May 19, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - A pair of University of Tennessee women's tennis players will travel deep in the heart of Texas this week as junior Caitlin Whoriskey and freshman Natalie Pluskota are slated to take part in the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships, set to begin Wednesday at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center on the campus of Texas A&M in College Station, Texas.
"Caitlin and Natalie are excited and ready to go," UT co-head coach Mike Patrick said. "They've been looking forward to this for quite some time now and can't wait to get out on the courts. Both Caitlin's singles draw and the doubles draw look pretty difficult, but that is how it works at this point in the season. They are going to have to play their best tennis in order to be successful, but I am confident that both Caitlin and Natalie will rise to the challenge."
The six-day tournament concludes May 25 with all matches being a best of three sets. Regular scoring and a 12-point tiebreaker at six games all will be used for every match.
Whoriskey, the 10th-ranked player in the nation, will open the singles competition against No. 30 Reka Zsilinszka from Duke at 7:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday. The two foes are quite familiar with each other, having squared off earlier this season at the University of Michigan Invitational in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Jan. 17. Whoriskey emerged victorious in a hard-fought match, squeaking past Zsilinszka in a three-set thriller, 7-5, 2-6, 7-5. The winner of Wednesday's showdown will advance to face the victor of the matchup between No. 12 Irina Falconi of Georgia Tech and No. 18 Melanie Gloria from Fresno State.
No stranger to big matches, nearly half of Whoriskey's singles contests this season have come against competitors in the NCAA's field of 64. The East Sandwich, Mass., native is 7-12 in matches against those competitors and sports an overall record of 22-18 during her junior campaign. As a sophomore, Whoriskey earned her first at-large bid to the singles championships, falling in the opening round to North Carolina's Sanaz Marand, 6-2, 6-1.
In the doubles portion of the tournament, Whoriskey will join forces with Pluskota to form the nation's No. 10-rated pairing. The Tennessee tandem will begin play on Thursday when it is scheduled to take to the courts against the 35th-ranked California duo of Marina Coussou and Claire Ilcinkas.
It did not take Whoriskey and Pluskota long to earn recognition as one of the best doubles pairings in the nation, as they have played just 18 matches together since first teaming up against Virginia on Feb. 8. Since then, the UT duo has gone 12-6, with nine of those victories coming against nationally-ranked opponents. In contests against fellow competitors in the NCAA Tournament, Whoriskey and Pluskota have tallied a 6-4 record, including three triumphs over the South Carolina combo of Natasa Vuckovic and Ana Marija Zubori.
Whoriskey has been a part of the 32-team doubles field in each of the past two seasons, playing with fellow classmate Zsófia Zubor. After earning just the sixth NCAA doubles win in Lady Vol tennis history and advancing to the Round of 16 in 2007, the duo dropped its opening round contest to the fifth-ranked Southern Cal team of Amanda Fink and Gabriela Niculescu, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-2, last season.
If Whoriskey and Pluskota can advance past the first round, they would face the winner of the match between the No. 2-seeded Notre Dame pairing of Kristy Frilling and Kelcy Tefft and the 11th-ranked Georgia Tech duo of Falconi and Amanda McDowell on Friday.
Round of 64 - Wednesday No. 34 Caitlin Whoriskey (UT) vs. No. 30 Reka Zsilinszka (Duke) - 6:30 p.m.
Round of 32 - Thursday No. 10 Caitlin Whoriskey/Natalie Pluskota (UT) vs. No. 35 Marina Coussou/Claire Ilcinkas (California)