Jayhawk Tennis Season in Review

May 11, 2009


Jayhawks Mix Experience and Young Talent in 2009 Season

When the Kansas Jayhawks entered their 2009 season, they knew they would need to blend upperclassmen leadership and fresh talent to be successful.

Nothing illustrated that more than KU’s No. 1 doubles pairing of senior Edina Horvath and freshman Ekaterina Morozova. The duo finished the season ranked No. 87 and led the team with an 11-4 doubles record. Horvath and Morozova’s seven wins in Big 12 competition tied for the most at the No. 1 spot and landed them on the All-Big 12 doubles team. It marked the first time a KU doubles tandem had been recognized since the 2007 season when Horvath and Elizaveta Avdeeva made the list.

The Jayhawks all began the 2009 campaign on a bright note, earning a 3-0 record for the first time since the 2000 season. The Jayhawks played host to UTEP, Drake and Saint Louis in their opening weekend at First Serve Tennis Center.

Freshman Erin Wilbert gave KU the 4-3 victory over the Miners with her win at the No. 6 position, giving a preview of the success to come for Wilbert. She would finish the season with a team-high 14 singles victories at that spot.

Although Kansas was led by seniors Edina Horvath and Yuliana Svistun, it was freshman Ekaterina Morozova who played at the No. 1 singles position to kick off the season. After going 2-3, including one loss to the #89-ranked Leigh Finnegan of Illinois, Morozova moved to the No. 2 spot and Horvath took over at No. 1 singles.

KU followed its strong start at home with a four-match road trip through Illinois and Iowa. The Jayhawks dropped three of the four matches, but all were to ranked opponents. Kansas would go on to play nine more ranked foes before the end of the season, a fact highlighted by its 4-3 victory over then-No. 70 Oklahoma State.

Kansas followed up the rough road trip with a 7-0 rout of UMKC back at First Serve. It marked KU’s third straight win over the ‘Roos as well as the first appearance of the Horvath/Morozova doubles pairing, which dominated its opponent, 8-0.

After narrowly losing to then-No. 61 BYU, 4-3, and dropping a 6-1 decision to then-No. 31 Tulsa, the Jayhawks traveled to Lincoln, Neb. to open Big 12 conference play against the 56th-ranked Cornhuskers. Despite the 6-1 setback, KU rebounded when it took its 31st-straight victory over the Iowa State Cyclones, 5-2, in Ames, Iowa. Wilbert continued to build on her singles success, tallying a team-best 8-4 mark after her defeat of Bolan Tarkoe in a three-set tiebreaker.

Sophomore Maria Martinez wasn’t far behind Wilbert with her record of 7-5 following a win over Liza Wischer of ISU. Martinez was by far KU’s most impressive performer during the fall season, finishing with a team-best 7-3 record. She went on to finish the spring with a 7-5 conference record, again good for the best on the team, as well as the second-best mark in the league at the No. 5 position. Martinez finished the 2009 season with an overall record of 20-13.

With six of its last eight conference matches coming against ranked opponents, the Jayhawks faced a tough road to close out the season. Kansas hosted matches with Colorado and Missouri before embarking on another four-match road swing, this time to the states of Oklahoma and Texas. High points of the trip included triumphs over Oklahoma and then-ranked Oklahoma State, giving KU a 3-3 record in Big 12 action. The next weekend saw Kansas drop hard-fought contests to then-No. 4 Baylor and Texas Tech.

However, KU bounced back by winning home matches against Kansas State – its second straight Sunflower Showdown victory – and non-conference opponent Tulane to improve its overall record to 10-10.

The Jayhawks would again hit a rough stretch, dropping their last two regualr season matches to No. 32 Texas and No. 25 Texas A&M in Lawrence. The lopsided scores of 7-0 and 6-1 were misleading, however, as the Jayhawks fought for every point. Three Jayhawks took their matches to three sets and two tiebreakers were played. Horavth and Morozova picked up two big wins in doubles competition, including an 8-3 upset of No. 34 Vanja Corovic and Marija Milic of Texas. Svistun, who finished the season with 13 singles victories, provided KU with its only singles win of the weekend, defeating Texas A&M’s Christi Liles in a tiebreaker.

The Jayhawks opened up play in the Big 12 Championship in Norman, Okla. as the No. 9 seed on April 23. KU looked to avenge its 5-2 regular season loss to the No. 8-seeded Missouri Tigers. Horvath and Morozova won their fifth-straight doubles match, but MU proved to be too much for Kansas, winning 4-1 and ending KU’s 2009 season.

Kansas officially put an end to its season on May 1 with its annual awards banquet. Headlining the event was the presentation of the Catherine Holland Most Valuable Player award to Svistun. Other awards handed out were: Most Improved Player to Wilbert, Sportsmanship Award to Martinez and Hardest Worker Award to Dorn. Wilbert and fellow freshman Morozova were also each presented with letterjackets.

Two Jayhawks were recognized for their outstanding efforts off the court as well. Horvath and Dorn were named to the Academic All-Big 12 First Team in April, marking the second accolade for Dorn and the first for Horvath.

Overall, the 2009 spring campaign marked the end of two seniors’ successful careers and the beginning of several more promising careers to come. As the Jayhawks look to next season, there is reason for excitement and optimism in 2010.