By Steve Choice
Photo by Steve Choice
The Pima Community College women’s tennis team capped off its late-season surge with a strong showing at the National Junior College Athletic Association national tournament, held May 2-6 at the Reffkin Tennis Center in Tucson.
“I am very happy how the season is ending,” head coach Gretchen Schantz said. “This year’s team improved after every match and peaked exactly when we needed to, at regionals and nationals. We are now beating teams that we lost to in the beginning of the season with authority.”
The national tourney had not concluded at press time, but a top-20 finish for Pima was all but assured, according to Schantz.
Three Aztecs were still alive in their respective draws as play wrapped up on Day Three of the competition.
Freshman Gabriela Rodriguez and sophomore Lori Cinnamond punched their tickets to the consolation draw semifinals in singles play, while Cinnamond and sophomore Ana Gallardo advanced in the doubles consolation bracket.
The tournament is double-elimination, which means a player that loses early can still rack up victories in the “back draw”.
Freshman Lucy Gaynor continued her flair for the dramatic at No. 5 singles against Marley Myers from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College on Day Two.
Gaynor spotted the visitor from Georgia a 5-2 lead in both sets, but mounted furious comebacks in each one. Gaynor frustrated the lanky southerner with her effective defensive game, and Myers’ impatience led her to commit numerous unforced errors.
Gaynor also sent many well-placed passing shots past her opponent, to the delight of her teammates eating lunch courtside and cheering her on. Despite her spirited effort, she fell short, 7-5, 6-4.
“I always have hope that I’m going to come back,” the native of San Carlos, Mexico said. “I never give up.”
Gaynor is already primed for next season, especially since she will be able to get in a whole year’s worth of training with the team.
“I didn’t start on the team until January this past year, so I was a little behind,” said Gaynor, who has only been playing tennis for five years. “I’m going to start in August this time, so I’m going to rock. I’m going to come with the big guns next year.”
The Aztecs will be without the services of Cinnamond, Gallardo and Ashley Oesterle in 2011, but Schantz remains optimistic about the squad’s future.
“I have half the team returning next year, and I am looking forward to seeing them continue to improve.”
With an almost certain top-20 showing at nationals as their springboard, the whole Aztec team will look to level their sights on their opponents next year.
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