April 14, 2011
By Zach Mendelson, Seminoles.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The No. 27 Florida State women’s tennis team (10-7, 5-4 ACC) will host its final two matches of the regular season as it welcomes Atlantic Coast Conference rivals No. 4 North Carolina (20-4, 9-1) on Friday, April 15 at 4:00 p.m. for “Paint It Pink” day and then senior day against No. 3 Duke (20-2, 9-0) on Sunday at 12 p.m. at the Scott Speicher Tennis Center. Seniors Katie Rybakova and Federica Suess will be recognized on Sunday as they play potentially their last home match in Tallahassee.
“Coaching Fede and Katie has been awesome,” head coach Jennifer Hyde said. “Both have had tremendous careers here, they have been great leaders and have done an excellent job both on the court and in the classroom. They are good friends, good girls and they are going to be sorely missed, but we are not quite ready to say goodbye to them just yet. We still have another month or so of tennis left in the season so we will keep them on track and focused on all of our upcoming matches. We still have a lot of tennis ahead of us.”
The Seminoles will face a steep challenge with the Tar Heels and Blue Devils, but they hope that with their home crowd behind them they will be able to pull off the big upset.
“I am glad we are playing both of these teams at home this year and I am glad it’s on the last weekend leading in to the ACC Tournament” said Hyde. “Obviously they are two solid teams, both ranked among the top five in the country. These two matches are huge opportunities for us. They both have a lot to lose this weekend and have the pressure on their shoulders. We will dig in to in each match very early, and be willing to last. That is what these young ladies do best. The girls are excited to once again put it all on the line for two more matches as we head in to our ACC Championships next week. This will be a very exciting weekend.”
While the Seminoles have improved play recently by winning three straight ACC matches, the team knows a win over one of these two opponents would be huge for their confidence heading into the ACC Tournament.
“I think this team has improved a heck of a lot this last month,” said Hyde. “I think everyone has seen those improvements and everyone is feeling much more confident. I’m not sure I would want to be playing this team this weekend because I think we are feeling really good right now, especially after the successful road trip we had last weekend. We are starting to play our best tennis as the season is starting to peak.”
One of the reasons for the recent success is the leadership of Suess and Rybakova who will leave as two of the winningest players in school history. With 102 victories Suess is just one win away from becoming the all-time wins leader in singles at Florida State and Rybakova is not far behind as she is only one win away from her 100th career victory.
“It would be a big achievement for me,” said Rybakova. “It was great to see Federica tie both Lauren (McCreless) and Jessica (Sucupira) and I think if I can join them in that category it would be an honor, but as long as I am here competing for Florida State I am happy. That is really what means most to me.”
While there are plenty of things that could serve as distractions to the players such as individual records or playing at home for the last time, the seniors are completely focused on the two matches at hand.
“It would be huge for us to win one or two matches this weekend,” said Rybakova. “Both teams are loaded from one through six in singles and all three doubles. For us to win one of these matches would give us a ton of momentum heading into the postseason.”
“To be honest I could care less about the record,” added Suess. “It’s all about the team and winning. For me to win my individual match, but for us to lose 6-1 the record would mean nothing to me. I just hope we can come together as a team and get a win or two this weekend.”
Playing Duke and Carolina will not be anything new to this team, as they played the two schools five times during the previous season.
“When we played Duke and UNC last year, all of the matches were really exciting and competitive and we are looking forward to the opportunity of playing them again this year,” said Rybakova. “We played UNC three times last year, so it’s exciting to get back to the competitive levels we reach when we play against them. I think we are all really excited because it’s a huge opportunity for us to playing against the number three and four ranked teams in the country. We will be underdogs, so we are just going to try our hardest to pull it out.”
While the seniors are completely focused on the upcoming matches, Hyde knows that when these two seniors have finished their careers she will have lost two outstanding players and individuals.
“Federica and Katie have definitely been two of the most consistent performers I have had in my time here so it’s not really a surprise to me that they have reached the levels of success that they have,” said Hyde. “Both have worked very hard for everything they have accomplished. They have done a great job contributing on all fronts to this team and I look forward to seeing them finish out their careers on a very high note, and seeing this team through to a higher finish than last season.”
“I don’t think it has really hit me yet,” Rybakova said. “It’s kind of surreal but it probably will hit me sometime on Sunday. It’s awesome we will be able to finish our regular season here in front of our home crowd against such quality opponents. Hopefully this isn’t the last time I play here but if it is the last time it will be nice to go out with the girls one last time here at Speicher and give it our all.”
“It comes faster than you think and we are down to our last two home matches possibly if don’t host,” added Suess. “It’s very emotional, exciting, and sad all at the same time. To have the chance to finish up your career against the number three and four teams in the country is awesome. You cannot wish for something better.”
Fans are encouraged to come cheer on the Garnet and Gold for both matches. The first fans will receive free pink pom-poms and ribbons on Friday. There will also be onsite raffles and t-shirts available to purchase with a $10 donation to benefit the Tallahassee Memorial Sharon Ewing Walker Breast Health Center. Free FSU Tennis Car Magnets will be available to the first fans on Sunday. Make sure to come to Sunday’s match early as Florida State will be honoring the seniors before the match.