Women’s tennis team served up a tough non-conference schedule

UK’s women’s tennis team has many obstacles to face during the regular season to improve on its 19-8 performance from last year. A young team made up of three freshmen, three sophomores and one junior will have to battle through a tough overall schedule and Southeastern Conference matches against some of the best teams in the country.

Despite these factors, third-year coach Carlos Drada believes his team is up for the challenge.

“The team is talented, physical, and has a good way to process information,” Drada said. “They treat every match as an opportunity to win. The girls come out ready to battle. Each player has a strong role and is fully engaged in the process in our system.”

Sophomore Christine Johnston said UK is aware of the challenges ahead, and the upcoming difficulties will initiate a good future for the team.

“We are working on building our program up,” Johnston said. “We have a lot of young people, and we are trying to get started to make the team really well for the next few years to come.”

Out of the 22 teams UK will face during the dual-match regular season, 12 were in last year’s NCAA tournament. The matchup against Georgia Tech on Feb. 17 looks to be the toughest for the Cats. The Yellow Jackets knocked UK out of the tournament last year on their way to winning the national championship. Georgia Tech is the top-ranked team in the nation.

“The match versus Georgia Tech will be beautiful, because they have the best talent and are the best-coached team in the nation,” Drada said. “Our whole team, the players and coaches, can learn a lot.”

Sophomore Whitney Spencer said UK’s goal is to make it to the Sweet 16.

UK’s conference schedule starts Feb. 29 when the Cats face South Carolina.

“All of the SEC keeps getting stronger,” Drada said. “A lot of teams are getting players from overseas; teams that were not as great before are all of a sudden a major threat.”

Last Saturday, UK kicked off the year strong, winning its third-straight season-opening double header. UK players failed to win only one match in singles and one match in doubles during their 6-1 defeat of Marshall, while taking every match against Winthrop in a 7-0 win.

The Cats return to action Sunday at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Center to face Michigan. First serve is at 12 p.m.