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DePaul women’s tennis looks to make a racket in NCAA tournament

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DePaul will play Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA tournament. (Photo courtesy of DePaul Athletics)

DePaul will play Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA tournament. (Photo courtesy of DePaul Athletics)

After winning their second straight Big East championship, women’s tennis looks to make some noise in the NCAA tournament.

They did just that.

The Blue Demons tacked on another Big East championship with commanding performances April 24-26, and they are now set to face No. 24 Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Ann Arbor, Michigan on May 9.

“It means a lot to us to make the tournament for another straight year,” senior Patricia Fargas said. “We’ve been working really hard this entire season. We had really high expectations coming in from last year’s Big East so we really wanted to prove ourselves once again. We wanted to prove there was a reason we were the No. 1 seed.”

Over the course of three days, the Blue Demons, who are ranked No. 37 in the country, went into Indianapolis and dominated their fellow Big East rivals with a 4-0 sweep in each match.  To get to the finals, DePaul (21-4, 5-0 Big East) dispatched of Providence and Marquette.

The wins set them up for St. John’s, who also turned out to be not much of a challenge.

DePaul head coach Mark Ardizzone said that being in the Big East final before certainly helped this year.

“They kept their composure,” Ardizzone said. “They’re just a stress free team. I stress them out enough at practice that when things get moving around or the weather is bad, they just know what the goal is. They are very business like. Other teams were kind of all over the place and we just kept our composure.”

DePaul senior Rebecca Mitrea said getting back to the tournament is a “great thing.” Mitrea had an impressive Big East tournament, going 5-0 in singles and doubles play and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Big East Championship.

Despite having an impressive outing, Mitrea said DePaul has a new goal for the NCAA tournament this year.

“One of our goals is to make the second round of the NCAA tournament,” Mitrea said, a task the group didn’t achieve last year. “We have this chance and we’re just ready for Kentucky.”

Junior Ana Vladutu brings experience to the 2015 NCAA tournament. (Photo courtesy of DePaul Athletics)

Junior Ana Vladutu brings experience to the 2015 NCAA tournament. (Photo courtesy of DePaul Athletics)

Ardizzone said the Blue Demons are facing a great team. The Wildcats are ranked No. 25 in the country and are 15-12. So far this season, DePaul is 4-3 against teams in the top 25.

“They are an SEC team and they play great teams all year,” Ardizzone said. “It’s a great opportunity for us. They’re in the top 25, and we’re looking forward to that opportunity for sure.”

But it’s the closeness of DePaul that’s led to their success this year, Ardizzone said.  DePaul has seen valuable contributions from seniors in Fargas and Mitrea while also getting a lot out of newcomers in Yuliya Shupenia and Patricia Lancranjan.

“Rarely have I had a team this close that’s really gelled together,” Ardizzone said. “We’re just so deep. We just have strength in numbers. I could put in our seven or eight kids and I still think we could beat any team. We just thrive off that.”

“They just really pull and cheer for each other.”

In her time at DePaul, Fargas has seen the tennis program continue to evolve. The team went 15-8 in her freshman year and then took a massive leap forward the last two years.

“For me, this couldn’t have been better ending it like this,” Fargas said. “I’m so proud of the team. I’m really glad I got to be here for four years and for two of them, we were the Big East champions.

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DePaul women’s tennis looks to make a racket in NCAA tournament