Women's Tennis Receives Program's First Ever NCAA Tournament Bid
CHICAGO - In a season of firsts, the DePaul women's tennis team added another to its list and this one was a program first - a trip to the NCAA Championship. The Blue Demons will make their NCAA debut in Ann Arbor, Michigan and will play Ohio State on Friday, May 14. If DePaul advances, it will play the winner of UIC or the No. 4 seed, Michigan on May 15.
"Today is a great day for the DePaul women's tennis program. For our former student-athletes that have graduated -- they helped us get here with all of their hard work and it is a tremendous day for this group of student-athletes, who have worked so hard all season," head coach Mark Ardizzone said with a smile that stretched from ear to ear.
In his 14th season at the helm of the Blue Demon tennis program Ardizzone has helped DePaul to many firsts, but today he reached a goal he set on day one. "When I took this job it was a goal of mine to take this program to the NCAA tournament and now that we've made it, I want this to become a tradition."
"We always want to be a team in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament berth whether it is an automatic berth through winning a conference championship or doing what we did this year with an at-large berth. We are trying to build a tradition and that is what I want this team to understand as well as future student-athletes. The past athletes helped lay the groundwork and this group of women gets to see it through."
The Blue Demons enter the NCAA Championship with an impressive 18-5 record and have won nine of their last 11 matches. DePaul's two losses in that stretch came at the hands of No. 5 Notre Dame. The Blue Demons faced the Irish three times this season in South Bend and suffered close losses each time.
The DePaul trio of Selma Salkovic, Katarina Milinkovic and Anna Redecsi were all named All-BIG EAST, while the trio has each registered 20-plus singles wins this season. Salkovic has a team-high 23 wins, while Milinkovic follows with 22 and Redecsi rounds out the bunch with 21. The Blue Demons have combined for 128 singles wins this season, while the team has tallied 76 doubles victories.
DePaul's dynamic duo of Redecsi and Salkovic continue to make noise on the national stage and are currently ranked No. 18 in the country. Ranked as high as No. 9, the Blue Demon pair boasts a 29-7 record while it has gone 7-4 against other ranked teams this season.
DePaul's grueling schedule prepared it for the NCAA Championship as eight teams on the Blue Demon's 2010 slate also received tournament bids. DePaul went 3-3 against the tournament field while it played student-athletes from Northwestern and Vanderbilt in an early season tournament. DePaul played 12 ranked teams, 11 on the road or at neutral court, on its road to the NCAA Championship and boasted a 7-5 record in those contests.
"We have played all over this season and are used to playing tough teams on the road. We handled our road challenges extremely well, and look forward to Ann Arbor." Ardizzone added.
DePaul's first test will be against Ohio State, a team that Coach Ardizzone is very familiar with. "Coach Merzbacher and I met at a tournament 20 years ago. He actually, gave me my start in coaching and is the reason I am coach today."
On May 14, Coaches Ardizzone and Merzbacher will just be two coaches on opposite sides; coaching two very similar teams. The Buckeyes enter the NCAA Championship ranked No. 34 while DePaul is listed as No. 30. Ohio State's top singles player, Kirsten Flower is ranked No. 71 while DePaul's Redecsi follows at No. 72.
The Buckeyes, who are making their ninth NCAA Championship, put together a 19-9 record and were 5-5 in Big 10 duals this season. Gabby Steele leads OSU with 25 singles victories while Kelsey Haviland has 23 and Flower follows with 22. In doubles, Cami Hubbs and Haviland boast a 17-15 record while the pair is 12-13 in the No. 1 position.
"We started this season with goals in mind and we were focused on accomplishing them throughout our season."
Today the Blue Demons can check off a NCAA Tournament bid from their list of preseason goals and now hope to stick around for more than one song in college tennis' big dance.