Krista Damico

Resiliency has been the motto for the Longhorns all year. The motto for the Big 12 Championship will be no different.

The team has won the Big 12 tournament title seven times, with its most recent victory coming in 2005. Coming off a loss in its final regular season matchup, the fourth seeded Longhorns will earn a first round bye before looking for redemption against the fifth seeded Oklahoma State Cowboys, who handed them that loss.

After a year filled with many ups and a few downs, the Longhorns finished with a 14-7 record, including a 7-2 conference mark to earn them the No. 13 ranking in the country. This year’s team is filled with talent from freshmen to veterans.

Junior All-American Aeriel Ellis came into the season as the cornerstone of the Longhorn’s lineup and for the most part she did not disappoint, finishing as the No. 38 ranked player in the nation.

Senior Krista Damico emerged as a leader for the team after racking up an incredible 12 straight victories at one point this year. She finished the season No. 67 in the country, winning 14 of her matches of the year and buoying the women to an impressive record.

Sophomores Cierra Gaytan-Leach and Elizabeth Begley came out of nowhere to entrench themselves as the backbones of this lineup. Playing out of the four and six spots in the lineup for most of the year, they provided key points almost every match.

Gaytan-Leach earned recognition for her gritty play towards the end of the year, capping close wins against Baylor and Texas Tech. Begley finished the year with 15 wins to her singles record, including a perfect 9-0 record in conference play.

The two sophomores weren’t the only players making noise for the bottom of the team’s lineup, as freshmen Noel Scott and Lina Padegimaite finished their first-year campaigns with a lot to boast about.

As a duo Scott and Padegimaite finished as the No. 55 doubles pair in the country. Scott finished the season with many important victories for the Longhorns, as she was ranked in the top 100 players for the majority of the season.

Padegimaite finished the season very strong emerging as a big winner, notching 15 singles wins including a perfect Big 12 record.

Success has followed the Longhorns all year, with their trademark resiliency leading the way. This weekend will put both their accolades and will to the final test.


Junior Aeriel Ellis stretches to return the ball with her back hand. Ellis dropped her match against the No. 80 player in the country, Nazari Urbina, in two quick sets on Tuesday.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Howeth | Daily Texan Staff

It was a calm and cool Tuesday night, but the Longhorns met a storm they couldn’t weather.

In their third match in the last four days, the Longhorns emerged from a battle in College Station with a 4-3 defeat to Texas A&M. After dropping the doubles point, the women flashed their trademark resiliency but just fell short of the victory.

Powerhouses Krista Damico and Aeriel Ellis fought hard but both eventually lost in straight sets to top tier opponents. Damico’s loss came at the hands of the No. 8 player in the country, while Ellis was defeated by the No. 80 ranked player. Even though Damico and Ellis have been streaky recently, a loss here or there is little cause for concern with these two.

The bottom of the Longhorn’s lineup continued its brilliant play, as the three wins for the team came from the fourth, fifth and sixth singles spots. The women might have lost the match, but impressive play from this half of the lineup bodes well for the team as the Big 12 Championships approach.

Sophomore Elizabeth Begley continued to earn her title as the backbone of the team, winning her match in straight sets to push her record to 13-1, including a perfect 7-0 record in conference play. Freshman Lina Padegimaite also earned a win in straight sets, pushing her win total to 13 as well.

Recently named Big 12 player of the week, Cierra Gaytan-Leach continued her gritty play by winning a tough match. Although she won in straight sets, she fought back from a deficit for the third match in a row to preserve some dignity for her team.

After two straight matches with top 25 competition, a loss to the No. 20 Aggies should be nothing for the Longhorns to hang their heads about. At 6-1, they still sit at the top of the conference.

Despite this first blemish on their conference record, the women still have a lot of things to be excited about heading into this weekend’s matches with Big 12 foes Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, and head coach Patty Fendick-McCain isn’t worried moving forward.

