Women's Tennis preview: NCAA First and Second Rounds
May 7, 2012
TICKETS: $5 adults, $3 for students/youth/senior citizens
WHAT: Eleventh-seeded Texas (17-7) opens tournament play this week in the 64-team NCAA Championship. UT will host NCAA first- and second-round matches for the first time since the 2005 season.
Saturday, May 12 (Round of 32)
LIVE SCORING: Available at TexasSports.com
HOW THEY GOT HERE
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
Texas will make its 30th appearance at the NCAA Championship. A two-time NCAA champion, UT holds a 42-27 overall record in the event. The Longhorns captured NCAA team titles in 1993 and 1995. UT finished as the NCAA runner-up in 1992 and 2005 and made additional NCAA semifinals appearances in 1990, 1994 and 1997.
Texas defeated South Florida in the opening round of the 2011 NCAA Championship before falling to host Miami (Fla.) in the round of 32.
TEXAS TOPS TEXAS A&M TO CLAIM BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP
Texas claimed its eighth Big 12 Championship - its first since 2005 - and the first for seventh-year head coach Patty Fendick-McCain, who has led the Horns to the finals of the Big 12 Championship in each of her seven seasons in Austin. Texas became just the second fourth-seeded team to win the Big 12 Championship. Oklahoma State was the last No. 4 seed to win the event in 2003.
Texas sophomore Elizabeth Begley was selected as the Big 12 Championship’s Most Outstanding Performer after going 3-0 in singles play without dropping a set. The Houston native completed the regular season with a 9-0 mark against conference foes and improved that mark to 12-0 with her victories at the Big 12 Championship over Oklahoma State’s Isabela Miro, Texas Tech’s Nikki Sanders and Texas A&M’s Sheri Olivier.
The Horns won matches at the first and second doubles matches to assume a 1-0 lead before adding wins from Begley, freshman Lina Padegimaite and the clincher from Gaytan-Leach to seal the victory.
WINNING THE HARD WAY
Texas opened the season with a 4-3 win over No. 4 North Carolina on a neutral site at the USTA’s Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the site of the annual U.S. Open. The Longhorns ventured away from home again the following weekend when they participated in the ITA Kick-Off Weekend event. Texas edged No. 23 Alabama by a 4-3 count before toppling 17th-ranked Vanderbilt, the event host, by a 4-1 count.
Two weeks later, Texas added a 4-3 win over No. 15 Clemson at the ITA National Team Indoor Championship in Charlottesville, Va. On March 2, in just their first home match of the season, the Longhorns overpowered No. 8 Northwestern from the start and emerged with a 6-1 victory over the Wildcats. UT added another win over a top-20 opponent on March 11 when it defeated No. 16 Michigan by a 4-2 count in Austin.
Additionally, four of Texas’ seven defeats have come against ITA top-10 foes – No. 3 USC, No. 4 Georgia, No. 6 Virginia and No. 10 Miami – with three of the matches played at neutral sites.
ELLIS EARNS THIRD CONSECUTIVE NCAA SINGLES BERTH
Ellis, who has held down the No. 1 singles slot in the Texas dual-match lineup since her freshman season, will enter the postseason with a 17-16 overall record. Ellis posted a 9-6 mark in fall tournament play that included a win over Duke’s Beatrice Capra, the nation’s second-ranked player.
Ellis opened the dual-match season with a win over North Carolina’s 31st-ranked Lauren McHale that helped Texas to a 4-3 victory over the fourth-ranked Tar Heels in New York City. Ellis added a win over Georgia’s sixth-ranked Chelsey Gullickson at the ITA National Team Indoor Championship in February. Ellis also notched victories over Northwestern’s 19th-ranked Kate Turvy and Michigan’s 12th-ranked Emina Bektas during UT’s dual-match season.
Last season as a sophomore, Ellis became UT’s first ITA All-American since 1999 when she advanced to the round of 16 at the NCAA Championship with wins over Duke’s Nadine Fahoum and Washington’s Denise Dy. Ellis registered her top finish at a national championship event as a sophomore at the 2010 ITA National Indoor Championship, where she reached the semifinals.
TEXAS TRIO CLAIMS BIG 12 INDIVIDUAL TITLES
Gaytan-Leach earned the Big 12 title at No. 4 singles after posting a 7-2 mark in league matches. The Californian posted a 3-1 record at No. 3 singles and a 4-1 mark at No. 4 singles. She earned the league title with a 7-2 record at No. 4 singles given that she won the three additional matches at No. 3 singles. Gaytan-Leach went on to clinch UT’s wins over Oklahoma State and Texas A&M at the Big 12 Championship.
Padegimaite won the Big 12 title at No. 5 singles by way of her 5-0 record at No. 5 singles and her 4-0 mark at No. 4 singles. The Lithuanian now sports an impressive 19-4 dual-match record. Padegimaite is the first UT freshman to go undefeated through a full schedule of league play since Sarah Lancaster in 2007. Padegimaite added wins against Texas Tech and Texas A&M at the Big 12 Championship. She won 23 of 25 sets played against conference foes this season.
