Sophomore Natalie Pluskota is expected to return to the doubles lineup on Friday
April 22, 2010
By Donnie Conley, Media Relations Student Assistant
ATHENS, Ga. -- The No. 13-ranked University of Tennessee women's tennis team (14-7, 8-3 SEC) will face No. 6-seed Vanderbilt in an SEC Tournament quarterfinal matchup on Friday at 2 p.m on the McWhorter Courts.
The Commodores defeated 11th-seeded Mississippi State, 4-0, in a first-round contest on Thursday.
Tennessee co-head coach Mike Patrick said that Vanderbilt presents some unique challenges for his team.
"(Vanderbilt) has a lot of tough, disciplined players," Patrick said. "We're going to have to come out and work real hard. We have to be confident, play our game and try to wear them down a little bit."
Friday's meeting will mark the third time this season that the in-state rivals have faced off. Vanderbilt defeated the Lady Vols, 5-2, in the regular season SEC matchup on Mar. 12. The Commodores won five of six singles matches after dropping the doubles point. The two teams also faced off on Jan. 31 in the ITA Kickoff Weekend Tournament. Tennessee won that meeting, 4-3. Senior Zsófia Zubor clinched the win for UT with a three-set victory over Heather Steinbauer.
Tennessee has faced Vanderbilt more than any other opponent in school history. The Lady Vols hold a 30-20 lead in the all-time series.
"We know them well," Patrick said. "We play them a couple of times every year because of our proximity. It's a good rivalry and the kids all play hard. We've had a lot of good matches over time and hopefully we'll have another one tomorrow."
UT will be looking for a big effort from reigning SEC Player of the Week Caitlin Whoriskey. On the season, the East Sandwich, Mass. native is 28-10 in singles play with a 9-2 mark in the SEC. Whoriskey is currently ranked No. 9 in the Campbell/ITA singles rankings.
Also critical for Tennessee is the play of its doubles teams. The Lady Vols have been extremely good in doubles all year, posting a 74-27 (.733) record. Last Saturday's contest against Georgia also marked the first time all season that UT was able to win a match after losing the doubles point.
Patrick said he expects sophomore Natalie Pluskota to return to doubles action tomorrow, something that he hopes will give his team a boost.
"It'll definitely be good to have her out there," Patrick said. "Hopefully she'll be able to compete at the level we all know she's capable of."
Pluskota has been out since Feb. 14 with an injury.
In the 2009 SEC Tournament, Tennessee advanced all the way to the final round, where it suffered a 4-0 defeat to No. 1-seed Georgia. UT has never captured an SEC Tournament championship.
There will be a live blog and live scoring of Friday's match available at UTLadyVols.com. Fans are reminded to follow the Lady Vols on Twitter at www.twitter.com/UTLadyVols.