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Tennis to clash with in-state rival

Junior Amanda Martin returns a volley during a match at Whiteman Tennis Center earlier in the season.(Matt Pavelek | The State Press)

It is not how you start that is important, but how you finish.

After falling from the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s No. 11 ranking to No. 29, the ASU women’s tennis team is hoping it can end its regular season on a high note on Saturday when it hosts cross-state rival UA.

“We’re certainly looking forward to finishing our season at home,” said ASU coach Sheila McInerney. “It’s even better to end our season against our biggest rivals UA.”

ASU got out to an 8-1 start on the season, but the rigorous Pac-10 schedule has brought the Sun Devils record to a modest 10-8.

What is even more discouraging is that ASU has lost its last four matches, including seven of its last nine.

“The Pac-10 is the toughest conference in the country,” sophomore Micaela Hein said earlier in the season.

ASU’s 3-4 conference record validates her point. In fact, seven of the eight Sun Devil losses have come to Pac-10 foes.

The Sun Devils lost two heartbreaking matches last weekend to USC and UCLA that were decided by a few pints apiece.

“The kids will bounce back well,” McInerney said about her team’s recent slump. “The rivalry itself will get you ready. We lost both matches last weekend but we played well and we’re ready to go.”

Pac-10 opponents have shown why they are considered one of the best in the nation, but this weekend’s matchup, though between two familiar teams, will be the first time the Sun Devils and Wildcats have faced off this year.

The teams were scheduled to take the courts early in February but were forced to cancel the match because of rain.

For one Sun Devil, senior Laila Abdala, this weekend will not only be her last match at home this season, but the final time she competes at home period.

McInerney said that while Abdala was more of a role-player early in her career, she has really blossomed into a team leader.

“Laila has improved so much over the years,” McInerney said. “The last two years she has done a terrific job and played tremendous. It would be nice to send her out with a win.”

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