May 22, 2012
Rice freshman Natalie Beazant, the Conference USA Women's Tennis Player of the Year, will open play in the 2012 NCAA Singles Championship on Wednesday at 2:30 (central) when she faces Stacey Tan of Stanford at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Georgia.
Tan enters the match ranked 25th in the country, but also is a returning NCAA singles finalist. 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. This season she has compiled a 16-3 dual record, primarily at the No. 3 position for the Cardinal.
"Natalie has had some great practices this week and I know she is ready to get out there and play." Rice head coach Elizabeth Schmidt said. "It's nice to be playing somebody that we've not seen before. When you get to the NCAA Championships, every match is going to be tough. She just has to take it point by point and play her game," Schmidt added.
Earlier today in Athens, Beazant was honored by The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) as the Texas Region's 2012 Rookie of the Year. ITA announced their national award winners at a luncheon on Tuesday afternoon.
Beazant rose to 36th in the national singles rankings as a freshman on the strength of a 25-2 dual record, 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 11 meetings against ranked opponents this year.
The winner of the match between Beazant and Tan will take on the winner of the match between Anderson of UCLA and Courtney Collins of Memphis, who enters NCAA play ranked 33rd.
Beazant is the Owls first entry in the NCAA singles competition since Blair DiSesa in 2006. She will be looking to pick up Rice's first victory in the NCAA Women's singles since Wendy Wood won her first round match in 1986. Wood reached the Round of 16 in 1985 to record the Owls top finish in NCAA singles.
In addition to her singles play, Beazant will team up with Dominique Harmath
to compete in the NCAA Women's Doubles Championship, which begins play on Friday. 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.
"Clemson is not a team that we know much about, but they always have had great doubles teams. It's a great opportunity for Natalie and Dominique to play a new opponent and I'm excited the match," Schmidt added.