ASU tennis prepares to battle Pepperdine, ITA rankings updated

As the ASU women’s tennis team wraps up its practices in preparation for its weekend against Pepperdine University, the Intercollegiate Tennis Association released new rankings for teams, singles and doubles.

Sophomore Stephanie Vlad fell from No. 50 to No. 73 in singles rankings.

The match against Pepperdine could either be very beneficial, or hurt her overall ranking. She will be facing junior Lorraine Guillermo, who was ranked at No. 19 and fell to No. 23.

 
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Sophomore Desirae Krawczyk, formerly ranked No. 91, dropped out of the rankings completely. This comes after a groin injury in practice.

Sophomore Ebony Panoho and Krawczyk both faced injury problems over the two-week break.

Panoho had a sore wrist, but coach Sheila McInerney said that is not an uncommon injury in tennis.

“Desirae’s injury is a little more significant,” McInerney said. “She missed a full week of practice.”

She did return, and McInerney said she looked good but would be monitored.

Krawczyk was expected to play against a ranked opponent. As of Feb. 10, Pepperdine had five individual players ranked.

Only Guillermo remained ranked after the ITA rankings update.

Since Krawczyk’s injury, the focus of practice has been shifted, McInerney said.

“We had two hard days of just drilling, a lot of feeding balls and technique work,” she said. “Since then, we’ve probably had five good days of match play both singles and doubles.”

These scrimmages have featured compressed tennis balls. These balls are conditioned to reflect the altitude and weather of Malibu, Calif., which has a lower sea level than Arizona.

Vlad said the balls don’t fly as fast, which forces the team to get used to longer rallies and longer points.

“It really forces you to use your legs a lot more … and be physical, because the points are longer,” Vlad said.

McInerney said the Sun Devils’ extended practice time has been useful to get used to the changed pace of the new balls.

“(We’re) really getting into that mentality that it’s going to take maybe six, seven, eight shots before you can set up to win the point,” she said.

McInerney also said the extra practice time has helped the team become more comfortable playing coming off winter break.

“I think the kids are getting more consistent,” she said. “(They are) stronger physically, mentally, just from playing more practice matches.”

McInerney still hasn’t made any final lineup decisions. She said she still isn’t sure of who will be in the sixth spot and said she couldn’t make final decisions until the practices had been completed. However, she said the doubles pairings will likely be the same.

McInerney added she might switch the numbers they play at. Typically, juniors Joanna Smith and Leighann Sahagun occupy the one spot, Krawczyk and freshman Kassidy Jump are in the two and Vlad and Panoho are in the three.

Tuesday, she said she would likely keep the one spot the same but may switch the side on which the two play.

Pepperdine still has two doubles teams in the rankings, but they dropped to No. 46 and 47, respectively.

McInerney compared Pepperdine, who jumped to No. 39 in the ITA rankings, to No. 7 Northwestern and No. 22 Notre Dame multiple times. She said those two teams, both of which competed in the 2014 ITA Kick-Off Weekend with ASU in January, were ASU’s toughest challenges to date.

This has led to tough practices over the two weeks. But only practicing for two weeks has taken a toll on the team.

“You high-volume the work and then you sort of taper off as you get closer to the matches,” she said. “It’s nice to have matches coming up this weekend.”

Reach the reporter at logan.newman@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @Logan_Newsman