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Women's Tennis Preview

Junior Aeriel Ellis readies herself for a backhand return in a recent match. The No. 9 Longhorns have endured an up-and-down season and currently have a 5-3 record, but remain among the nation’s best teams.

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

In their first home match of the year last week, the newly top-10-ranked Longhorns posted a dominant win over the No. 8-ranked Northwestern Wildcats. Although playing under the bright lights in what was also their first night match of the season, the ladies couldn’t be fazed.

“It’s great that UT has put in some fantastic lights for us, and it’s like broad daylight out there,” said head coach Patty Fendick-McCain. “It’s a lot of fun and it created a great atmosphere for us.”

The Longhorns have posted great performances in every match of the year, despite the aforementioned three losses. After two of their defeats came on the first two days of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, a win on the last day of competition proved this team can push through adversity. Their three losses have come against top-10 foes Georgia, Virginia and Miami.

“It is difficult to come back for a third day in a row, much less after two tough losses,” Fendick-McCain said. “All I can say is I am just really proud of the girls.”

Junior All-American Aeriel Ellis has moved up to become the No. 30-ranked player in the country as she is putting together a great year. Ellis has won either a singles or doubles match in every matchup of the season. Her and doubles partner Cierra Gaytan-Leach have provided key points for the Longhorns all season long.

Freshman Noel Scott has fit in nicely as a Longhorn, currently ranking as the No. 87 player in singles competition despite a close loss against Northwestern. Freshman Lina Padegimaite has also played well in her first season, winning six of her eight singles matches on the year.

With a big win and jolt of confidence under their belt, the team will look to keep rolling when they host unranked foe William and Mary.

Printed on Thursday, March 8, 2012 as: Ellis carries Longhorns forward as season progresses

Women's Tennis Recap

The performance of the Longhorns mirrored Friday evening’s weather: clear and cool.

In their first match as an ITA top 10 team, the ladies dominated Northwestern, winning 6-1. Of the nine matches of the night, the Longhorns emerged victorious in all but two.

“I think it’s really just a number at this point in the season, but it’s nice to see that we’re playing some top-notch tennis,” head coach Patty Fendick-McCain said.

“We’re having a lot of fun doing it.”

Starting off strong in doubles play, the duos of Noel Scott and Lina Padegimaite, and Aeriel Ellis and Cierra Gaytan-Leach easily came out on top, winning 8-6 and 8-4 respectively.

“I was really proud of the girls, especially with the way we started in the doubles matches,” Fendick-McCain said. “We came out strong, got the doubles point, picked up two really big wins at one and two [doubles].”

On the singles side of things, All-American Ellis topped the No. 20 player in the country to set the tone. Other individual winners on the evening included Krista Damico, Elizabeth Begley, Padegimaite and Gaytan-Leach.

“We had some great performances throughout the entire singles matches,” Fendick-McCain said. “I’m super proud of them.”

Top competition breeds top performance, and the Longhorns will most likely continue this dominance as competition heats up the rest of the season.

“We’ve got to take it day-by-day,” Fendick-McCain said. “We’ve got some things we need to work out in practice to get ready for the next one.”

Women's Tennis

For the first time in six seasons, the Longhorns have cracked the top 10 of the ITA women’s college tennis poll. Coming off a win at Clemson, the women have vaulted up six spots to become No. 9 in the country.

This season has had its ups, as well as its downs, as the Longhorns carry a 4-3 record into their next match.

The team has earned victories against North Carolina, Vanderbilt, Alabama and Clemson, all of whom have been ranked in the ITA top 20 this season. Their three losses have come against top 10 foes Georgia, Virginia and Miami.

Junior All-American Aeriel Ellis continues to run the show, moving up to No. 30 in the ITA singles rankings. Newcomer Noel Scott has played a key supporting role, currently ranking No. 87 in her freshman year.

The Longhorns will take on No. 8 Northwestern in their home opener today.

