May 23, 2012
Rice freshman Natalie Beazant's stellar first season reached another milestone on Wednesday when she picked up the Owls' first win in NCAA Women's Singles competition in 26 years downing Stacey Tan of Stanford, who was a 2011 women's singles finalists, 7-5, 6-2 at the Dan Magill Tennis Center in Athens, Georgia.
The win was the first by an Owl since Wendy Wood stopped Kelly Mulvihill of Indiana in her opening match of the 1986 NCAA Women's Singles Championship in Austin, Texas.
Tan entered the match ranked 25th in the country as The Cardinal's No. 3 singles player. Last year , she became the lowest seeded player (#43) and the 10th unseeded player to reach the NCAA singles championship in 2011 and she ended the 2011 season ranked 19th in the country.
"Natalie played a very smart match today," Rice head coach Elizabeth Schmidt said. "With a player like Tan, you don't want to get into a slugfest. She did a great job of knowing when to change her pace and mixed up her shots at just the right time."
Tan held a 4-3 lead in the first set before Beazant battled back to win four of the last five games. She carried her momentum over into the second set, breaking Tan in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead and then again in the eight game to close out the match.
Schmidt and Beazant indicated that the Owls' Sweet 16 match with UCLA last week on the same courts helped prepare her for the start of singles play.
"She played very comfortably out there and it was obvious she had a good feel for the courts," Schmidt said.
Beazant rose to 36th in the national singles rankings heading into NCAA action on the strength of a 25-2 record in dual matches, including a 22-2 mark after moving into the No. 1 singles role. She won 17 consecutive matches down the stretch to lead Rice to the its first Sweet 16 appearance before dropping her singles match against UCLA's Robin Anderson last Thursday. The loss was also only her second in 12 meetings against ranked opponents this year.
Beazant will be back on the courts at 10:30 a.m. (central) tomorrow to face the winner of the match between of the match between Anderson and Courtney Collins of Memphis, who entered NCAA play ranked 33rd and enters the tournament as the highest ranked C-USA singles player. That match began after the conclusion of Beazant's match
She'll return to the courts in the late afternoon to join with Dominique Harmath to compete in the NCAA Women's Doubles Championship. Rice's top duo earned C-USA's automatic bid after reaching 26th in the national polls. They will face Clemson's 12th-ranked team of Josipa Bek and Keri Wong at approximately 2 p.m. (central).