April 4, 2014
By Richard Finn
Special to BIGEAST.com
Teams are having a devil of a time beating DePaul women’s tennis this season.
Boasting a deep and experienced lineup, the Blue Demons are No. 31 in the most recent ITA national rankings and has emerged as a BIG EAST juggernaut with a 3-0 conference mark.
Overall the Blue Demons are 17-1 and have not lost since losing to highly ranked Texas A& M at the end of the January. They are packing a 16-match win streak to Texas this weekend for non-conference matches at Rice and Houston.
In his 18th season as head coach, Mark Ardizzone sensed that this year could be special early in the season.
“Once the fall started going, I thought that there would be some good things. I could tell that the team chemistry was really good,” said Ardizzone. “Plus, we have talented kids.”
Within the league DePaul has been perfect, blanking Georgetown, Seton Hall and Butler. The Blue Demons wrap up conference play at home against Marquette on April 19.
They then head to the BIG East championships at the home of the U.S. Open, the National Tennis Center, in Flushing, Queens from April 24-27 as prohibitive favorites and looking to improve upon their third-place finish last season.
“We set our goals very early that we wanted to win the BIG EAST and wanted to make the NCAAs,” said Ardizzone. “But our goals are also very specific to get better every day and that is what has impressed me the most about this team. Even with the win streak and some of the easier wins, these kids keep trying to get better.
And that is great to see that they are not satisfied with what we have accomplished so far,” he said.
The Blue Demons field a balanced and experienced lineup. The starting six features just one senior, three juniors and two sophomores.
“We all have experience in what it means to go through stress and tension and know how to handle it better,” said junior Patricia Fargas. “This has helped us a lot against ranked teams.”
Some of the win streak numbers are downright gaudy. Senior Kelsey Lawson is on an 11-match win streak and is 15-1 in dual matches in splitting her time between No. 3 and 4 singles. BIG EAST Player of the Week for March 13 junior Rebeca Mitrea of Romania has won 15 straight and boasts a 16-1 dual match season mark primarily at No. 6 singles. Junior Jasmin Kling of Germany is on an 11-match win streak and is undefeated at No. 4 singles. Sophomore Zaine Sufi has gone 14-1 at No. 5.
“Every team has a few really good players, but the team that has six is the team that wins,” said Ardizzone.
But the strength of the team still starts at the top, where nationally-ranked sophomore Ana Vladutu of Romania and Fargas of Spain has shared the top two singles spots.
Vladutu, who has been in the top 100 most of the season, has played primarily at No. 2 where she has a 10-4 mark and won her last nine matches overall. Fargas is ranked in the top 125 and has an 11-5 dual match mark.
“The number one and two kids usually set the tone for the matches,” said Ardizzone.
While sharing the top two spots, each player has a distinct playing style.
“Patricia is an absolute grinder and Ana is a just a big hitter prone to a few more mistakes,” said Ardizzone. “When you have two kids like that who you can put out there against any team and you are in the match, that’s a different feeling. “
So far this season it has been a winning feeling for the Blue Demons.