Ellis leads Women's Tennis with subtle power
May 13, 2012
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
AUSTIN, Texas -- Watch Aeriel Ellis on the tennis court, and you realize she’s simply happy to be there. Muted effort musters amazing results, and if you catch a glimpse of an Ellis smirk or wry fist pump, consider it a small feat.
On the Texas Women’s Tennis team, which just advanced to its third NCAA Round of 16 appearance under seventh-year coach Patty Fendick-McCain, Ellis is the understated magician.
Consider that Saturday, after Ellis and doubles partner Elizabeth Begley rallied for a crucial 9-7 doubles win, and then Ellis claimed a tidy 6-2, 6-1 win at first singles to contribute to UT’s 4-2 team triumph in the NCAA second round, the junior from California forgot to gather her racquets from Penick-Allison’s court No. 1.
This after a performance that Fendick-McCain described as “en fuego.”
“That was the best I’ve seen (Aeriel) play since November,” Fendick-McCain said.
Ellis’ game just requires a little closer attention. Her body language and nonchalant gait offer minimal clue to the booming groundstrokes that reverberate from her racquet.
One Ellis forehand staved off match point against the Nebraska doubles tandem of Izabella Zgierska and Janine Weinreich. Another backhand stab volley warranted deuce, then an Ellis forehand was returned harmlessly into the net to give UT the advantage. Begley and Ellis took the game to even the match at 7-7.
Ellis held serve to put UT ahead 8-7, and then UT broke at love in the final game to take a 9-7 win, which gave the Longhorns the momentous doubles point.
“Elizabeth and I both stepped our games. We wanted to make it now when it matters. We had to keep going for our shots,” Ellis said.
In the match’s pressure moments, Begley and Ellis played with a confident resolve and like a true doubles duo. Ellis handled the return of service in that final doubles game, and used power and placement to set up Begley for winning shots.
Ellis’ focus continued into her singles play. She was better receiving than serving in the first set, yet still controlled tempo for a 6-2 win. After being broken on her first service of set two, Ellis won the next six games to earn the straight-sets victory and give UT its second point.
“My coaches have been telling me, ‘Aeriel, just hit the ball really hard and good things will happen,’” Ellis said. “Luckily they went in today. I figured once I got my serve in, I could win from the baseline.”
Now, after hosting NCAA first and second round action for the first time in Fendick-McCain’s tenure, the Longhorns advance into ‘sweet 16’ action. They also advanced to this round in 2010, Ellis’ freshman season.
With their Big 12 tournament title, and a pair of gutsy, focused NCAA wins, the Longhorns take some quiet confidence with them to Athens, Ga., the NCAA Championships site.
“To keep going forward from the Big 12 Championship, it just shows that are team is tough, and we’re ready to play,” Ellis said. “We don’t want to give anyone an inch.”