Since the No. 9 ASU women’s tennis team of 1998 was upset by No. 25 UA, the Sun Devils have only lost twice to the school down south. They will look to reinforce their domination Saturday in the 15th rivalry match of the 21st century.
It won’t be easy; UA has put together a strong squad.
The Wildcats are led by senior Lacey Smyth. At the beginning of January, she was ranked No. 114, but has since risen to No. 58. This is higher than the ranking of ASU sophomore Stephanie Vlad, who currently resides at No. 65.
Smyth and freshman No. 74 Lauren Marker are big reasons UA has been able to leap from its January ranking of No. 73 to its current perch at No. 31.
The team has a total of four seniors, and this match will be its Senior Night. ASU coach Sheila McInerney said that gives the match an added impact for UA.
“They’ve got four seniors who’ve been pretty significant contributors to their team, so I’m just guessing they’re going to want them to go out with a win,” she said.
ASU defeated UA last season 4-3, but lost 7-0 the year before. McInerney said it was largely attributed to injuries, but UA had a good team.
The Wildcats still have a good team, and the injury bug hit ASU against UCLA on Saturday when sophomore No. 51 Desirae Krawczyk went down with a knee injury. McInerney said the kneecap had shifted and Krawczyk has been to the doctor to mend it.
“Knock on wood, it’s a good prognosis,” McInerney said. “At this point, we’d be surprised if she didn’t play.”
They’ll need her presence. Her forfeited match Sunday was just her second singles loss of the season, and she has been a constant force in both singles and doubles play.
Doubles play has been ASU’s Achilles’ heel over the season. McInerney has been unable to find a consistent lineup.
“They are improving,” McInerney said. “They’re becoming better doubles players, they know where to put the ball so they’ve just got to go out there and execute.”
McInerney changed all three courts against UCLA and was impressed with their play against the Bruins. She has options for the coming week; one of them is to place Vlad back in the lineup. She was removed for Saturday’s UCLA match due to fear of fatigue following a heated match the day prior.
McInerney could also leave Vlad out. She spoke highly of the way her replacement, sophomore Ebony Panoho, who played with freshman Alex Osborne.
“I think we’re pretty happy with what we saw at UCLA,” McInerney said, though she said she hadn’t made up her mind.
She’ll take everything into consideration as the Sun Devils face UA in the final match before the Pac-12 tournament.
“We’ve both beaten the same teams and lost to the same teams and the scores have been fairly similar so we expect them to be very strong,” McInerney said.
ASU currently leads the scoring in pursuit of the 2013-2014 Territorial Cup Series with 7.5 points to UA’s six. Each match victory is worth a point, and ASU will look to extend its lead.
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