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Women's Tennis Looks to Capture Fourth Straight WCC Title; Faces Gonzaga on Friday

April 20, 2006

Malibu, Calif. -

This Week: The nationally-ranked Pepperdine women's tennis team travels to Santa Clara to play for its fourth consecutive and 18th West Cost Conference (WCC) championship in 19 years. The No. 1-seed Pepperdine faces No. 8-seed Gonzaga in the quarterfinal round at the Degheri Tennis Center in Santa Clara, Calif. First serve is set for 9 a.m.

The Waves concluded the regular season with a 17-3 record, including three significant wins over then-No. 15 UCLA, then-No. 15 Baylor, and then-No. 19 Harvard. Pepperdine gave Stanford a run for its money as the Waves nearly defeated the No. 1 nationally-ranked team, but the Cardinal survived, winning 4-3.

Pepperdine leads West Coast teams in the national rankings with a No. 13 rank, while San Diego checks in at No. 56. LMU also appears in the rankings with a No. 67 spot.

The Bracket:

Quarterfinals-Friday, April 21

Match A: No. 1-seed Pepperdine vs. No. 8-seed Gonzaga; 9 a.m.

Match B: No. 4-seed San Francisco vs. No. 5-seed Saint Mary's; 11 a.m.

Match C: No. 2-seed San Diego vs. No. 7-seed Portland; 1 p.m.

Match D: No. 3-seed LMU vs. No. 6-seed Santa Clara; 3 p.m.

Semifinals-Saturday, April 22

Match G: Winner of Match A vs. Winner of Match B; 1 p.m.

Match H: Winner of Match C vs. Winner of Match D; 3 p.m.

Championship Match-Sunday, April 23

Match L: Winner of Match G vs. Winner of Match H

Who to Watch: Leading the Waves, who were ranked as high as No. 6 this season, is sophomore Bianca Dulgheru checking in at No. 24 in singles. The 2005 WCC Freshman of the Year and the 2006 WCC Player of the Month (March) is 17-3 playing at the No. 1 position and teams up with Eva Dickes for a No. 33 ranking in doubles. Appearing at No. 59 is sophomore Sylvia Kosakowski, who has compiled a 13-7 record at No. 2 singles and pairs up with senior Merve Asimgil for a No. 20 doubles ranking. LMU's Pavla Mesterova received Player of the Month honors for February after posting a 9-0 mark in dual match play and ended the regular season with a 13-7 record and is currently ranked No. 76. San Diego's Emma Murphy enters the WCC Championships ranked at No. 43 with a 13-2 dual match record. Murphy pairs up with Lauren Perl for a doubles ranking of 44.

About Gonzaga: Gonzaga enters the tournament with a 3-20 record, including an 0-4 record versus WCC opponents. A transfer from American, Emily Anderson notched an 11-10 record at the No. 1 singles. The Bulldogs snapped a 10-match losing streak with a win over Idaho State on April 9. D.J. Gurule is in the midst of his second year with the Bulldogs.

Series Versus Gonzaga: The Waves lead the all-time series 4-0 against the Bulldogs. The Waves have shut out Gonzaga in the first round of the WCC Championships in each of the teams four meetings.

2005 WCC Championships Recap: In San Diego, Pepperdine captured its third straight WCC title after posting wins over Gonzaga, Saint Mary's and San Diego. The Waves easily put away Gonzaga 5-0 in the quarterfinals and followed with a 4-0 win over Saint Mary's in the semifinals. On hostile territory, the Waves put away San Diego in the final match 4-0.

NCAA Tennis Selection Show: This year's NCAA Tennis Championship Selection Show will air on Wednesday, May 3 on ESPNEWS at (approx.) 5:30 p.m. PT.

Waves and the WCC: Overall, the Waves are 76-4 (.950) against WCC opponents. In 2002, LMU upset the No. 1-seed Pepperdine in the final match of the conference tournament. This season, Pepperdine went 3-0 against West Coast Conference foes posting wins over San Diego (5-2), LMU (7-0) and Saint Mary's (7-0).

Double Trouble: Pepperdine boasts two doubles teams that are ranked in the Top 35 in the most recent ITA Rankings (April 18). Leading the Waves is the duo of senior Merve Asimgil and sophomore Sylvia Kosakowski, who moved up one spot to No. 20, while sophomore Bianca Dulgheru and junior Eva Dickes are ranked at No. 33. The two teams have a combined record of 28-10, playing in the first and second positions.

