May 9, 2013
CHICAGO - The UIC women's tennis team (16-5, 8-1 HL) prepares to make its 15th-consecutive NCAA Championship appearance as it will face No. 11 Northwestern (18-8, 9-2 Big Ten) in the opening round Friday beginning at 2 p.m. (CT) at the Vandy Christie Tennis Center in Evanston, Ill., weather permitting.
The Flames head into the first round after capturing their 17th-straight conference title at the Horizon League Championship on April 28. UIC claimed the No. 1 seed to bypass the first round before defeating Detroit, 4-1, in the semifinals and edging by Youngstown State, 4-3, in the final. Through competition during the dual season, senior Haley Craig and junior Mariana Palacios were named to the All-Horizon League first team.
While competing in singles during the regular- and post-season, junior Jana Knoppe produced the best record for the Flames at 16-4, 24-11 overall, while Palacios, Kathryn Sharples and Keti Mebuke each tallied 14 wins. Knoppe led UIC with her flawless 8-0 record against Horizon League opponents and at No. 4, and has won her last seven matches dating back to March 29.
In doubles, the Flames stuck with the same pairings for most of the season with Craig and Palacios at No. 1, Knoppe and Sharples at No. 2 and Natalia Kuvakina and Ann-Sophie Hahn at No. 3. Craig and Palacios came in at 12-6 and an 8-1 Horizon League record, while Kuvakina and Hahn only lost three matches for a 15-3 record, 14-2 at No. 3.
Friday's match will be the sixth times UIC and Northwestern have met in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and the first since 2008, when the Wildcats defeated the Flames 4-0. While the team did not compete during the dual season, Craig was faced with Northwestern's Belinda Niu at the USTA/ITA Midwest Regional in the fall and fell 6-3, 6-0.
UIC enters into competition to face its first nationally-ranked opponent since the first round of the 2012 NCAA Championship, when it fell, 4-0, to No. 15 Michigan. The Wildcats hold a No. 11 team ranking, as Kate Turvy in ranked No. 57 in singles and Linda Abu Mushrefova and Nida Hamilton are No. 14 in doubles.
Also competing in the first round, No. 20 Baylor (16-14) and No. 43 San Diego State (22-5) will face off Friday at 11 a.m. prior to the Flames' match with the Wildcats. The winner will advance to the second round and take on UIC or No. 11 Northwestern. If the Flames advance, it would mark the first time the team has faced either opponent.
Live scoring links and full details on the first and second rounds can be found on Northwestern's Tournament Central page: http://www.nusports.com/sports/w-tennis/spec-rel/ncaa-2013-regional.html