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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Fifteen Players Earn All-American Honors on the Courts in NCAA Championships

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Tulsa, OK--

The winds of Oklahoma have made their presence felt during the first two rounds of the individual championships, with heat and humidity ramping up today at the Michael Case Tennis Center.

Eleven hours of tennis made for an exciting day, and it is especially so for those unseeded players who have an opportunity to earn the All-American honors already awarded to the top 16 seeds.

Lenka Broosova. a sophomore from Baylor, was the first to add her name to that honor roll, with a surprisingly straightforward 6-3, 6-2 win over No. 3 seed Hilary Barte of Stanford. I saw only a few games of the match, but Barte wasn't playing well, and when she approached the net, Broosova, who hasn't lost a match in Tulsa all week, had no trouble passing her. Back in February, when Barte was playing in the No. 3 spot for Stanford, she and Broosova played at the Team Indoor, with Broosova taking that encounter as well.

Next up for Broosova is Reka Zsilinszka, who admitted that late in the second set in her 6-2, 7-6(3) victory over two-time NCAA finalist Lindsey Nelson of Southern Cal, the Duke freshman thought about the All-American designation.

"That was in my mind just a little bit," Zsilinszka said, when she was trailing 5-4 in the second set. "But I said, just chill, relax, and I got those two games to go up 6-5. She played a really good game, then it went to a tiebreaker."

Zsilinszka and Nelson had never played, and in that scenario, the moonballs, the slices, and the defense of Zsilinszka usually triumph. Nelson thrives on the rhythm of her two-handed ground strokes, and she could never find it amidst all the windblown lobs and her own unforced errors.

Some of the best tennis I saw on Thursday was the third set of the match between Illinois's Ryan Rowe and USC's Robert Farah, the No. 6 seed. Rowe had defeated Farah in the first round of the ITA Indoor last November, in two close sets, but this match was even closer: 2-6, 6-0, 7-6(5).

Rowe led 4-1 in the tiebreaker, after some absolutely scintillating points throughout the third set. Big serves, great overheads, perfect volleys, rare errors--it was high quality throughout.

Farah looked to be suffering more from the heat and humidity than Rowe, bending over and grabbing his shorts like a basketball player late in the third overtime. College rules allow a medical timeout at any time and Farah took one serving at 3-4, 30-40 in the third, but he came back to hold, with some good serving and touch volleys.

The Trojan sophomore really picked up his game down 1-4 in the tiebreaker, winning five straight points and no longer showing any signs of fatigue. The only errors made were forced by great shotmaking, and it was an exceptionally entertaining match until the final point.

Another one of the newly named All-Americans was Arnau Brugues of Tulsa, who defeated No. 5 seed Daniel Vallverdu of Miami 6-4, 6-4. It sounds fairly routine, but the match was notable for a) the loud and appreciative lunchtime crowd supporting their player, and b) the time it took to play. I looked at my watch when it was 3-3 in the first set, and 55 minutes had elapsed, and it took over two hours to complete. The Tulsa doubles team of Andy Connelly and Ross Cunningham also drew a large and vocal audience and they too advanced, defeating Nick Cavaday and Jay Weinacker of North Carolina State 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-3. The Notre Dame doubles team of Brook Buck and Kelcy Tefft, who are from Oklahoma, also drew a very demonstrative group of supporters Thursday evening, and they went home happy when the No. 3 seeds and National Indoor Champions posted a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Pepperdine's Bianca Dulgheru and Sylvia Kosakowski.

The unseeded players who earned All-American status today in singles are:
Erling Tveit--Ole Miss
Bassam Beidas--Pepperdine
Bryan Koniecko--Ohio State
Justin Kronauge--Ohio State
Steven Moneke--Ohio State
Arnau Brugues--Tulsa
Enrique Olivares--East Tennessee State
JP Smith--Tennessee
Laura Vallverdu--Miami
Claire Ilcinkas--Cal
Katrina Zheltova--Sacramento State
Zuzana Zemenova--Baylor
Tracy Lin--UCLA
Reka Zsilinszka--Duke
Lenka Broosova--Baylor

For complete results, visit the Tulsa website. For additional coverage, see the Tulsa World and collegeandjuniortennis.com


AndrewD said...

Well I completely flopped in trying to pick the women's team event but, back in our May 5th posts I did say

"don't be surprised if J.P.Smith of Tennessee goes a long way in the singles."

He's only through to the Rd16 but has beaten Damico and Van't Hof which I'm sure is a better result than people expected of him. Congratulations to him on earning All-American honours in his Freshman year.

Austin said...

Collette, I have read multiple stories you have written regarding Zsilinszka, but until I watched her second set with Nelson yesterday I had never seen it. I am not a fan of that style of play after you move up out of the 14's, or possibly 12's, but I will give her credit for having a very big mental game. She evidently is very good at frustrating opponents. I kept saying to myself for Nelson to pull her up to net off those short balls, I think she would have routined her with a better game plan, but tennis isnt always about who has the bigger shots and the Duke freshman obviously has a big mental game with great defense.

Jaime Hunt had a great racquet toss after he lost to Ryan Rowe 1st round, but Rowe's toss after he lost to Farah yesterday was awesome. Im not being sarcastic either, I know a lot of people dont like it, but to me that shows how much they wanted to win. Rowe had a great career and I think could be an excellent doubles player on the pro level, Donald Johnson anyone?

Also, big props to those grinders from Ohio State in both singles and doubles. Especially Kronauge/Eberly who looked done. They are showing their capability now.

Just Wondering? said...

It appears to be a great honor, but not being a follower of college tennis, can you please tell me what exactly "All-American" means?

Thanks, Colette!!

Colette Lewis said...

In all collegiate sports, being named an All-American is considered one of the most prestigious honors a student-athlete can receive. Each sport has its own methods, and for tennis, if you are seeded in the top 16 for the NCAAs or reach the round of 16, you are one of the best of the best.

Austin said...

There are too many all-americans. I wish they would cut it in half. Top 10 in final rankings and others who make the quarters in singles. Top 5 in doubles and others who make semis.