Senior Natalie Braverman and junior Caroline Raba have also made a mark for the Waves going 11-1 at No. 3, winning their last ten matches.

Success From All Around: One of the reasons for Pepperdine's solid succes is its depth in the line-up. Playing at No. 1 is sophomore Bianca Dulgheru who is ranked at No. 24 with a 17-3 record. After defeating No. 5 Alice Barnes of Stanford, Sylvia Kosakowski moved up the rankings to No. 59, as she compiled a 13-7 record at No. 2 singles. Natalie Braverman is having a stellar season going 11-3 at No. 4 and is 14-5 overall. Eva Dickes has only lost three matches and is 17-3 overall at No. 5, while Merve Asimgil has played at positions 4-6 and has a combined record of 11-8.

Head Coach Gualberto Escudero: Solidly established as a national Top 20 program since the late 1980's, Pepperdine head women's tennis coach Gualberto Escudero figures to field yet another strong team during the 2006 collegiate campaign.

Beginning his 29th season at the helm in Malibu, Escudero is the veteran member of the Pepperdine coaching staff, and he has compiled a cumulative career dual match record of 515-257 (.667) dating back to the start of the 1978 campaign. Escudero has directed 22 Pepperdine teams to a national Top 20 ranking, and Pepperdine's 1984, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2006 squads each cracked the Top 10.

Escudero has led Pepperdine to post-season action 22 times in 28 seasons, and the Waves have advanced to the quarterfinal round at the NCAA Championships on four occasions since 1989. Additionally, Pepperdine has won 20 or more dual matches in a season 10 times, plus captured 16 West Coast Conference team championships dating back to 1988.

Escudero's hard work has not gone unnoticed by his peers, as he was tabbed the University's "Coach of the Year" in 1984 and 1989. In 1991, Escudero was selected the ITA's District 8 "Coach of the Year," as Pepperdine compiled a dual match record of 23-5 and was ranked No. 5 in the final ITA poll--the best-ever final national ranking for the program. Escudero was named the West Coast Conference "Coach of the Year" for the first time in 1999, and was tabbed the ITA District 8 "Coach of the Year" for a second time. Escudero was selected the league's "Coach of the Year" again in 2000.

Escudero obtained both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Pepperdine. Escudero earned a bachelor's degree in science in 1972, and a master's degree in teacher education two years later.

Presently, Escudero teaches tennis courses for the University's physical education department, and his classes are annually among the most popular at the school. Pepperdine has continued to benefit from Escudero's solid recruiting efforts--attracting top-ranked players from the United States and foreign countries--thus allowing the Waves to establish themselves as a top contender for the NCAA team title.

Waves At Home: In the midst of the 2006 season, the Waves boast a 14-1 record when playing at the Ralphs-Straus Tennis Center on Pepperdine's campus. Beginning the season in victorious fashion, Pepperdine defeated Cal Poly, 6-1, in its season opener. The Waves have also edged then-No. 15 UCLA and No. 15 Baylor, 4-3, winning the always-important doubles point in both matches. Pepperdine lost its first match at home when No. 1 Stanford edged the Waves 4-3 on March 29, but closed it regular season play with a 5-2 win over No. 45 Florida International.

Waves On The Road: On the road, Pepperdine is 3-2 on the season. The Waves' only two losses came at the hands of then-No. 10 Miami and then-No. 2 USC. Pepperdine picked up wins at San Diego State, UC Irvine and South Florida. The Waves travel to Santa Clara to compete in the WCC Championships from April 21-23.

Sports Information Hotline: For updated information concerning Pepperdine athletics, including results and a schedule of upcoming events, please contact the Pepperdine Sports Information Hotline at 310-506-7373. The hotline will be updated on a regular basis throughout the course of the 2005-06 school year.

On The Web: For updated information concerning Pepperdine athletics, including results and schedules of upcoming events, on the Internet, please bookmark the following web address: http://www.PepperdineSports.com

For More Information: For more information on the women's tennis program or to arrange interviews with coaches and players, please contact Jennifer Landes at the Pepperdine Sports Information office by calling (310) 506-4160.