Jan. 22, 2010
AUBURN, Ala. - The No. 35 Auburn women's tennis team is set to open up the 2010 spring season this weekend, hosting Kennesaw St. on Saturday and No. 10 Georgia Tech on Sunday from City of Auburn/Yarborough Tennis Center.
The Tigers enter the spring campaign following a successful fall season that saw Auburn's nine players compile a 45-42 singles record and 7-29 in doubles record, a mark that will be surely improved as the team develops new doubles pairings for the spring season.
"We have an exciting group of new, young players who are getting better daily. I'm certain that this group will make some noise on the national scene very soon," said head coach Tim Gray.
Four Tigers came away from the fall with winning records, highlighted by freshman Caroline Thornton's team-high eight wins. Thornton, who was 8-4, was followed by Fani Chifchieva at 7-5 and senior Jil Hastenrath with a 7-4 mark. Another senior, Heather Bybee, wrapped up the fall with a 6-5 record.
Senior Fani Chifchieva provided the highlight of the fall season, as Auburn hosted the ITA Indoor Southern Regional. In the main draw quarterfinals, Chifchieva defeated Troy's Abigail Guthrie in a hard-fought, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4 decision, and advanced into the finals with a semi final win over Karen Njissen of Ole Miss, 6-2, 6-3.
Championship Monday of the Regional saw Chifchieva defeat Kristi Boxx of Ole Miss (4-6, 6-1, 6-1) and advance to the ITA National Indoor Tournament in New Haven, Conn.
"This is a huge first for our program! We've never had an ITA Regional Champion at Auburn, so it was really special to see Fani win this event at our amazing facility and in front of our fans," Gray of his teams success in the fall.
In the opening round of the National Indoor Tournament, Chifchieva drew No. 2 seeded Irina Falconi of Georgia Tech. After Chifchieva's 3-0 lead in the second set, Falconi rallied back to force a tie breaker en route to a 6-0, 7-6 (3) win over Chifchieva. The pair are expected to meet once again on Sunday in No. 1 singles action.
On day two, in the consolation bracket, Chifchieva dropped another hard-fought battle to Yale's Stephanie Kent, 7-6 (5), 6-4.
"Heading into the spring season, we will be very young, but at the same time, we are very hungry. We also have unbelievable team chemistry right now. Our captains, Jil Hastenrath and Heather Bybee have done a great job in helping develop this bond. I'm confident that our hard work, both on and off the court, will pay off," said Gray.
The weekend matchups will be the first of the spring for the Kennesaw St. Owls, were recently ranked No. 6 in the Atlantic Sun Preseason Coaches Poll. No. 10 Georgia Tech defeated Chattanooga, 7-0, on Monday. The Ramblin' Wreck won every singles match in straight sets.
Last season, the Owls (11-9, 6-3 A-Sun) finished in fifth place in the conference. The team returns their top player in Vera Shkundina, who was an all-conference selection last season after finishing last season with a 15-4 record at No. 1 singles. Team captain Ayano Tanaka will hold down the No. 2 spot for Kennesaw St.
In addition, the Owls return last seasons No. 5 singles player in Agatha Palider and Mackenzie Swindall who was 11-2 at No. 6 singles last season.
No. 10 Georgia boasts a pair of outstanding players, in the afore mentioned No.1 singles ranked Irina Falconi, as well as 2008 NCAA Singles Champion Amanda McDowell. The two are ranked as the No. 32 doubles tandem in the nation.
Falconi won 30 singles matches as a freshman and was victorious at the 2009 Riviera/ITA All-American Championships. McDowell, who was plagued with a back injury during the fall, is one of the most decorated players in Georgia Tech history. She is joined by junior Sasha Krupina, sophomores Lynn Blau, Hillary Davis and Viet Ha Ngo and freshman Elizabeth Kilborn.
Action starts off on Saturday at noon as the Tigers host Kennesaw St, followed by a 2 p.m. start on Sunday against Georgia Tech. Both matches will be played on the City of Auburn/Yarborough Tennis Center indoor courts. Live stats will be available at AuburnTigers.com.