Aeriel Ellis

The Longhorns got off to a shaky start during their three-match road swing in California.  

Stanford (No. 20, 8-2) and USC (No. 7, 10-2) welcomed Texas to the Sunshine State with two losses. Both opponents did not give Texas room for error, as the Longhorns won only two sets combined, one each by Aeriel Ellis and Noel Scott.

As a result the Cardinals and Trojans each defeated the Longhorns 7-0.

In singles, the first five players in the Longhorns’ order matched up against ranked opponents. Ellis and Addison lost to lower-ranked opponents in Stanford, followed by losses to top ten players in Los Angeles.

Texas made its last stop in California at the University of San Diego. The Longhorns started off by claiming the doubles point, earning their first two match wins during the road trip.

Ellis put the Longhorns up 2-0 with a win at No. 1 singles because of Laura Claus’ retirement in the first set. Addison and Elizabeth Begley followed up with wins at No. 2 and No. 4 singles, giving the Longhorns a road win, 5-2.

After snapping their four-match losing streak, the Longhorns returned to Austin and began Big 12 play against Oklahoma.

Addison/Scott kicked off play with a win over No. 19 Hermon Brhane/Whitney Ritchie, helping claim the doubles point.

The Longhorns went up 2-0 behind Lina Padegimaite’s near perfect match win over Whitney Wofford. The team did not look back, winning four of the next five singles matches to beat the Sooners, 6-1.  

On Sunday the Longhorns welcomed their other Oklahoma rivals, Oklahoma State, to Austin.

The two teams split the first two matches in doubles. They waited for the deciding match at No. 2 doubles between Ellis/Begley and Meghan Blevins/Karyn Guttormsen, which went to a tie-breaker. The Longhorns outlasted the Cowgirls, 9-8 (6) to take a 1-0 lead.

Oklahoma State did not challenge their 1-0 deficit. The top of the Longhorns order swept Oklahoma State to clinch the match at 4-0. Ellis, with a win over No. 83 Malika Rose, moved to 6-5 on the season.

The Longhorns continue their nine-match home stand Thursday against Iowa State.

Women's Tennis

The Longhorns fought weather, inconsistency and top competition all season long. This weekend, they ended with a split.

The women picked up a solid victory this weekend to earn them a 7-2 conference record, and a lot of momentum heading into the Big 12 tournament. Texas outlasted Oklahoma 5-2, but dropped a close one to the Cowboys 4-3.

Despite a big doubles win by Aeriel Ellis and Elizabeth Begley on Saturday, the team dropped the usually important doubles point. However, it made no difference on the outcome of the match.

The Longhorns dominated singles competition against Oklahoma, winning five of the six matches. Ellis finally found her stride again, getting back into the win column with a victory in straight sets.

“Aeriel Ellis worked hard this week and was great today in doubles and singles,” said Patty Fendick-McCain, head coach.

Freshman Noel Scott found her way back into the winning side of things against Oklahoma.

“Noel [Scott] got over the hump today and played the kind of tennis she is capable of playing,” Fendick-McCain said. “Noel has been working so hard, and she deserves to win. It’s great to see her turn the corner.”

Sunday proved to be a stiffer challenge, as the ladies fought tooth and nail, but couldn’t edge the Oklahoma State Cowboys, losing 4-3.

In spite of the loss, Krista Damico finally got on track in this match, winning in straight sets to cap a tremendous regular season for the senior.

The theme of the weekend however was the continued outstanding play from the bottom of the Longhorns’ lineup. Begley and Lina Padegimaite each won two matches and Cierra Gaytan-Leach added another impressive victory.

“Cierra Gaytan-Leach, Lina Padegimaite and Elizabeth Begley were all-business at Nos. 4, 5 and 6 singles. They were great,” Fendick-McCain said. “Elizabeth is playing like the player we recruited. She came in with some very good international experience, and she has worked super hard after a tough freshman year.”

Beginning this Saturday, the Longhorns will participate in the ITA All-American Championships in Los Angeles, California. This tournament is one of three national collegiate competitions of the year, drawing in the top athletes from across the country.

“This is a really good opportunity for our players to get wins on the national stage,” said head coach Patty Fendick-McCain.

