Kentucky Women's Tennis Season Recap
May 30, 2012
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Kentucky women’s tennis team rounded out its 2012 season by posting its most successful results in three seasons. Under the guide of seventh-year head coach Carlos Drada and second-year assistant coach Kevin Calhoun, the young Cats improved by over five wins on 2011 to a 9-14 record in 2012. With the return of vital athletes and several vibrant additions, the Cats brought the program one step closer to its previous prominence.
“Despite not getting the results that we had anticipated, we are aware that we were points away from having a much different season this year,” said UK head coach Carlos Drada to sum up the season. “We have learned a lot and I am very optimistic about the progress that we made. Our players continued to improve and to compete with a lot of heart throughout the season.”
With one junior, five sophomores and five freshmen, teamwork became the mantra for the young team right from the get-go. The Wildcats opened the season with an incredible trip to Honolulu, Hawaii where the team competed well in the University of Hawaii’s Rainbow Wahine Spring Invitational. Newcomer Stephanie Fox first demonstrated her prowess by advancing to the singles finals of her bracket.
After the Wildcats’ Hawaiian getaway, it was back to the grind as they hosted nine matches in a row at the Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Complex. The Wildcats posted a 7-0 sweep for four of the nine matches and only amounted one loss, allowing for an impressive 8-1 start to the season. This was the best start for the Wildcats since the 2008-09 season when the team finished 25th in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association final national rankings.
Through much of the first part of the season, junior Jessica Stiles and sophomore Khrisina Blajkevtich teamed up at the No. 1 doubles slot. The pair earned an ITA ranking as high as 34 during the season, providing a highlight with a strong win over 35th-ranked ranked Dominka Zaprazna and Maria Voscekova of Marshall University.
The team reached the most challenging portion of the season as Southeastern Conference play began in March. Kentucky welcomed No. 43 LSU and No. 32 Arkansas to Lexington, Ky. and two battles ensued. The Cats put forth a tremendous effort but narrowly fell to the Tigers and Razorbacks, 4-3 in both matches. These counted as two of the strongest performances for the Cats in SEC play since the team faced a rebuilding year in 2009.
As the season progressed, the Cats began the toughest portion of their season as they continued to take on highly experienced and talented SEC teams. Although the Wildcats struggled to grab wins, multiple players stepped up. Freshman Edmee Morin-Kougoucheff found a home at the No. 4 singles position and at the No. 2 doubles position with Khristina Blajkevitch, giving the Wildcats consistency.
Stiles also continued to excel for the Cats, battling at the No. 1 singles slot while pairing up with Caitlin McGraw at the No.1 doubles position for the latter portion of the season. The two put on one of the most impressive performances of the year in Kentucky’s match at Georgia. They faced an extremely talented doubles duo in 8th-ranked Chelsey Gullickson and Nadja Gilchrist. Stiles and McGraw dominated the match, posting an 8-4 final result to take the win.
The Wildcats approached the end of the season by adding a win to their record. They faced Mississippi State and posted a 5-1 final result. UK was unable to snag another win on the season, wrapping up the season with a loss to No. 28 South Carolina in the first round of the SEC Women’s Tennis Tournament.
The SEC awarded three freshmen for outstanding performances on and off of the court. Grace Trimble was named to the SEC Community Service team for her extensive work with multiple organizations, including her self-built National Junior Tennis and Learning Program, LTC Smart Shots. The program focuses on helping underprivileged elementary aged students through academic tutoring and lessons in quick start tennis.
Fellow freshmen Morin-Kougoucheff and Fox also received SEC accolades, being named to the SEC All-Freshman Team. The two made an immediate impact upon their arrival to UK, solidifying their spots in the singles and doubles lineups right away as they provided the Wildcats with unfailing effort.
“The team will be very focused and very eager to maximize their level next year,” Drada said. “The coaching staff will continue to be eager and motivated in recruiting and on the tennis court. As a team, we are fully committed to the process and I know our players will be relentless in reaching their athletic goals next season. I can´t wait for next season to start.”