Coach Mark Guilbeau's Cats will make their fourth-consecutive Sweet 16 appearance, but their first as a single-digit seed (only the top-16 teams are seeded). Kentucky earned a No. 3 seed, the highest in the program's history, by way of its No. 3 national ranking after winning its first Southeastern Conference regular-season championship. Among other highlights this season were the team's first victory over four-time national champion Florida, its first appearance in the finals of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) National Team Indoor Championships, and its first win at two-time NCAA champion Georgia since 1988. Kentucky earned a school-record five bids to the NCAA singles and doubles championships, and Guilbeau was named the SEC and ITA Southeast Region Coach of the Year.
Kentucky features the ITA's third-ranked student-athlete in senior All-American Aibika Kalsarieva. The SEC Player of the Year from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan brings a 34-6 singles record into the NCAA championships. Sophomore Kim Coventry, ranked No. 30 by the ITA, enjoyed a breakout 2005 season and owns a 35-11 singles tally. 64th-ranked sophomore Sarah Foster, tallied a 25-19 overall record, including a 7-4 in SEC singles action.
Sophomore Joelle Schwenk played significant roles in Kentucky's SEC-title run and its success in the NCAA regional. Schwenk rallied from a one-set deficit to clinch the SEC title last month at Tennessee and pulled off a similar feat last weekend to lift the Cats past No. 28 Wake Forest in the regional final. Sophomore Lara Maurer and junior Danielle Petrisko have been solid down the stretch for Kentucky. Maurer has won 11 of her last 12 decisions and tallied an 8-3 record in league play. Petrisko has captured 11 of her last 13 matches and earned a second-team All-SEC selection after tallying a 9-2 conference record.
Conference USA champion Tulane, the ITA's 16th-ranked team, enters the match with a 17-match win streak. The Green Wave hasn't lost since Mar. 6, when Tulane suffered a 5-2 defeat to William & Mary in New Orleans. Tulane advanced to the round of 16 with NCAA-regional victories over Southeastern Louisiana and No. 18 TCU.
Coach David Schumacher's Green Wave features two student-athletes ranked by the ITA in No. 47 Jenny Kuhn and No. 106 Nancy Kockott. Maria and Darya Ivanov hold a No. 31 doubles ranking, while Kuhn and Julie Smekodub come in at No. 42.
The Cats and the Green Wave have three common opponents this season. UK and TU each defeated LSU and fell to Northwestern and North Carolina, though the Cats scored a win over the Tar Heels at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships. Kentucky owns a 3-0 series lead over Tulane.
A Kentucky win over Tulane would send UK to the NCAA quarterfinals for the first time since 1988. UK defeated Oklahoma State in the round of 16 that season before falling to Southern California in the quarters.