Women's Tennis Takes On No. 15 Michigan In NCAA First Round

May 10, 2012

NCAA First Round Notes Get Acrobat Reader

CHICAGO – The UIC women’s tennis team (18-3/8-0 HL) gets set to face No. 15 Michigan (17-6/10-1 Big Ten) in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday.  With the Wolverines playing host for the first and second rounds, competition gets underway at noon (CT) at the Varsity Tennis Center in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Marking their 14th-consecutive NCAA appearance, the Flames enter into competition having won their last 16 matches.  They capped off the regular season by capturing their 16th-straight conference title with a 4-0 win over Cleveland State in the Horizon League Championship on April 29.

Through play in the regular- and post-season, Haley Craig has led the Flames with the best record and most overall wins, going 24-6, while Jana Knoppe, Elisa Simonetti and Teona Tsertsvadze all totaled at least 20 wins.  Knoppe has won her past 14 matches, posting an 11-0 record at the No. 5 singles position, as Simonetti has taken her last 12 matches and has gone undefeated at No. 4.

On the doubles courts, Tsertsvadze and Simonetti lead the tandem pairings with a 16-4 record on the season.  They have won their past 12 matches, while going 8-0 in the regular season against Horizon League opponents and 12-0 overall at No. 2.  Prominently positioned at No. 1, Craig and Mariya Kovaleva produced the most wins for UIC this season, totaling 21 at No. 1 and No. 2.  Linda Hricistova and Knoppe (No. 3) posted a 12-4 record, as Hricistova went 5-0 when combined with Kathryn Sharples.

While previously meeting in the first round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament, Friday’s match with the Wolverines will not be the first time the two teams have met this season.  In the fall, the Spartan Invitational paired Michigan’s Michelle Sulahian against Kovaleva and Simonetti.  Kovaleva split her matches with Sulahian, going 1-1, while Simonetti dropped her match 6-1, 6-1.  Kovaleva later paired with Craig to face Sulahian and Mimi Nguyen, falling in an 8-6 decision.  At the USTA/ITA Midwest Regional, Kovaleva then faced Sam Cristner and fell 6-1, 6-1.

The Flames are up against their second nationally-ranked opponent this season, after defeating No. 75 Akron, 4-3, on April 22.  Not only is Michigan ranked No. 15 as a team, but Emina Bektas is ranked No. 12 and Brooke Bolender is at No. 93 in singles, while the pair combines to hold a No. 11 doubles ranking.

Additional information and live results can be found on Michigan’s tournament central page: 

UIC Notables
Make It 14
Friday’s match against Michigan marks the Flames’ 14th-consecutive NCAA appearance.  After facing the likes of Stanford, U-M, Notre Dame, Northwestern, USC and Arizona State, UIC is seeking to advance to the second round for the first time in school history.

Record Breaking Season
The Flames enter competition on a school-record 16-match win streak.  Capping off the regular season with their 14th-straight and their first win over a nationally-ranked opponent in No. 75 Akron, they went on in the semi-final and final round of the Horizon League Championship to record their 15th and 16th consecutive wins.  The squad ultimately broke the record with their 7-0 win over Milwaukee on April 19, surpassing the mark of 11, which was set back in 1979.

16 Straight Titles
Defeating Cleveland State in the finals of the Horizon League Championship, the Flames captured their 16th-consecutive conference championship title.

Longest Streak In NCAA History
After finishing off yet another perfect season in the Horizon League, the Flames have won 143-straight matches against Horizon League opponents, the longest such streak in NCAA Tennis history (men’s or women’s).

Tully Undefeated In Conference
Coaching the Flames over the past 11 seasons, head coach Shannon Tully owns a record of her own against Horizon League opponents, going 110-0 versus conference foes during her career.

Kovaleva Racks Honors
Senior Mariya Kovaleva was named the Horizon League’s first-ever four-time League Player of the Year.  Kovaleva finished her conference career with a perfect 37-0 singles record, all at No. 1, while becoming the winningest player in UIC history in both singles (92) and doubles (94).

Series With Michigan
The Wolverines hold a 3-0 lead in the all-time series with the Flames.  The pair met in the 2010 NCAA First Round, where UIC fell to U-M, 4-0.  They also matched up in the regular season of 2001-02 and 2002-03, with the Wolverines defeating the Flames in both contests.

Regional Comparables
No. 21 Texas A&M (18-5) and No. 45 LSU (11-12) face off in its first-round match on Friday, May 11.  The winner advances to the second round, where they take on UIC or No. 15 Michigan.  If the Flames advance, it would mark the first time the team has faced either opponent.