While Texas possesses considerable depth in its talent, spanning all grade levels, one noticeable addition to the Longhorn lineup is freshman Noel Scott. So far this season, Scott has won a total of six matches in the two previous tournaments.

“Noel Scott will play in the pre-qualifying singles draw after getting off to a very good start,” Fendick-McCain said. “Now, she will be exposed to an even higher level of competition, and that is great for her.”

Sophomore Cierra Gaytan-Leach joined Scott in her wins after the duo claimed the doubles title at the Longhorn Invitational this past weekend. Texas has shown that besides its noteworthy singles talent, the Longhorns have also racked up several doubles wins this season.

“It’s a great opportunity for Cierra Gaytan-Leach and Noel to do some damage in the doubles draw,” Fendick-McCain said. “Krista Damico and Aeriel Ellis make up a solid doubles team and they have a chance to get through the main draw.”

But Texas’ best player might be Ellis. This competition this weekend will mark her seventh consecutive national championship event playing in the singles draw. Fendick-McCain focuses heavily on preparing her players, including Ellis, for this top tier of collegiate tennis.

“We talk about paying attention to the little things and letting them add up,” Fendick-McCain said. “Aeriel has done it, taking care of things day-to-day. We’re starting to see benefits of hard work and attention to detail.”

Printed on September 30, 2011 as: Scott leads team with six victories

Women's Tennis

The Duke Invitational held this past weekend was the first real test for Texas this season. The Longhorns, including the 14th ITA ranked junior Aeriel Ellis, hoped this tournament would display the amount of effort the team has put into their preseason.

“It’s been one of the more difficult preseasons that we’ve had,” said senior Krista Damico, “Not only have the coaches been pushing us, we’ve been pushing each other in practice and holding one another accountable.”

On the opening day of the tournament, Texas showed their doubles strength by posting three wins, although sophomore Cierra Gaytan-Leach and freshman Noel Scott were defeated 8-3 in the next round by Miami’s Anna Bartenstein and Gabriela Mejia. The Longhorns’ top doubles pair in Damico and Ellis defeated the Tar Heels’ Haley Hemm and Tessa Lyons 8-3 but fell in the next round to a doubles pair from University of Virginia.

“Duke is obviously our first tournament of the year and it’s honestly one of the hardest we play in,” Damico said.

While Texas faced early losses in the opening rounds this weekend, the players triumphed in several of their consolation matches. Both Ellis and sophomore Elizabeth Begley won their first consolation matches 6-1, 6-1 and 6-4, 6-3 respectively. And although Damico and Gaytan-Leach posted consolation wins, they both fell in their next round during Saturday’s tournament play. Texas has high expectations for this season, after reaching the finals of the Big 12 Championship last year.

“We really want to win the Big 12 championship this year,” Damico said. “We’ve fallen short the past couple of years, losing in the finals both times, but this year I think we have a real advantage with all our young, up and coming players that these other schools have yet to see.”

The Longhorns claimed the victory in three singles matches on the final day of the tournament, leaving the Duke Invitational with eight consolation singles wins. Begley and Scott finished the weekend with wins. After colliding with teammate Gayton-Leach, Damico defeated her fellow Longhorn, taking the opening set 6-3 with Gayton-Leach retiring in the next. On Sunday, the Longhorns’ top player, Ellis, fell to Alabama’s Alex Guarachi 2-6 in the first set, then managed a 7-5 win in the second set, but lost the tiebreak 10-4 to end the match.

Printed on September 20, 2011 as: Damico, Ellis pace Horns as they wrap up first tournament

The Texas women’s tennis squad picked up two key conference victories over the weekend against Oklahoma State and No. 22 Oklahoma.

First the Longhorns trounced the Cowgirls 6-1 on Friday.

Junior Krista Damico and sophomore Aeriel Ellis began the match with a convincing 8-2 triumph over OSU’s doubles pair of Nataliya Shatkovskaya and C.C. Sardinha. Freshmen Cierra Gaytan-Leach and senior Amanda Craddock secured the doubles point for UT, beating Oklahoma State’s second pairing of Kanyapat Narratana and Malika Rose 8-5.