Begley, like Padegimaite, also finished with a perfect mark in conference play at 9-0, and she won all 24 sets against conference foes in the regular season and the postseason. Begley won the Big 12 title at No. 6 singles by way of her 4-0 mark at No. 5 singles and her 5-0 record at No. 6 singles. She sports a 31-7 overall singles record this season.
Begley is enjoying a breakthrough sophomore season in which she has accumulated 31 singles wins. Begley is the first Longhorn to total 30 singles wins or more since Aeriel Ellis two seasons ago. Begley holds a 34-7 overall singles record and a 21-2 mark in dual matches.
GAYTAN-LEACH TABBED BIG 12 PLAYER OF THE WEEK
In Saturday’s match against Baylor, with the team score knotted at three points apiece, Gaytan-Leach ended the three-match winning streak of Baylor’s Ema Burgic and won by a 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 count to give Texas a 4-3 win over the Bears.
On Sunday against Texas Tech – UT’s then-undefeated counterpart atop the conference standings – Gaytan-Leach put away the Texas victory by rallying for a 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 win over the Lady Raiders’ Caroline Starck to give Texas an insurmountable 4-2 lead, which proved to be the winning margin after the doubles session was subsequently canceled due to rain.
Notably, Gaytan-Leach rallied from a 3-0 third-set deficit and won six of the final seven games in the set to preserve her second match-clinching victory in as many days. Gaytan-Leach’s victory snapped Starck’s eight-match winning streak, which dated back to March 1.
DAMICO NAMED BIG 12 PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Damico opened her productive week with a come-from-behind three-set victory (0-6, 6-3, 6-4) over USC’s 18th-ranked Danielle Lao on March 14 in the Horns’ 4-3 defeat to the fourth-ranked Trojans. Damico notched her ninth and 10th consecutive victories in Texas’ weekend victories at Iowa State and Missouri.
Damico helped the Horns jump out to a 2-0 mark in conference play with wins over Iowa State’s Maria Macedo (6-4, 6-3) and Missouri’s Nina Pantic (7-6, 6-2). She added a pair of doubles wins alongside Cierra Gaytan-Leach at No. 2 doubles against Iowa State and Missouri.
Damico finished the regular season with a 14-5 singles record. Eight of the 14 victories came against ranked opponents.
YOUTH IS SERVED
Freshman Lina Padegimaite holds a 19-4 dual-match record, which features a win over Georgia’s 80th-ranked Kate Fuller at the ITA National Team Indoor Championship. Gaytan-Leach owns 15 dual-match victories. She defeated North Carolina’s 76th-ranked Caroline Price at fourth singles in UT’s 4-3 win over the fourth-ranked Tar Heels.
Gaytan-Leach also features wins over Clemson’s Romy Koelzer and Northwestern’s Linda Abu Mushrefova. Begley is enjoying a tremendous sophomore season with a 21-2 dual-match record and a 34-7 overall singles record.
Freshman Noel Scott boasts 16 overall singles victories in her freshman season, and her two of her six dual-match victories helped the Horns qualify for the ITA National Team Indoor Championship. In January, Scott posted a 6-2, 6-4 win over Alabama’s 40th-ranked Alexa Guarachi before defeating Vanderbilt’s 113th-ranked Lauren Mira, 6-0, 6-2.
LONGHORNS CRACK THE ITA TOP-10
Texas moved up to No. 8 in the March 13 poll before dropping back to No. 9 in the March 20 release of the team rankings. The Horns ranked 13th in the April 10 poll but vaulted to a season-high No. 6 in the ITA team rankings last week. Texas dropped back to No. 13 in the most recent ITA team poll.
THE 2011-12 LONGHORNS: Texas returns four regular singles starters from the 2010-11 squad that reached the finals of the Big 12 Championship and the round of 32 at the NCAA Championships.
The Horns are led by junior Aeriel Ellis, who last season became UT's first ITA All-American since 1999. The Californian has qualified to compete in all eight of the previous national championship events contested during her two-plus seasons as a Longhorn. She reached the round of 16 of the singles draw at the 2011 NCAA Championships.
Senior Krista Damico totaled a 21-16 overall singles record last season while playing primarily at No. 2 singles. The Colorado native is off to a solid start in dual-match play with victories over Alabama's 104th-ranked Courtney McLane and Vanderbilt's 110th-ranked Marie Casares.
UT returns a talented sophomore class who saw significant time in the dual-match lineup last season. Juliana Gajic totaled a 13-6 dual-match record, primarily at No. 5 singles, and Cierra Gaytan-Leach totaled a 9-3 dual-match record. Elizabeth Begley has won nine of her last 10 decisions, including a win over Virginia's 89th-ranked Caryssa Peretz in January. Begley added two wins last month at the ITA National Team Indoors.
Freshman Noel Scott defeated two ITA-ranked opponents in the Horns' two victories at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend event. Scott defeated Vanderbilt's 69th-ranked Lauren Mira by a 6-0, 6-2 count one day after toppling Alabama's 43rd-ranked Alexa Guarachi, 6-2, 6-4.