“Aeriel [Ellis] mounted a charge at the end there. Obviously, she’s fighting hard. It’s a little disappointing with the doubles, that’s where the match was won and lost as it turns out, and we didn’t play particularly well at a couple positions there. We’ll figure it out by the time we hit the [Big 12] tournament. We’ve got a lot more tennis to play,” she said. “We’ve got two more matches coming up, and that’s going to determine the conference champion. We’ll be ready to go.”

Printed on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 as: Texas drops close contest to Aggies

The Longhorns have proven all season long that they’re a team of resiliency. Following a close defeat to Illinois, the women will likely rebound in a big way.

“Illinois is a tough team who came out ready to play a great match,” head coach Patty Fendick-McCain said. “We were a little shorthanded, but we had people out there who we felt could do the job.”

With a 9-5 overall record and a perfect 2-0 mark in Big 12 play, the Longhorns are currently the No. 10 ranked team in the country. In spite of their losses, the team has looked impressive every time out.

“The team has just come together and it’s really just been a collective effort,” said senior Krista Damico. “It’s been really great to see that everyone’s hard work is paying off.”

Damico has been the constant bright spot for the Longhorns all season. She has dominated opponents, losing only one match all year, raising herself to the No. 58 position in the country. Last time out against Illinois, Damico emerged from a back-and-forth three-set battle to claim her 11th straight victory of the season.

“I’m really proud of Krista for getting that last singles win,” Fendick-McCain said. “She’s playing some great tennis.”

All that can be said about junior All-American Aeriel Ellis has been said over and over again. She is currently ranked as the No. 25 player in singles competition, boasting three wins over top 20 opponents, including one over the No. 2 ranked player.

The Longhorns have received great contributions from a couple of newcomers, which has had a great deal to do with their success as well.

Freshman Lina Padegimaite has played solid tennis this year, pushing her win total to nine after the match with Illinois. Noel Scott has proved more than ready for this level of competition as she sits at No. 122 in the country with 14 individual wins.

Adversity has presented itself again and this bodes very well for the Longhorns as they head into a couple of weekend matches with Kansas and Kansas State.

Senior Krista Damico sends a forehand volley back over the net during the LonghornsÂ’ 4-3 loss to Illinois on Wednesday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Shila Farahani | Daily Texan Staff

In a back-and-forth match that came down to the final points, the Longhorns were edged by a 4-3 margin.

The team dropped two out of three doubles matches, and although their resiliency reared its head yet again in a thrilling set of singles matches, Illinois proved to be too much for Texas.

Noel Scott and Lina Padegimaite started the afternoon with an 8-4 loss. The match was closer than the score indicates, but the duo of Illinois came through late in the match.

The Longhorns bounced back with 9-8 win from Krista Damico and Cierra Gaytan-Leach. The pair has won three straight matches in doubles play.

Texas closed out doubles competition with an 8-6 loss giving the Fighting Illini a 1-0 lead entering singles competition.
Freshman Padegimaite led the charge of the team by winning her singles match in straight sets. The victory puts her win total at nine for the season.

Despite a win from Padegimaite, the women dropped the next two matches and fell into a 3-1 hole. Elizabeth Begley emerged victorious in a back-and-forth three set affair to give the Longhorns their second point of the match.

Illinois clinched the winning point in the fifth match, but that didn’t stop the Longhorn’s newly emerging star from making more waves.

Senior Krista Damico pushed her win streak to 11 matches in that most exciting match of the afternoon. Damico dropped the second set of the match after handily winning the first. The third and deciding set saw the ladies separated by only two points, with Damico emerging as the victor over No. 92 ranked Allison Falkin. Although the match was lost, Damico’s winning streak was extended and her win spoke volumes for the spirit of this team.

The women will get a well deserved week off before continuing Big 12 Conference play.

Printed on Thursday, March 22, 2012 as: Horns fall short against Fighting Illini

Senior Krista Damico recorded three wins last week, one of them over a ITA top-20 opponent. She has not lost a match since January 21. She and the Longhorns will take on Illinois today.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Howeth | Daily Texan Staff

Another game, set, match and the Longhorns are sitting comfortably at the No. 9 spot in the ITA women’s college tennis poll. Coming off a pair of wins to start conference play, the team aims to top Illinois.

