Wildcats Get Final Tune-up for Dual Play at Georgia

MANHATTAN, Kan. - The Kansas State Wildcats travel to Georgia on Friday for one last tune-up before dual play begins. Kansas State will face a stiff field of competition during the three-day Georgia Bulldog Invitational at the Dan McGill Tennis Complex.

The Wildcats, who debuted at No. 53 in the Jan. 9, Fila/Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings, are one of three ranked squads in the tournament. Host school Georgia is rated as the No. 24 team in the nation and the Troy Trojans enter the season at No. 69. Mississippi State, the fourth team competing, is unranked.

Tournament play begins each morning with two rounds of round-robin doubles play followed by singles competition in the afternoon. Singles play includes two 16-player draws.

Kansas State’s Viviana Yrureta re-emerged during fall competition and enters the spring as the Wildcats’ top threat followed closely by veteran Tamar Kvaratskhelia. Yrureta, who missed the majority of last season with an injury, leads K-State with eight singles wins this year and was rated the No. 23 player in the Central Region Fall Poll.

Kvaratskhelia posted a 5-5 record in the fall and was tabbed the No. 28 singles player in the Central Region.

Kansas State’s Fernanda Da Valle is back at full strength after being hampered early in the fall by a lingering foot injury. Da Valle was perhaps the most improved player on the team last season after bumping her win total from eight in her freshman year to a team-high 22 in the 2005-06 campaign.

The Wildcats will send all eight members of the team to a tournament for the first time this season after various injuries depleted the roster in the fall. Maria Perevoshchikova will play in her first matches since May after receiving a clean bill of health but Tereza Prochazkova will sit out due to minor knee issues.

K-State competed at the Georgia Invitational last season and jumped out to a 5-2 start in dual play. The Wildcats hope to get used to the ranked competition as 13 of Kansas State’s 20 opponents appear in the pre-season top-75 poll. Kansas State opens dual play on Saturday, Jan. 27 against the Drake Bulldogs in Manhattan. 

LAST TIME OUT:  Kansas State finished the season with a winning record for the eighth time in head coach Steve Bietau’s tenure and reached the second-round of the Big 12 Championships. The 11-10 Wildcats ended the season ranked No. 54 and narrowly missed an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. Kansas State posted a 5-0 record in Big 12 North competition and finished tied for fifth in league standings.  

TOP CATS:  Kansas State’s Viviana Yrureta and Tamar Kvaratskhelia garnered regional recognition for their performance last fall. Yrureta was tabbed as the No. 23 player in the Central Region after posting an 8-5 record. Yrureta put together a seven-match winning-streak and was an impressive 8-2 before running into a string of nationally-ranked opponents to finish fall play. Kvaratskhelia continues to be one of the top Wildcat players notching five wins in the fall. Kvaratskhelia was ranked as the No. 28 player in the Central Region rankings.

NATIONAL RECOGNITION: The Wildcats opened at No. 53 in the first Fila/Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll. Dating back to the final poll of the 2005 season, the Wildcats have now appeared in 17 consecutive top-75 polls. K-State debuted at No. 67 in the last year’s preseason poll and remained there through the first three weeks of play before making an upswing to No. 45. The poll streak is nowhere near the 46 consecutive polls the Wildcats appeared in from March 21, 2001 through March 16, 2004. The highest ranking achieved by the Wildcats during the last five seasons is No. 32 in the 2003 final poll. 

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE: K-State’s schedule is a doozy with 13 of 20 opponents ranked in the pre-season poll. The Wildcats will face six opponents ranked in the top-30, beginning with No. 30 Brigham Young on Feb. 17 in Manhattan. The Big 12 looks to be as tough as ever with nine teams garnering pre-season recognition. 

ROAD TRIPPERS: The Wildcats open with Drake at home and host Utah and Brigham Young in the first three weeks of the season but will spend a significant portion on the road. The Wildcats open with 10 of 14 dual matches on the road and will be visitors in their first five Big 12 Conference matches. In contrast, however, K-State will host five of the final six matches and travel a short distance to Kansas City for the Big 12 Championship. The Wildcats were 4-6 on the road last season and 2-3 in Big 12 away matches. 

SEARCHING FOR DOUBLES POINTS: The Wildcats’ strength this season may be their ability to collect the important doubles point at the beginning of each dual match. The Wildcats were 10-2 last season when winning the doubles point and head coach Steve Bietau believes its the key to getting a good start in any match. K-State used nine different doubles combinations in the fall while Bietau was “building individuals, not teams,” but the Wildcats’ doubles teams are set for dual play. Olga Klimova and Katka Kudlackova played five matches together in the fall with an impressive 4-1 mark and will look to improve on the early success in dual play. Fernanda Da Valle and Viviana Yrureta lost three matches as a team in the fall but have impressed in practice. Maria Perevoshchikova and Tamar Kvaratskhelia will form the third duo. Bietau believes all three could compete at the No. 1 doubles spot.   

COMPETITORS BEWARE:  Tamar Kvaratskhelia has proven to be one of the top Wildcats during the last two seasons. Kvaratskhelia was the first Wildcat in school history to surpass the 30-win plateau and set the single season winning percentage mark at .816 with her 31-7 freshman season in 2005. She followed that campaign with another winning season in 2006, notching 17 more wins. Kvaratskhelia’s 53-26 record puts her 10 wins shy of the top-six all-time in singles wins. Her .670 career singles winning percentage is second all-time behind 1994 All-American Karina Kuregian at .741  (63-22). Maria Perevoshchikova missed the entire fall season because of an injury, but her 18-12 mark last season moved her into fifth place with a .600 career singles winning percentage.          

TAKE NOTICE:  Fernanda Da Valle proved to be one of the most improved players on the K-State roster last season, posting a team-high 22 wins. Da Valle’s 22-12 record during the 2005-06 season was an incredible jump from the 8-12 performance she put up for the Wildcats in her first semester at Kansas State in the spring of 2005. Da Valle’s 22 wins put her in the top 10 on the all-time single season wins chart and is tied for ninth with former Wildcat Petra Sedlmajerova (1999-00).                 

ON THE MEND: The Wildcats are relatively healthy to start the season but are still dealing with several health issues. At Georgia, Maria Perevoshchikova will play her first collegiate match since last May. Perevoshchikova, who missed the entire fall season and was questionable for the Spring because of a lingering issue, resumed the regular practice regimen this month. Tereza Prochazkova, who tore her ACL just before joining the Wildcats two years ago, had minor knee surgery before leaving for Winter Break and will sit out this weekend. Prochazkova has returned to practice and is working back into shape. Olga Klimova overcame a blister on her palm to have a successful week of practice and the injury will not hinder her competition.  

DEAN BIETAU: Kansas State head coach Steve Bietau is the face of Kansas State tennis, holding his position for the past 22 seasons.  The 2000 Big 12 Coach of the Year surpassed 200 wins last season and is by far the all-time leader in K-State history with 207. Bietau’s team’s have finished with winning records in eight different seasons and have made the NCAA Tournament three times. Bietau’s 22 seasons is tied for tops among Big 12 head coaches. Texas A&M’s Bobby Kleinecke is also in his 23rd year