Akron Tennis to Face Michigan in NCAA Tournament First Round
Story courtesy of Akron Sports Information
AKRON, Ohio - The University of Akron tennis team will travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., to face off against Michigan in the first round of the NCAA Championship on Saturday, May 14 at a time to be decided at Varsity Tennis Center. The Zips (20-4), who are unseeded in the field of 64, will take on the 10th-seeded Wolverines (22-4) for the first time in program history.
Akron, the only school from the state of Ohio in the bracket, is making its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Championship after winning the program's first-ever Mid-American Conference tournament title on Sunday, when it defeated Miami (Ohio) 4-3 in Ypsilanti, Mich. Freshman Natalia Kuvakina scored a three-set, last-match-on-court win at No. 6 singles to give the second-seeded Zips a comeback victory over the top-seeded and defending league champion RedHawks.
The Zips were competing in the conference tournament final for the first time in school history, after advancing to the semifinal round for the second-consecutive season and second time ever. UA's 20 overall victories this season are the most since the 1990-91 squad finished with a 26-6 mark. The program finished 19-3 in 2010.
Michigan, which is listed 10th nationally in this week's Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings, lost 4-3 to Northwestern in the Big Ten tournament final on Sunday. That defeat ended a 12-match win streak for the squad. The Wolverines will be the Zips' third Big Ten opponent this season as UA posted road wins at Penn State (5-2) and Michigan State (4-3) on Jan. 22 and 28, respectively. UA has earned a road win over those two programs in each of the last two seasons.
"We were thinking that we would end up at either Northwestern or Michigan, so we were prepared for this mentally," first-year Akron head coach Brandon Padgett said. "We are familiar with Michigan, having been in Ann Arbor for the ITA regional in October, so we have seen them play and know what they do."
The winner of the Akron-Michigan match-up will lineup against the winner of unseeded Nebraska (20-7) and Tulsa (25-2) in the second round on Sunday, May 15 in Ann Arbor. The second-round winner will advance to the round of 16 at Taube Tennis Center on the campus of Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif., on Friday, May 20. Nebraska and Tulsa will compete at Varsity Tennis Center on May 14 as well.
Sunday's conference title, the fourth in 2010-11 for an Akron Athletics team, rounded out an exciting week for the Zips tennis program. At last Thursday night's tournament banquet, junior Zara Harutyunyan was named league player of the year for the third-consecutive season and also earned a spot on the All-MAC First Team for the third-straight year. Additionally, sophomores Prang Pantusart and Angelika Jogasuria were named to the all-conference second team. Those three all-league selections tied Miami as most of any league member this year. Harutyunyan and Pantusart were named to the all-tournament team as well, with Harutyunyan also being chosen as MVP.
"We have had a very, very good season," Padgett said. "We had some ups and downs, but talked all season about building toward the MAC championship and we were able to get it done. It was an extremely exciting day for all of us."
Along with the tennis program, Akron Athletics teams have claimed the men's soccer tournament championship (also regular-season champion), men's basketball tournament title (played in title match each of the last five years), and men's indoor track championship (first in program history) during the current academic year.