Afterward, Texas freshman Juliana Gajic and senior Maggie Mello survived the stamina battle against OSU’s Sasha Belova and Leyla Simmons, winning 7-6 (4) in a tiebreaker.

“That was probably the best doubles we have played all year,” said Texas head coach Patty Fendick-McCain. “Oklahoma State is a tough team. I think our girls were really mentally prepared to go in and do some damage.”

Ellis began the singles side of the match with a 6-4, 4-0 win over Belova, giving UT a 2-0 lead overall. Craddock was next in line, prevailing 6-4, 6-1 over Sardinha.

“I had to be really aggressive towards her,” Craddock said. “It was really just who could last longer and put away the shots.”

Gaytan-Leach sealed the Longhorn victory with a 6-2, 6-2 triumph over Sarah Meghoufel.

“The Big 12 is the strongest it’s ever been this year,” Fendick-McCain said. “Obviously, getting that one under our belts feels pretty good.”

Texas faced the Sooners on Sunday. The Longhorns sent their seniors off in good style, beating Oklahoma in the last home match of the season.

Texas had a tough break to start the match, losing the doubles point to Oklahoma in a tie-breaker.

Craddock and Gaytan-Leach began, beating OU’s Ana-Maria Constantinescu and Alice Radu 8-3. Afterward, Gajic and Mello fell to OU’s Tara Eckel and Marie-Pier Huet 4-8. Damico and Ellis were defeated in a back and forth tie-breaker, 7-5.

Behind 0-1, Gaytan-Leach defeated OU’s Maria Kalashnikova 6-0, 6-3 after Ritchie retired from her match against Mello, forfeiting 7-5, 2-1. Damico pushed UT’s lead to 3-1, beating Constantinescu 6-4, 6-4.

“It was a stressful beginning, but it forced me to dig down deep,” Damico said. “It’s always great to win against the big ones like OU and Texas A&M.”

Gajic clinched the victory for Texas, prevailing over Lancaster.

“This is a pivotal win,” Fendick-McCain said. “The sooners have been a very tough team and have been ahead of us most of the year. We were up to the challenge today, and knew it was coming.”
 

The women’s tennis team gained two conference victories this weekend against the Kansas (6-0) and Kansas State (5-2).

The Longhorns traveled to Lawrence, Kan., on Friday for their first opponent, K-State. Senior Amanda Craddock and freshmen Cierra Gaytan-Leach began the event by beating K-State’s Petra Niedermayerova and Nina Sertic 8-4. Junior Krista Damico and sophomore Aeriel Ellis then sealed the doubles points for UT by winning 8-6 against Antea Huljev and Karla Bonacic for the Wildcats.

Seniors Caroline Larsson and Maggie Mellow had key singles wins over Carmen Borau Ramos and Bonacic. Craddock sealed the victory with a triumph over Ana Gomez Aleman.

Juliana Gajic also prevailed over Sertic during fifth singles.

The Longhorns remained in Lawrence, Kan., for March 26, when they trounced Kansas 6-0.

Damico and Ellis teamed up to beat Erin Wilbert and Sara Lazarevic for the Jawhawks 8-3. Gajic and Mello then prevailed 8-6 over Monica Pezzotti and Paulina Los for Kansas, securing the doubles point for UT.

Mello had another win against Lazarevic during her singles play, and Damico beat Pezzotti to expand the Longhorns’ lead. Larsson sealed the victory for Texas when she beat Wilbert at fifth singles.

Craddock and Ellis secured the shutout, beating the Jayhawks’ Los and Ekaterina Morozova during singles play.

The Longhorns’ next Big 12 Conference event is scheduled for Friday, April 1, against Texas Tech in Lubbock.
 

Tennis

Texas begins its spring dual-match season Saturday versus Rice after a successful individual season saw the Longhorns rise as high as No. 16 in the nation.

At the Penick-Allison Tennis Center this weekend, the Longhorns welcome the Owls, who swept Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 7-0 on Tuesday.

