Arkansas Hosts ITA Central Regional and Razorbacks Shine

FAYETTEVILLE – What started out as a rainy weekend in northwest Arkansas, turned into an exciting weekend full of tennis at the Billingsley Family Tennis Center in Fayetteville, where the Razorbacks played host to nine other regional teams and nearly 60 participants for the ITA Central Regional Championships.

“It was incredible to be able to host the Central ITA Regionals here in Fayetteville this weekend,” said head women’s tennis coach Courtney Steinbock. “It’s been a bumpy road for college tennis since our season was cancelled in March and I don’t think anyone could have imagined that it was going to be possible to be able to host a tournament of this magnitude. It definitely took a village, or two, and I’m so thankful to everyone who helped make this event possible for all our college players across the region.”

Steinbock and her Hogs were busy this weekend, with Razorbacks making runs in both doubles and singles play.

Senior Lauren Alter fell to UCA’s Yada Vasupongchai early in the tournament (6-4, 0-6, 1-0 [5]) but seized an opportunity in consolation play, earning a first round bye and going on to defeat Matilde Magrini from North Texas,  6-3, 3-6, 1-0 (9). Alter closed out day two of the weekend with a quarterfinal win over another Mean Green squad member, this time it was Saki Oyama by a score of 6-3, 6-1.

Sunday came and Alter continued to power through her competition with a defining win against TCU’s Margaret Polk before falling to Fuka Nonoyama (UCA) in the consolation finals (6-3, 6-3).

The weekend started with a competitive round of 64, where five different Hogs claimed victories over their opponents. Graduate Razorback Jackie Carr defeated Olga Bienzobas of Mizzou (7-6 [1], 6-3), sophomore Kelly Keller defeated Alyson Piskulic of Missouri State (6-1, 6-1) and senior Tatum Rice defeated Isabel Pascual Montalvo from TCU (3-6, 7-6, 1-0 [4]). Freshmen Indianna Spink and Morgan Cross both defeated players from Missouri state, with wins over Tiffani Nash (6-2, 6-1) and Mary Houston (6-1, 6-1) respectively.

Senior Martina Zerulo earned a first-round bye in the singles main draw before jumping into action later in the day on Friday and advancing to the quarterfinals on Saturday. Over the weekend, Zerulo stacked up wins against Julia Deming from Kansas (6-1, 6-3) and teammate Keller (6-4, 6-1) before dropping her quarterfinal matchup against TCU Horned Frog Mercedes Aristegui (6-3, 6-0).

Spink made a convincing run into the quarterfinals of the main draw as well, with a second-round tiebreaker victory over Oklahoma State’s Lenka Stara (6-2, 3-6, 1-0 [8]) and a round of 16 win against Mizzou Tiger Elys Ventura (4-6, 6-3, 1-0 [8]). The Hertfordshire, England native battled all weekend before falling to Kansas’ Malkia Ngounoue in a truly exhilarating match, 6-1, 6-7 (3), 1-0 (8).

Spink shined in doubles play as well, as she and her partner Cross, were the lone Razorback duo competing on Sunday in the semifinals. With a first-round bye in their pocket, Spink and Cross began in the round of 16, taking down their first doubles duo of the weekend, Kansas Jayhawks Carmen Roxana Manu and Tiffany Lagarde (6-2).

The Hogs continued with a big win over Stara and Bunyawi Thamchaiwat of Oklahoma State, 6-3 in quarterfinal play before dropping their semifinals match to Ayumi Miyamoto Lisa Marie Rioux of OSU (6-4, 6-3).

The Central ITA Regional was the final tournament of the fall for Arkansas and now the Razorbacks set their sights on preparing for the spring season.

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