Under coach Patty Fendick-McCain, the Longhorns hold a 9-4 record overall, including a 2-0 record in conference play. All of their matches except three have been played against top 25 teams.

Victories over such schools as Vanderbilt, North Carolina and Michigan have solidified the women’s spot as one of the top teams in the country. As impressive as their wins have been, the women have showed flashes of brilliance even in defeat.

The team’s resilience was seen early on in the season when they dropped their first two matches in the ITA National Indoor Team Championships. But they came back and handily defeat Clemson to close out the tournament.

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

The team has been on a roll following these tough defeats. In their most recent games, they have compiled a 6-1 record and proved that not even losses can slow them down. The lone loss in this period came at the hands of USC. The Longhorns battled the Trojans, but lost by a 4-3 margin.

“They played really well against us, and that is a credit to them,” Fendick-McCain said. “I did like how we fought back in the last three matches, as it is one of those situations where we could have lost the match and let it snowball into a 7-0 loss.”

At this point in the season, senior Krista Damico has emerged as a big star for the Longhorns. Damico was recently named Big 12 women’s tennis player of the week after compiling three victories last week, including one over an ITA top 20 opponent. Damico has not lost since the season opener, which puts her at 10 consecutive victories to date.

All-American Aeriel Ellis also continues to produce big wins in singles competition. She has had two victories over top 20 opponents and one against the No. 2 ranked player in the nation. Ellis is currently ranked as the No. 24 player in the nation in singles competition.

Veterans of this Longhorn squad aren’t the only women producing this year, as underclassmen have stepped up tremendously to support the team’s stars. Freshman Noel Scott has had a brilliant season thus far, posting 14 singles victories and currently sitting at No. 122 in singles competition. Freshman Lina Padegimaite has also performed well, boasting eight singles victories to only four losses.

Published on Wednesday, March 21, 2012 as:Resilience vital in Texas' recent victories

Women's Tennis

Spring break saw a bittersweet symphony play an impressive but tough tune for the Longhorns.

Despite a close loss to No. 4 ranked USC, the team claimed victories over No. 16 Michigan, and conference foes Iowa State and Missouri.

Against Michigan, All-American Aeriel Ellis played a hard-fought match with the No. 10 ranked player in the nation, but eventually came away with the win after dropping the first set. Great performances by Cierra Gaytan-Leach, Krista Damico and Elizabeth Begley produced three more points for the Longhorns.

In their next match, USC proved to be too much as the Longhorns fell in all three doubles matches to give the Trojans the deciding match point. The women split the singles matches as Gaytan-Leach, Lina Padegimaite and Damico all emerged victorious in three sets, respectively.

“USC is a very tough team with a lot of good players, but for the girls who were on the court to get those wins was great,” head coach Patty Fendick-McCain said. “We get on a plane tomorrow and go to Iowa State and Missouri, and we are looking forward to getting out there and starting conference play.”

In their first Big 12 match of the season, the duo of Padegimaite and Noel Scott won their doubles match in straight sets against Iowa State. In singles competition, Scott, Padegimaite and Damico each claimed victory as the women took five out of six from the Cyclones.

To close out the break the Longhorns topped Missouri by sweeping all three doubles matches on their way to a decisive 5-2 win. In singles play Damico, Padegimaite, Gaytan-Leach and Begley all won their matches.

With two notable victories to begin Big 12 play, the Longhorns look to be a tough opponent for any conference foe.

Despite playing well in doubles, the No. 21 Texas women’s tennis squad dropped this weekend’s matchup against No. 9 Virginia at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York.

The Longhorns opened the day with an impressive 2-3 double victory over familiar opponents. Freshmen Lina Padegimaite and Noel Scott posted an 8-6 win over the Cavaliers’ Emily Fraser and Li Xi at first doubles, opponents the pair lost to last week. Second doubles was won in tiebreaker, as junior Aeriel Ellis and sophomore Cierra Gaytan-Leach narrowly beat Virginia’s Erin Vierra and Hana Tomljanovic, 9-8.

