©Colette Lewis 2013--
In the career of a college tennis player, few honors are as coveted as that of All-American status, and on a damp and chilly day on the University of Illinois campus 14 players earned that designation by advancing Friday's round of 16.
Players seeded in the NCAA individual tournament already are entitled to that award, but unseeded players can earn it on the court with two wins over the nation's best college tennis players.
For Natalie Beazant of Rice and Aeriel Ellis of Texas, both unseeded, that honor came down to one point. In a match moved indoors after mist and then actual rain descended on the Khan Outdoor Tennis Center, Beazant saved a match point down 5-2 in the third set against the Longhorn senior, then reeled off five straight games to earn a 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 victory, becoming the first Rice women's All-American since 1986.
For Cal Poly's Andre Dome, whose 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-3 victory over No. 4 seed Anthony Rossi of Kentucky also began outdoors and finished inside, the honor was even more special. The senior from Arroyo Grande, California is the first All-American in the program's Division I history.
"Being an All-American has been my goal all year," said Dome, who hasn't lost a match since late January. "I felt it toward the end of the match, closing it out was pretty tough. I was so closing to doing it, I just got a little tight, but I served out of it, which was good for me."
Dome doesn't play much indoors, but felt the switch was an advantage for him.
"Having a big serve and big forehand, it's good indoors," said Dome, who lost his serve only once in the match, early in the opening set. "I practiced indoors last night, to get used to the courts--I didn't know it was going to rain--but luckily I had that. I don't play indoors much, but when I do I feel pretty confident."
Cal Poly head coach Nick Carless was excited for his player.
"He deserves everything he's gotten this year," said Carless, a former player himself at Cal Poly. "He's great kid on and off the court, a super hard worker. He's been through a lot in his four years of college tennis. Having to sit out a year injured, a coaching change, it's just great to see him make it in his senior year. For a kid who loves tennis and has grown up in the Central Coast, a little bit overlooked, he just really deserves it. Hopefully he'll have something more to celebrate tomorrow."
Dome will play Michigan's Evan King, a No. 9 seed, who has managed to complete both his 8 a.m. matches quickly, outside, before the rains came Wednesday and Thursday.
Other men to earn All-American status are Japie De Klerk of Tulsa, who beat Jarryd Botha of Alabama 6-3, 6-2; Alex Sarkissian of Pepperdine, a 6-3, 6-0 winner over Vanderbilt's Ryan Lipman, a No. 9 seed; Tsvetan Mihov of South Carolina, who followed up his win over No. 2 seed Alex Domijan yesterday with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Roberto Quiroz of Southern California Thursday; UCLA's Marcos Giron, who beat Duke's Michael Redlicki 7-5, 6-3; Southern Cal's Yannick Hanfmann, a 6-4, 6-1 winner over Matija Pecotic of Princeton, a 9 seed; Soren Hess-Olesen of Texas, who beat Clifford Marsland of Tulsa 6-3, 7-5; and Andreas Mies of Auburn, who found the swirling winds and chilly temperatures to his liking against Virginia's Mitchell Frank, taking a 4-6, 6-0, 6-2 decision in a match played entirely outdoors.
Although Dome's win was impressive, Alexa Guarachi's performance against No. 2 seed Sabrina Santamaria of Southern Cal was even more so, with the Alabama senior taking All-American honors in singles with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over the USC sophomore that started and finished outdoors.
"I actually kind of wanted to play indoors," said Guarachi. "But I guess it helped me to play outdoors. Obviously the conditions are tough to play in, but the biggest thing is moving your feet, and I felt that I did that pretty well, was able to neutralize her pretty well and attack. It's my senior year, so I'm going out there with no regrets, just one more match, one more match. I don't want my career to be over."
Guarachi, who is also an All-American in doubles due to her No. 5 seeding in this tournament, is looking forward the raising of her All-American banner at Alabama.
"It's an incredible accomplishment and an honor to represent Alabama as an All-American," said Guarachi, from Destin, Fla. "For the women's side, we don't have that many, so it's an honor."
In addition to Beazant and Guarachi, four other women earned All-American honors.
Freshman Breaunna Addison of Texas is the youngest member of that group, beating Stephanie Wagner of Miami 6-2, 6-2; Jacqueline Cako, who beat top seed Lauren Embree of Florida on Wednesday, downed Kata Szekely of Tennessee 6-0, 4-6, 6-1, and will play Addison on Friday. TCU sophomore Stefanie Tan beat Samantha Vickers of Tulsa 6-2, 6-2 and will face Guarachi next. Caroline Price was the only player of the four to defeat a seed. The North Carolina sophomore was on top of her game today, downing Julia Elbaba of Virginia, a 9 seed, 6-2, 6-1. She takes on Beazant Friday in the round of 16.
UCLA freshman Kyle McPhillips fell one point short of All-American status. She led No. 9 seed Petra Niedermayerova of Kansas State 6-5 in the final set tiebreaker, but sent a forehand long, and Niedermayerova went on to take the breaker and the match 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(6).
Defending champion Nicole Gibbs of Stanford, a 9 seed, will face No. 4 seed Christina Sanchez-Quintanar of Texas A&M in a rematch of their contest just two days ago in the team championship final. Sanchez-Quintanar won the first eight games, then Gibbs took the next twelve for a 0-6, 6-2, 6-0 decision.
Gibbs is still in the hunt to defend her singles title, but she will not repeat as doubles champion, as she and Kristie Ahn, seeded No. 5, lost to Isaura Enrique and Vickers of Tulsa 6-2, 6-4.
The top seeds in both men's and women's doubles dropped their first sets of the tournament, but both rebounded for victories in this evening's opening round of doubles.
Kate Fuller and Silvia Garcia of Georgia defeated Beazant and Dominique Harmath of Rice 3-6, 6-4, 6-0, while Tennessee's Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese rebounded over Duke's Jason Tahir and Redlicki 2-6, 6-2, 6-3.
For complete results and draws, see the tournament central page.