Women's Tennis to Face No. 1 Stanford in First Round of NCAA Tournament

Head Coach Shannon Tully and the Flames will be looking for their first NCAA Tournament win.
Head Coach Shannon Tully and the Flames will be looking for their first NCAA Tournament win.

May 12, 2011

CHICAGO- The UIC women’s tennis team enters the 2011 NCAA Championships for the 13th-straight season on Saturday, a streak dating back to the 1999 NCAA Tournament.  The Flames travel to the sunny state of California, and take on the No. 1 overall seed of the tournament in Stanford.  The first round matchup is slated to begin at 2 p.m. CST, at Taube Tennis Center in Stanford, Calif.

UIC (18-4, 8-0 Horizon League) is coming into the tournament representing the Horizon League, as the Flames won the Championships in Indianapolis for the 15th-year in a row.  The Flames are looking for their first ever NCAA Championship win.

As a team, UIC has an overall record of 101-39 in singles play and that is good for a .721 winning percentage.  Junior transfer from Georgia State University Linda Hricistova leads the team with 18 wins overall, and is currently on an eight-match unbeaten streak.  Three-time Horizon League Player of the Year junior Mariya Kovaleva is second on the team with 17 wins, and is 9-1 in her last 10 matches.  Freshman Jana Knoppe is right behind her teammates in third, with 16 total wins.  Senior Ilinca Cristescu has 82 all-time singles wins at UIC, and is one victory away from tying the record set by Emina Curic at 83.

On the doubles side, No. 1 duo of Kovaleva and Hricistova is 15-3 overall and has won nine-of its last 10 matches.  Juniors Teona Tsertsvadze and Elisa Simonetti, who were named First and Second-All-Horizon League, respectively, are 8-3 playing along side each other.  Freshman Kathryn Sharples and Knoppe are 2-3.



“We are most certainly looking forward to our trip to Stanford,” said head coach Shannon Tully.  “Playing the No. 1 seed is definitely going to be an experience for us.  Stanford is an historical powerhouse in NCAA tennis, and they don't lose often.  I am happy for my players that we will get to see a different part of the country and test our skills against the nation's best.  It's really a great opportunity for UIC tennis, and we are ready to give it our best shot.

The Cardinal (23-0, 8-0 Pac-10) is making its 30th-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, and looking to defend its 2010 NCAA title.  Playing on its home court for potentially six postseason matches could provide a decisive advantage.  After defeating Saint Mary's 6-1 on Apr. 14, Stanford extended its NCAA-record home winning streak to 179 matches (147 regular season, 32-0 NCAA Tournament).  Stanford's last home loss occurred on Feb. 27, 1999, when No. 4 California pulled a 5-4 upset.

Stanford is the only unbeaten team in Division I and has won 42 consecutive contests overall dating back to its last loss, a 6-1 setback at UCLA on Feb. 26, 2010.   
Stanford has five singles players ranked in the top-50 according to the latest ITA.  Hilary Barte is the No. 3 ranked singles player in the nation, Kristie Ahn comes in at No. 15, Nicole Gibbs No. 18, Mallory Burdette No. 22 and Stacey Tan is ranked No. 43.

In doubles play, Barte and Burdette are ranked No. 3 in the nation, Ahn and Nicole Gibbs are No. 34, while Tan and Carolyn McVeigh are ranked 74th for the Cardinal.

If UIC takes down the most successful tennis program in the nation, the Flames will advance to take on the winner of No. 27 Pepperdine (14-7, 6-0 WCC) vs. No. 36 Long Beach State (20-5, 10-1 Big West) in the second round match on Sunday, May 15, beginning at 2 p.m. CST.  The Flames fell earlier this season to No. 36 LBSU at the Match Point Tennis Club on March 31, 5-2.