No. 10 Cal Hosts NCAA Regional

May 8, 2007


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The No. 10 California women's tennis team (19-6, 5-3) will host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament this weekend at the Hellman Tennis Center. The Golden Bears square off against Southeastern Louisiana in the first round at 11 a.m. on Saturday, while UNLV takes on Arizona State in the second first-round match. The winners will meet Sunday at noon. Whichever team wins two matches earns a trip to Athens, Ga., for the NCAA championships, which starts on May 18.

Earlier this season, the Bears knocked off Arizona State, 4-3, in Tempe, Ariz., and then swept the Sun Devils, 7-0, when they met at Hellman. Cal is 4-1 all time against UNLV and last played the Rebels in 2006, when the Bears beat them, 6-1. Saturday's match marks the first meeting between Cal and Southeastern Louisiana.

Southeastern Louisiana (21-2, 10-0):
This is the third straight appearance by the Lady Lions in the NCAA Tournament. They're also three-time Southland Conference champions, and are currently on an 18-match winning streak. Emilija Arnaudovska leads SE Louisiana on the top court with a record of 20-2 and was named the 2007 SLC Player of the Year. She isn't the only strong player on the Lady Lion roster as all seven starters made the all-conference team. In last year's regional, SE Louisiana lost to Georgia Tech in the first round.

Arizona State (12-9, 5-3):
This year marks the 20th consecutive season the Sun Devils have received a bid into the NCAA Tournament, the longest active streak among all sports in school history. Arizona State lost to Texas A&M, 4-1, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year. No. 33 Nadia Abdala leads the Sun Devils into the regional, posting a 23-9 record. In doubles, the pair of Roxanne Clarke and Kady Pooler come in with an ITA ranking of 18 and a record of 21-10.

UNLV (19-7, 6-2):
The Rebels are making their sixth appearance in the NCAA Tournament in school history. The 19 wins UNLV racked up this season are the second most in the program since 1991. No. 57 Elena Gantcheva is currently 18-7 and earned co-Mountain West Conference Player of the Year honors. The Rebels are also armed with a high-ranked doubles tandem, No. 16 Gantcheva and Kristina Nedeltcheva.

Three Bears will compete in the NCAA individual singles and doubles tournaments May 23-28 in Athens, Ga., following the completion of the team championships. No. 4 Susie Babos will defend her 2006 NCAA singles championship as the No. 5 seed in this year's tournament. She won the national crown last year as an unseeded player. Babos will be joined by teammates Zsuzsanna Fodor and Nina Henkel, both of whom are ranked in the ITA singles Top 25 (No. 12 Fodor, No. 22 Henkel). Fodor will also be a favorite in the tournament, coming in as the No. 12 seed. In doubles, the pair of Babos and Fodor will represent the Bears, entering as the No. 5 seed. Although the fifth-ranked tandem made a second-round exit in the Pac-10 championships, Babos and Fodor have been ranked in the top five in doubles for the entire season.

The ride in the postseason was a short one for Cal in 2006. After a decisive 4-0 sweep over Western Michigan in the opening round, the Bears were upset in the second round by Fresno State, 4-3, at the Hellman Tennis Center. Against the Broncos in the first round, then-eighth-ranked Zsuzsanna Fodor and Susie Babos won the first doubles match, downing Malena Remynse and Carrie Jeanmaire, 8-1, on the top court. Bojana Bobusic and Stephanie Kusano clinched the doubles point on the second court. In singles, Fodor, the nation's third-ranked player at the time, defeated the Broncos' Malena Remynse in straight sets, 6-1, 6-1, on the No. 1 court. Kusano clinched the next point for the Bears on the third court, defeating Reedhina Parekh, 6-2, 6-0. Babos secured the victory for the Bears when she came from behind in the first set to beat Carrie Jeanmaire, 7-6, 6-0, on the No. 2 court.

Junior Susie Babos became the second straight Bear to reach the final in the main singles draw of the Pac-10 championships two weeks ago. She was unable to duplicate Zsuzsanna Fodor's 2006 singles title, though, as she fell to USC's Lindsey Nelson, 6-2, 6-2. It was the third meeting of the season between the Pac-10 rivals, and the fourth since last year's NCAA singles final. Sophomores Claire Ilcinkas and Bojana Bobusic brought one conference crown back to Berkeley, as they won the doubles invitational draw, defeating Arizona State's Laila Abdala and Rebecca Rankin in the final.

Cal's last great run in the NCAA Tournament came in 2003, when the Bears advanced to the semifinals. Since 1982, Cal has reached the Final Four five times (1985, 1994, 1999, 2000, 2003). Although the Bears have yet to get passed the semifinals as a team, they have won four NCAA titles in doubles and one in singles. Cal took the doubles crown three straight years from 1998-2000, and added its fourth championship in 2003 when Raquel Kops-Jones and Christina Fusano took top honors.

Last May, Susie Babos became the first Golden Bear from the women's team to win the NCAA Singles title, becoming just the fourth international player to ever win the national singles crown and the first Bear to advance to the NCAA final since Lisa Albano in 1991. In addition, Babos also was the sixth unseeded player to advance to the NCAA final, the sixth sophomore to win the national championship and the 15th Pac-10 NCAA singles champion. She defeated USC's Lindsey Nelson, 6-4, 6-1, in the final. Along the way, Babos upset the 2005 NCAA champ and No. 4 seed Zuzana Zemenova of Baylor, 6-3, 6-4, in the quarterfinals.

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