The Meridian Community College women’s tennis team had their best finish as a Division I team this week at the NJCAA women’s national tennis tournament in Tucson, AZ. Meridian’s women turned in an outstanding performance in the five-day tournament.
Meridian’s Ivanna Echezuria drew ASA’s Darayan Agaseivus (who was named the national “Player to Watch”) in the first round. Echezuria won in three sets 2-6, 6-3, 6-1. In the round of sixteen, Echezuria won the first set 6-1 against Lei Wei. She was down 5-0 in the second and in an exciting comeback tied the set at 5-5 to lose it 7-5. She then lost the final set 6-4. Wei was a national single’s champion at the three flight in 2012.
At number two singles, MCC’s Mallory Davis had perhaps the toughest draw. She played #11 ranked Pima’s Kari Emery who won in easy sets 6-0, 6-1. Davis picked up 1 1/2 points in the consolation draw by making it to the finals. She had wins over Moraine Valley and Itawamba before falling to Britney Sibley of FSCJ 8-1.
At three singles, MCC’s Katy Adams drew a bye in the round of 32. She faced off against Eastern Arizona’s Kayla White who advanced due to a walkover by Temple College. Adams lost 6-3, 6-4. In the consolation draw, Adams picked up two points for MCC by winning the consolation draw over ICC’s Anna-Blair Hunt 8-1. She defeated Kerri Kirkpatrick of Jacksonville, TX and Moraine Valley’s Ann Pendengast to reach the finals.
At number four singles, sophomore Tara-Beth Hall turned in an outstanding performance against Seminole’s Haley Pope 6-0, 6-0. Hall then faced the number 6 seed from Collin County, Sharon Clark, losing 6-2, 6-0.
At number five singles, former Meridian High School tennis player, Madison Gillette, turned in a stellar performance in three days. She won a hard fought match on day one against Temple College’s Jocelyn Ramirez 5-7, 6-2, 6-2. In the round of sixteen, Gillette picked up a win over Johnson County’s Madi Staats 6-4, 6-4. In the quarterfinal round on Tuesday, Gillette fell to the number 2 seed from Collin County, Lauren Clark 6-2, 6-3.
Meridian’s number six singles player, Molly Davis picked up a win on Sunday by defeating Snead State’s Erin McAllister 6-4, 6-0. Unfortunately, she then faced the number two seed from Florida State College Jacksonville, Alexa Brandalik, and lost 6-4, 6-1.
In double’s action, Meridian’s Echezuria/Adams won the round of 32 by defeating St. Petersburg FL’s Olivia Erlandsson/Anri Ueno 6-3, 6-3. In the next round, MCC squared off with Pima’s Helen Altieri/Kari Emery in what was perhaps one of the most exciting matches of the day. MCC pulled out a huge win in three sets 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(5). MCC lost in the quarterfinals to the number 2 seeded team of Diana Perez/Dayana Agaseivus 6-1, 6-3.
At number two doubles, Madison Gillette/Mallory Davis won their first round on Sunday by defeating Lewis and Clark’s Jenna BBechtold/Kali DeSherlia 6-2, 6-2. They then fell to NCTC’s Palacio/Chandler 6-2, 6-1. MCC’s number three doubles team of Tara-Beth Hall/Molly Davis finished out the scoring for MCC by making it to the semifinals on Wednesday and picking up four points along the way. They won their first match when Temple defaulted the match due to injury. They then faced Mesa’s Haley Stermon/Karah Hedquist; they won that match 6-3, 6-3. This put them in the quarterfinals against ICC’s Stephens//Turner who had advanced when a team withdrew. MCC won 7-6 (2), 6-2. Meridian finished with 21.5 points to claim eighth place. Meridian had been ranked at number nineteen for most of the year according to ITA rankings.
“I just could not be prouder of a group of young ladies,” said MCC head coach Wanda McPhail. “They have worked hard all year to accomplish this goal. They have excelled on the court, in the classroom, and in their daily life.”
Tara-Beth Hall was winner of the Region III, which includes Mississippi, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, and Arkansas, Arthur Ashe Jr. Sportsmanship Award. Not only was she the Region III winner, but she was also selected by the National ITA Awards Committee as the National winner of this prestigious award. She will be honored in New York City at the US Open in September of this year.
“I am proud of all of these young ladies for their achievements this season,” added McPhail. “They have been a joy to coach and have represented our school in a positive light.”
Tyler Junior College won the tournament for the fourth consecutive year establishing themselves as the powerhouse of women’s tennis at the JUCO level. Dash Connel was named the “Coach of the Year” for the second straight year in his only two seasons as a head coach., ASA out of New York was second and Collin CC (Texas) was third. Rounding out the top ten were Florida State College Jacksonville – 4th, Georgia Perimeter-5th, Johnson County (Kansas)- 6th, Eastern Arizoan – 7th, MCC – 8th, North Central Texas – 9th, and State College of Florida -10th.