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The 57th ranked UCI Women’s Tennis team starts their spring season on Jan. 21 at home against the University of San Francisco this Thursday at 1:30 p.m. They have beaten USF five out of six times in the past six years. Head Coach Mike Edles expects a tough match against the unranked USF team, which includes the two-time West Coast Conference player of the year Jennifer Heisner.

Last season, the Lady Anteaters finished second at the Big West championship, losing 4-1 to Long Beach State. They ended with a record of 16-8 (7-1 in conference). As for this season, Edles expects tough matches from teams in the Big West conference like Cal Poly and No. 50 Long Beach State.

“Getting through the Big West is always a battle. Cal Poly will be very good this year, especially with their number one and number two players,” said Edles.

Women’s tennis concluded their fall season with the annual UC Irvine Fall Invitational this past November. Other teams that competed in this event include Loyola Marymount University, UC Riverside, UC San Diego and Montana. Stephanie Hammel and Brooke Bartlett led UC Irvine to a 10-0 finish in singles. Hammel, Kristina Smith and Courtney Byron went undefeated in this tournament. Hammel won the Blue Bracket singles title, while Hannah Holladay and Becka Kwan won the gold bracket in doubles.

Sophomore Hammel, awarded Big West Freshman of the Year last season, will continue to shine dominance throughout this 2010 season.

“She had a strong fall season, and we’re looking for good things to come from her this year,” said Coach Edles.

The Lady Anteaters face a tough upcoming schedule. The day after their match against USF, they compete away against the No. 9 ranked University of Southern California. USC won the Pac-10 championship last season and ended with a record of 21-3. They also boast a variety of strong players including Maria Sanchez, who is ranked eighth in the nation.

Two weeks after that match, the women’s tennis team faces No. 12 ranked UCLA. Although these are two tough teams, Coach Edles brings a positive attitude towards these matches.

“It’s just a really great opportunity for our players. Last year Courtney Byron beat one of the nationally ranked players from UCLA.  So it’s always hard to beat those guys, but our team is strong also this year,” said Coach Edles.

Women’s tennis also received a national letter of intent from Brooke Schweyer to attend and compete at UC Irvine. She is currently ranked 12th in the Girls 18s division in the Southern California Tennis Association section and attends Palos Verdes High School. She also has an overall record of 35-15.

Without any seniors on the roster this season, Edles feels that freshmen April Bisharat and Kristina Smith will fill in these spots well for the team. Smith attended Dana Hills High School and was a CIF doubles champion in 2007. She defeated Kwon (UCI) in the Red Bracket Championship with a (4-6, 6-2, 6-4) win at the UC Irvine Fall Invitational.

This is the 13th season that Edles has coached the UCI women’s tennis team. He was named Big West Coach of the Year in 2007 and guided the women’s tennis team to a 7-0 record in the Big West conference. Eldes’ current record as head coach is 170-121.

“I am excited for this year. We have a really good and strong team, and it is a young team. We are just going to have to see how this season goes,” said Edles.

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