the victory.
"Those first two days we played great. We really showed our potential," Bell said.
Arizona served it up against an unexpected foe in the semifinals of the tournament Saturday. The Wildcats faced the Bruins for the second time this season. In the first meeting between the schools Feb. 11, Arizona beat UCLA 5-3.
The Bruins, who upset Stanford 5-4 on Friday, were looking for their second berth in the ITA's championship match.
UCLA led 3-1 after the first four singles matches before Arizona's Melody Falco and Betsy Miringoff each picked up victories to tie the match at 3-3.
Arizona turned to its top doubles team of Maes and Schurhoff, who had not lost a doubles match yet this season. Susie Starett and Keri Phebus avenged an earlier loss in the Pac-10 Indoor Championships as they came back after the first set to win 6-7, 7-6, 6-2. UCLA's other team of Jane and Stephanie Chi wrapped up the match for the Bruins as they defeated Stephanie Sammaritano and Melody Falco 7-6, 6-4.
Arizona fell to 10-2 on the season.
"We lost a heartbreaker to UCLA," Bell said. "But we played well overall. I'm pleased with our performance. If we improve in small areas we'll be a force by the time the NCAA tournament rolls around."
In the championship game, UCLA lost to Georgia 5-3 Sunday. It was Georgia's second straight ITA championship.
Arizona will have its chance to avenge the loss to UCLA March 10-11 when the Bruins and 11th-ranked Southern Cal visit Arizona's Robson Tennis Center.
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