2007 Women's Tennis Spring Preview

Jan. 19, 2007

ORLANDO - With a 12-9 overall record in just its first season in Conference USA, the 2006 UCF women's tennis team posted a winning record for the fourth-straight year and for the 13th time in the last 14 campaigns. This year, the 2007 Golden Knights could very easily continue that trend.

Facing the loss of former No. 1 singles standout Pamela Fernandez, who was the lone senior on last year's squad, the Golden Knights will still be very familiar with each other. A total of seven student-athletes return from 2005-06, which should provide head coach Patricia Allison with some comfort room since she used a total of 13 different doubles combinations a year ago.

"Overall, the team has shown great progress in both singles and doubles," Allison said. "Sophomore Elvira Serrot seems to be accepting the role of a No. 1 player. We are very excited about that. She took it upon her shoulders to be a No. 1 player. Elvi went home over the summer and worked her tail off. She came back and we could tell she improved a lot."

Serrot was 1-0 in her only match at the No. 1 position a year ago, but was 9-9 at No. 2. She completed her freshman season with an 11-12 overall mark and was 11-10 in doubles action, playing mostly with Fernandez in the No. 1 spot of the lineup.

The Golden Knights will look to sophomore Kenza Belbacha to slide into one of the top singles positions as well. Last spring, she primarily played out of the No. 3 spot, but she also saw time at No. 2 and No. 4.

"Kenza has a ton of talent and is the fastest runner on the team based on some of the things I've seen," said Allison. "There are some technical parts of her game, like on her volleys, that we need to work on, but before we know it she could be a big-time player. She just has a lot of learning to do this year, and it will be testing for her."

Joining Serrot and Belbacha in singles is junior Anna Yakimchenkova. Coming off a 19-9 performance, she will serve as a key ingredient in UCF's rotation. Yakimchenkova's doubles efforts also have not gone unnoticed, as she holds a 25-8 career record at UCF.

"Anna Yakimchenkova is one of the best competitors on this team," admitted Allison. "She flat out competes, and just continues to improve. She will be in the heart of the lineup, probably around the No. 3 or 4 spot. Anna has won a lot of matches for us."

Two seniors that should make the Golden Knights extremely tough in both singles and doubles play are Megan Hunter and Becky Gordon. Hunter was brilliant at the No. 5 position, earning an 8-2 singles record while going 21-7 overall. Gordon, meanwhile, went 10-2 in singles, dropping just one match in the fall and one in the spring.

"Becky Gordon brings senior stability, experience and leadership to this team," thought Allison. "And Megan Hunter has a lot of determination and experience. They will definitely want to make the most of their senior years."

Juniors Jennifer Carati and Kyla McNicol return to UCF and could once again provide the Golden Knights with some valuable experience in 2006-07. Carati played at least one match at the No. 3, No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6 spots last year, while McNicol owns a 22-14 doubles record through her first two seasons in a Black and Gold uniform.

"Jennifer is a very talented player," described Allison. "She could easily challenge for the three spot. She got injured last year when she was on her way to being a solid No. 3 player. Kyla also has had some injuries that have really hurt her development. If Kyla works hard and stays injury-free, she has the ability to be at the top of the lineup."

To replace Fernandez on the roster, Allison welcomes freshman Zoe Kent from Valrico, Fla. A product of Bloomingdale High School, Kent played No. 1 singles and was the team MVP all four seasons.

"Zoe adds tremendous depth at the bottom of the lineup and is absolutely challenging for a spot," said Allison. "This girl is very good on the court, and she is just a freshman."

Now that UCF has gotten a taste of what Conference USA is all about, the Golden Knights will know what to expect when they enter the dual-match season this year. And with an amazing group of student-athletes returning, they have a lot to look forward to in 2007.