May 23, 2013
One point from elimination, Natalie Beazant summoned an effort worthy of the title of All-American, spoiling numerous potential winning shots and setting the stage for a stunning third-set comeback to down Aeriel Ellis of Texas 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 to advance to the Round of 16 at the NCAA Women's Tennis Championships at the Atkins Tennis Center on the campus of the University of Illinois, Champaign.
By advancing to the Sweet 16, Beazant has earned Rice's first All-American honor in women's tennis since Wendy Wood in 1986. Beazant will be looking to become the first Owl to advance to the Elite Eight when she faced North Carolina's Caroline Price on Friday. Price, who was ranked 47th coming into the tournament, defeated 12th ranked Julie Elbaba of Virginia to advance. The last men's player to reach the round of eight in singles was William Barker in 2003.
"That was an extremely gutsy performance by Natalie," Rice head coach Elizabeth Schmidt said. "Ellis is a good competitor, a seasoned veteran and really stepped up her game when we moved indoors. But, down match point at 2-5, Nat really showed her trademark heart and fight. She truly earned her All-America status today with that effort and now is looking forward to continuing on in this tournament," Schmidt stated.
Beazant had taken the first set 6-3 and was leading 2-1 and had a break point on Ellis before showers forced the match indoors. Once inside, Ellis turned the tables on Beazant, winning the second set, 6-4.
"I wasn't playing game I wanted to play when we first started indoors," Beazant said. "She (Ellis) hit some big shots and really got on a role. But I kept telling myself the whole time to `get this point' and kept my focus."
Ellis carried her momentum into the third set, sprinting to a 5-2 lead in the decisive third set and was one point from ending the match in the pivotal eighth game. Ellis launched a series of seemingly winning shots, but Beazant somehow managed to keep the ball in play before winning the point.
"Ellis had her on a string, but Natalie won that point on shear heart and fight," Schmidt said.
"She made a lot of great shots and all I wanted to do was keep the point alive," Beazant said. "When it was 5-2, I told myself to just keep fighting and see what would happen. After that point, I started to get my game back together."
Beazant had little time to savor the victory as she joined doubles partner Dominique Harmath later on Thursday to face the nation's top ranked doubles team (Kate Fuller and Silvia Garcia of Georgia) in the opening round of NCAA Women's Doubles.
Beazant and Harmath started strongly, taking the first set 6-3 and battling Garcia and Fuller to a draw in the first eight games of the second set. But the Bulldogs' duo put an end to the Owls' hopes of an upset by winning the final eight games to advance 3-6, 6-4, 6-0.