Northwestern experienced the pain of their bubble possibly popping in their last second loss to Ohio State on Monday. Texas is in the same position, and needs a strong finish to secure its tournament spot.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Texas is currently on a lunch date in college basketball’s equivalent of the friend zone.

Not to conjure images of MTV’s “Friendzone,” which is every bit as awkward as you imagine, but the Longhorns are not in a comfortable position.

The zone, or “bubble,” is a place where mediocre teams vie for a chance to eventually get knocked out of the NCAA tournament, or every once in a while make an exciting run that also ends in elimination. Not to be the bearer of bad news, but this Texas team isn’t exactly built for a long postseason run. However, a bid does keep head coach Rick Barnes’ streak of 12 straight trips to the Big Dance alive, and as of Thursday “March Madness” is officially underway, so who knows what can happen.

But first, Texas needs to get there.

The bubble usually consists of a group of teams that basically coasted through conference play. These teams will have some questionable losses, maybe a surprise win or two and near .500 conference and overall records. The Longhorns can go ahead and check the boxes for all the above prerequisites. Losses to Oregon State and Oklahoma State look pretty bad for the Longhorns right now, their road record isn’t great and even with a loss at No. 3 Kansas this weekend, they would own a 9-9 conference record.

According to ESPN’s resident bracketologist, Joe Lunardi, the bubble can be broken down into three specific areas: “Last Four In,” “First Four Out” and “Next Four Out.” That puts the collective bubble at around 12 teams, give or take a few depending on the year.

Lunardi has Texas among his Last Four In, along with Miami, Northwestern and Xavier, all teams vying for a proposed No. 12/13 seed. Being among the last four teams in would mean that Texas would have to play one of four play-in games in order to make the 64-team field. Come Selection Sunday on March 11, this could be an entirely different group due to the unpredictability of a bubble team’s success.

Northwestern just lost a close game to Ohio State, Miami was defeated by North Carolina State and Xavier was routed by Saint Louis. All of these results make the Longhorns’ win over rival Oklahoma on Wednesday that much bigger. If the Longhorns can continue to perform better than the other teams vying for seeds in the No. 10-13 range, they could find themselves dancing.

Other teams like South Florida, Colorado State and Connecticut are all starting to play their way into the tournament with big wins down the stretch, and high strength of schedules ranks to boot. Oregon, Dayton, Central Florida and Saint Joesph’s also fall into the bubble area and could all make a case for a bid.

Many of these teams have a final conference game to play before entering their respective conference tournament in hopes of one last shot at improving their resumes. If Texas wins a game in its conference tournament, there’s not much chance the NCAA tournament selection committee leaves them out of the expanded 68-team field. A 20-win Texas team along with Barnes’ record is a lot to pass up, and the Longhorns are always a big draw around the nation.

In the coming weeks, these 12 or so teams will be put to the test to see who can come out with an at-large bid. With conference tournaments gearing up, these teams will either benefit or suffer depending on each individual result. It’s one of the most exciting and painful times of the year for fans of college basketball.

Men's Track

The Longhorns travel to Illinois this weekend to face off against Northwestern University and the University of Illinois.

They look to sustain momentum they garnered at home, as they defeated both of their last two opponents, South Florida and Arizona State in Austin.

At No. 24, Texas (4-3) is slowly gaining recognition by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. They have been on a roll since their 6-1 loss to Southern California in early February.

However, this weekend will be a sufficient test for the squad as they are facing a Northwestern team ranked No. 9 in the country. In the previous meeting on April 10, 2010, the Longhorns topped Northwestern, ranked No.5 at the time, 6-1.

The Longhorns beat Illinois 7-0 their last time out in March 2007.

Aeriel Ellis (16) is the top-ranked singles player in the event, followed by Maria Mosolova of Northwestern (25).

Northwestern claims the top-ranked doubles team, with Linda Abu Mushrefova and Nida Hamilton at No. 8, followed by Illinois’s Rachael White and Allison Falkin at No. 9.