April 17, 2013
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina opens play in the 2013 Southern Conference Women's Tennis Championship on Thursday afternoon, facing sixth-seeded Chattanooga at the Burlington Tennis Center. The four-day event features all 22 men's and women's teams from the Southern Conference.
Tournament play in the women's bracket begins at 9:00 am when No. 8 Samford takes on No. 9 Davidson. Later that afternoon, seventh-seeded Georgia Southern battles No. 10 seed Wofford with No. 6 Chattanooga scheduled for 1:00 pm.
Thursday's opening round and Friday's quarterfinals will be split between the Jimmy Powell Tennis Center and Burlington Tennis Center. Saturday's semifinals and Sunday's championship matches will take place at the Jimmy Powell Tennis Center on the campus of Elon University.
The Catamounts (1-16, 0-7 SoCon) enter the championship event shorthanded as lone senior Karen Jiménez has been sidelined since mid-March with a knee injury. WCU will play with five singles and two doubles teams as they have since the injury. Western Carolina, which dropped its regular season meeting with Chattanooga on the road back on March 3, is led by SoCon All-Freshman team selection, Stacia Kissell. The Latrobe, Pa.., native posted five individual victories including a stretch of three-straight wins at mid-season. In three of her final four singles matches, she forced a tie-breaking set in close losses, all coming in SoCon play. Following the injury to Jiménez, Kissell moved up to team with classmate Shannon Bettiol on the No. 1 doubles team. The duo has combined to go 5-5 down the stretch for WCU.
Bettiol additionally scored four individual wins for the Catamounts this season, second on the team, with freshmen Erin Maguire and Nicole Nielly both tallying individual victories this season. Rounding out WCU's side at the conference championship will be a fifth freshman, Sara Ruiz Pajares, who has played at three seeds this year ranging from No. 2 to No. 4.
Nielly and Ruiz Pajares have combined to play No. 2 doubles over the past month for the Catamounts.
"The team and I are very excited for the SoCon tournament this year. Now that all five freshmen have played their first season, they have seen the level of competition in the Southern Conference and know what they are up against," said head coach Chris Wollett. "When the team lost senior starter, Karen Jiménez, to a season ending torn ACL, they knew they would have to dig a little deeper in each match. I feel they have done this and are ready to compete at a high level in the tournament."
Play in the tournament match begins with doubles with the one-point awarded and all in-progress matches halted once the victor is decided. The teams will then play their singles matches, seeds one through six, until a team has collected four of the possible seven points for the victory.
The College of Charleston's women's team won its third regular-season crown in the last four years. As the No. 1 seed in the women's draw, the Cougars have advanced to Friday's quarterfinals. Elon, UNCG and Furman all finished with 8-2 records in conference play. The Phoenix earned the No. 2 seed by virtue of a victory over the Cougars. Furman earned the No. 3 seed, while UNCG is fourth. Appalachian State was the final team to earn a bye through to Friday's quarterfinals, as the Mountaineers are seeded fifth.
The women's championship match will be held Sunday at 10:00 am.