“We had great performances in doubles from our freshmen at No. 1 doubles,” said UT head coach Patty Fendick-McCain. “They came from way back to win the match. We lost to that doubles team [UVA’s Fraser and Xi] in the finals last week [at the National Collegiate Tennis Classic]. At No. 2, we were able to save a few match points to get that doubles point.”

Senior Krista Damico and sophomore Elizabeth Begley posted singles victories from the third and sixth spots respectively in two sets, but the Cavaliers rattled off four victories on the remaining courts to seal the deal.

“We had our opportunities in singles,” Fendick-McCain said. “Cierra [Gaytan-Leach] and Noel [Scott] had chances to get into third sets. Krista [Damico] competed well and played smart tennis. Aeriel [Ellis] had her chances in the first set. Elizabeth Begley was like a freight train out there. The match came down to Lina [Padegimaite]. She fought her heart out, but her opponent had a little more in the tank today. We prepared well and did everything we could to give ourselves an opportunity to win. We fell short, but we fought hard.”

Padegimaite, competing in the fifth spot, was out muscled in her sets 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 by Virginia’s Vierra.

Texas takes to the road again next weekend when it heads to Nashville, Tenn., for the ITA Kick-Off Weekend.

Women's Tennis

Following this weekend’s ITA Texas Regional Championship, junior Aeriel Ellis survived as the only Longhorn to reach the semifinals. Ellis, along with senior Krista Damico, built on her previous doubles success during the tournament but eventually met defeat in the doubles quarterfinal. Meanwhile, the Texas doubles duo sophomore Cierra Gaytan-Leach and freshman Noel Scott also fell in the quarterfinals.

The weekend proved overall a success for Texas, as six players moved into the singles round of 32. The Longhorns have proved to be a formidable doubles force so far this season, but this tournament displayed the depth of their singles lineup.

The ITA Texas Regional Championship is one Ellis presumably enjoys after wining the title her freshman year. Ellis moved through the tournament with considerable ease, especially in her quarterfinal match where she only needed to post one game before her opponent retired. Head coach Patty Fendick-McCain had hoped Texas would win this tournament but Ellis retired in her semifinal match against Texas A&M’s Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar. Ellis, however, did qualify for the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships next week in New York City.

Printed on Tuesday, October 25, 2011, as: Ellis falls in ITA Texas Regional semis, qualifies for national championships

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


Aeriel Ellis and Texas travel this weekend to complete the Duke Invitational.

Photo Credit: Andrew Torrey | Daily Texan Staff

Texas is looking to show a strong performance in its season-opening tournament this weekend at the Duke Invitational in Durham, N.C.

“The quality of players in this tournament will ready them for the rest of the fall,” said Texas head coach Patty Fendick-McCain. “These ladies know, based on last year, that you have to get out of the blocks fast.”

The Longhorns possess considerable depth in their lineup, with standout players such as junior Aeriel Ellis and senior Krista Damico, as well as the addition of four freshmen. Ellis and Damico, along with Noel Scott, Elizabeth Begley and Cierra Gaytan-Leach, will be competing in this weekend’s tournament.

“Our team came in this semester very fit and ready to go and compete,” Fendick-McCain said. “They have played a lot of matches amongst themselves over the past couple of weeks.”

The Longhorns had substantial success at the end of last year, when Ellis was honored as the first UT women’s tennis player to receive the All-American honor in 11 years. She will face Texas A&M’s Lauren Santacroce in the first round this weekend. Damico, who recently represented the United States in the World University Games, will face Duke’s Mary Clayton. This tournament is the first opportunity for the Longhorns to continue to add to the success of last year, when the Longhorns made their 29th appearance in the NCAA tournament.

“This is a great tournament at Duke,” Fendick-McCain said. “It’s an incredibly high national level of play. It’s a really good chance for our girls to get some big wins.”

Printed on Friday, September 16, 2011 as: Duke invitational provides early test.