Sophomore Aeriel Ellis, No. 8 in the ITA preseason rankings, leads Texas into the dual match and will be the team’s top singles player. Ellis was the Big 12 freshman of the year in 2010. She also teams up with junior Krista Damico in the squad’s top doubles pair, which will face Ana Guzman and Rebekka Hanle of the Owls early Saturday afternoon.

“It will be a good early test for us, and we look forward to the challenge,” said Rice head coach Elizabeth Schmidt about the trip to Austin.

Texas has already faced some Rice players in fall’s ITA Regional, when Kim Anicete defeated Texas’ Maya Zein-El-Abdin in straight sets. Anicete currently plays in the Owls’ fifth singles spot and will likely face Elizabeth Begley or Caroline Larsson this weekend. The Longhorns are 3-0 versus Rice since 2008 with a combined score of 17-3 against the Owls.

Texas begins its long road to the Big 12 Championship this weekend with the first of nine dual matches on the non-conference slate and its first test of the team season.

After receiving an “at-large” invitation, sophomore Aeriel Ellis participated in the ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships this past weekend and was able to advance all the way to the semifinals. She competed in the 32-player singles draw, and the event took place at the site of the U.S. Open — the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y.

Ellis’s first opponent was Zoe DeBruycker of North Carolina. She had little trouble with DeBruycker, as Ellis was able to earn a straight-set victory, 6-2, 6-1. The victory matched Ellis with third-seeded Kristy Frilling of Notre Dame. Frilling had previously triumphed over Ellis last month in the opening round of the ITA All-American Championship in Los Angeles. Frilling was able to get a little taste of her own medicine in Friday’s match, as Ellis achieved a commanding victory, winning 7-5, 6-1 and advancing to the quarterfinals.

Later on Friday, Ellis went up against Kristie Ahn of Stanford. Ellis persevered to beat the formidable Ahn two sets to one after losing her first set. This placed her in the semifinals against second seeded Jana Juricova of California.

Ellis went up quick with their first set, winning with a score of 6-2. “Aeriel came into the match confident and ready,” said Texas assistant coach Darija Klaic. “Aeriel just kept making big shots like she had all week and really put pressure on her opponent. She played a very big first set, physically and mentally.” After falling behind 3-1 in the second set, Ellis persisted to even the score at 3-3. However, Juricova outlasted Ellis in the end, winning with a score of 7-5. Juricova was also able to take the third set, with a narrow victory of 6-4.

Ellis was hoping to become Texas’s first singles finalist at the ITA National Indoor Championship since Lucie Ludivoga in 1994, but instead will have to settle for an exceptional effort.

“It was a battle until the very end,” Klaic said. “She left it all out there. But she takes a lot of confidence from this tournament with the caliber of players she has beaten here in New York, with a win over the No. 3 seed and nearly a win over the No. 2 seed. Reaching the semifinals at a national championship event can only help her even more in the spring.”

As the 2010 Big 12 Conference Newcomer of the Year, Ellis has finished her fifth straight national championship event with the completion of the ITA National Indoors.

After failing to qualify any Longhorns for the doubles draw over the weekend at the ITA All-American Championship in Los Angeles, Texas will attempt to advance some players in the singles event beginning today.

Both of the Texas doubles pairs competing in the draw were unable to avoid defeat in the opening round on Saturday. The duo of junior Krista Damico and freshman Cierra Gaytan-Leach fell 8-4 against a team from Harvard. Also failing to advance were seniors Amanda Craddock and Caroline Larsson, who were beaten 8-5 by Kansas’ Ekaterina Morozova and Erin Wilbert.

Damico, however, remains in California as she will begin her competition in the qualifying rounds of the singles draw today. She joins senior Maggie Mello and sophomore Aeriel Ellis, who had the weekend off. Mello and Ellis are also expected to be playing together in the qualifying stages of the doubles draw.

Ellis will also be participating as an alternate for the main singles draw. This will be an important event for Ellis, as she finds herself involved in two of the last three events that the Longhorns remain alive in. Ellis was the 2010 Big 12 Conference Freshman of the Year, as well as the ITA Texas Region Rookie Player of the Year. Playing in all three national championship events last season (the ITA All-American Championship, ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships and the NCAA Championships) she was able to tally a 32-14 overall singles record.