April 27, 2011
FULLERTON, CA -
FIRST SERVE: The Cal State Fullerton women's tennis team (6-16 overall, 1-7 in the Big West Conference) heads east this week as the No. 8 seed, ready for competition at the 2011 Big West Conference women's tennis tournament at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, CA beginning Thursday (April 28).
The Titans face-off against ninth-seeded UC Riverside in the tournament's opening-round play-in match at 3 p.m. - a quick rematch of their regular season finale against the Highlanders won by Fullerton, 4-3. The winner advances to face top-seeded Long Beach State on Friday (April 29) at 9 a.m. Tournament play continues through the weekend with the championship match held on Sunday morning (May 1) at 9 a.m.
LAST TIME OUT: The doubles point proved crucial as the Titans closed out their regular season with a 4-3 victory over UC Riverside in the regular season finale for both teams. Sophomore Malorie dela Cruz and senior Karina Akhmedova battled for an 8-6 win at the No. 3 doubles spot to clinch the point after freshmen Morgan McIntosh and Megan Sandford had eased to an 8-2 win at the No. 2 spot. The two teams then split the six singles matches with sophomore Tiffany Mai at No. 1, McIntosh at No. 2, and Sandford at No. 5, posting singles wins.
IN THE RANKINGS: The Big West Tournament women's bracket features five nationally-ranked squads as of the April 26 ITA rankings. Regular season co-champions Cal Poly (\#36) and Long Beach State (\#39) are ranked among the top 40 teams in the nation followed by UC Davis (\#56), UC Irvine (\#59), and UC Santa Barbara (\#67). Fullerton was 0-5 against nationally ranked squads this season, falling to No. 67 San Diego, No. 57 San Diego State, No. 43 Pepperdine, No. 43 Long Beach State, and No. 46 Cal Poly (all rankings as of the date of the match).
2010 EVENT RECAP: Eighth-seeded Cal State Fullerton ended a four-match Big West Tournament losing streak in the opening match of last season's tournament with a, 4-1, opening-round win over ninth-seeded UC Riverside before falling to top-seeded Long Beach State, 4-0. Against the Highlanders, the Titans took the doubles point with wins at the No. 1 and No. 3 spots before Tiffany Mai, Malorie dela Cruz, and Karina Akhmedova posted singles wins to push Fullerton into the next round. However, the six-time defending champion 49ers would not drop a set, winning at the No. 2 and No. 3 doubles spots by the scored of 8-2 and 8-1, respectively, and clinching the match with straight set singles wins at the No. 2, No. 4, and No. 6 spots.
TITANS-HIGHLANDERS RENEW TOURNAMENT RIVALRY: Since UC Riverside joined the Big West Conference in 2004-05, the two programs have met in the Big West Tournament on four previous occasions with each team claiming a pair of wins. The Titans won the first-ever meeting, 4-3, in 2005 to finish ninth before the Highlanders won the next two meetings in 2008 (5-0) and 2009 (5-0) in play-in matches. Fullerton then ended UCR's run with a 4-1 play-in win during last season's event.
SIX PACK: Fullerton's six wins this season are the most for the Titans since they finished 6-17 overall during the 2007 season and a win over UC Riverside on Thursday would give them their highest win total since Cal State Fullerton finished 7-14 at the end of the 2005 campaign.
AN OMEN?: In each of the last three seasons, the winner of the Cal State Fullerton-UC Riverside regular season contest has gone on to win the Big West Tournament match between the two schools.
"MAI" OH MY: Sophomore Tiffany Mai has embraced her standing atop the Fullerton lineup this season, greatly improving over her freshman season totals that netted her All-Big West Honorable Mention honors. Mai shares the team lead with 10 dual match wins this season after going just 7-12 in dual match play as a freshman and is 11-17 overall in singles play this season, three wins better than her 8-16 mark in 2010. The 10 dual match wins (a mark she shares with freshman Morgan McIntosh) are the most for a Titan since Gina Le and Mai-Ly Tran each won 11 in 2007.
STRONG SECOND HALF: After opening the season with just one win in her first 12 matches, Tiffany Mai has found a groove, going 10-6 in the second half of the season, including a team-best three victories over Big West opponents and wins in four of her last six matches overall.
MORE FROM MORGAN: Freshman Morgan McIntosh has made her presence felt in her rookie season with the Titans, co-leading the team in dual match wins and pacing the squad with 14 singles victories overall - the most since Gina Le finished 15-13 overall in 2007. McIntosh has won five of her last six singles matches, including back-to-back three-set marathons against Idaho's Lauren Simpson and UC Riverside's Nadia Sakhakorn. Her nine wins over regional opponents are also tops on the team, two better than the seven by teammates Tiffany Mai and Megan Sandford.
WINNING TRIO: Freshman Morgan McIntosh (14 wins overall), sophomore Tiffany Mai (11 wins), and sophomore Monica Rodriguez (10 wins) have all reached double figures in singles wins this season, forming the winningest tennis trio for the Titans since 2007 when Gina Le (15-13), Mai-Ly Tran (11-12), and Katrina Domela (11-18) combined for 37 singles wins. With one more singles win by either Karina Akhmedova or Megan Sandford, Cal State Fullerton will have four (or five) singles players with double-digit victories for the first time since 2003-04 when Ioana Sisoe (14-15 overall), Mai-Ly Tran (14-11), Gina Le (13-13), Caroline Freeman (13-14), and Ruya Inalpulat (11-16) each finished in double figures.