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May 24, 2011

Higgins, Hu attempt three-peat at Nationals

Two-time NCAA women’s tennis doubles champions Kendra Higgins and Chrissy Hu will compete at the NCAA tournament this weekend, hoping to complete the first three-peat in D-III doubles history.

Higgins, a third-year, and Hu, a fourth-year, will be joined in Claremont, CA by two singles players: Teammate and third-year Jennifer Kung and fourth-year Will Zhang. Zhang will compete in the men’s bracket. All four are attending their third consecutive finals.

The three women are already in California, along with Coach Marty Perry and Assistant Coach Taka Bertrand, who both received ITA Central Region Coach of the Year awards, Perry for men’s and Bertrand for men’s and women’s. Members of the women’s team are also competing in the team championship, which could affect their play in the individual tournament later this week.

“During the team event, we have one dual match a day, and during individuals, you could play up to three matches a day depending on if you’re in singles or doubles,” Kung noted. The fatigue could particularly affect Higgins, who is also competing in the singles tournament. Both Higgins and Kung made the round of 16 in singles last year.

“My goal is to win the whole thing, but I do think this year’s field is stronger than last year’s,” Kung said. “In particular, there are a couple of freshmen and one transfer student who are probably the biggest favorites to win the tournament based on their results this year. Last year’s NCAA singles winner is in it again this year too.”

On the doubles side, Hu, who was recently named to the Capital One Academic All-District Women’s At-Large First Team, and Higgins remain the top contenders, having finished the regular season 23­—1. Though rankings for the singles and doubles tournament won’t be released until tomorrow, they will likely garner the top seed.

Zhang is also looking to best his round of 16 finish from last year, but the men’s field is just as competitive as the women’s.

“I’d say this year’s singles field is just as talented as last year’s,” he said. “The winner last year graduated, but most of the other top players are in the draw again this year so it will be very competitive.”

And though his team’s elimination from NCAA Regionals last week means Zhang isn’t competing in the team championship, he too will face issues with fatigue.

“The first day of the tournament, you have to play two singles matches, so it’s a pretty grueling day that really tests your fitness,” Zhang said. “My teammates will not be around, so I will need to find ways to pump myself up during matches. Overall, I’m excited to play in the NCAAs again, and I hope I can elevate my game at the right time.”

Team play begins today at 3 p.m. for the women as they take on Denison. The singles and doubles tournament begins on Friday.

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