Thursday, March 09, 2006
TUSCALOOSA -- The Alabama women’s tennis team, which jumped 16 spots to No. 39 in this week’s Fila/ITA rankings, will play host this weekend to SEC Western Division rivals Ole Miss and Mississippi State at the UA Tennis Complex.
The Crimson Tide is fresh off an upset of defending SEC Champion Kentucky last Sunday that improved Alabama’s record to 3-5 overall, 1-1 in the SEC. A win Friday over Ole Miss would give the Tide its first two-match winning streak inside the conference since 2004.
Since losing the doubles point in two of its first three matches, Alabama has now won the doubles point in four of its last five matches including twice last weekend. That’s a stat that leads Alabama head coach Jenny Mainz to believe her team is progressing and beginning to play its best tennis of the year.
“We rebounded well Sunday and played tough as a team,” Mainz said. “We’ve relied on our experience and its starting to come through for us. We need to continue to play hard and play the extra ball.”
Mainz hopes her team will get out to quick starts again this weekend in each of its matches led, of course, by the nation’s No. 15-ranked team of Robin Stephenson and Ashley Bentley. The duo is 2-0 in SEC play. They are currently riding a five-match winning streak and have won nine of their last 10. Melissa Day and Mari Muller have come together nicely in doubles as well. Day and Muller are 3-0 this season at No. 2 and clinched the doubles point for the Tide last Friday against Vanderbilt.
In singles, Alabama has received solid production from the top two positions and Muller has stepped up nicely at No. 3 to solidify the singles line-up. Stephenson and Bentley are a combined 11-5 in dual-match play and since moving up to play No. 3, Muller is 3-3.
Both Ole Miss (6-2, 0-2 SEC) and Mississippi State (2-7, 0-2 SEC) began the conference season last weekend with losses to Florida and South Carolina and neither team has a player or doubles team with a Fila/ITA ranking.
Alabama will play Ole Miss on Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. at the UA Tennis Complex. Sunday’s match with Mississippi State is slated for a 1 p.m. start.