Longhorns excel in weekend tournament

Kathryn Thiel

The Duke Invitational held this past weekend was the first real test for Texas this season. The Longhorns, including the 14th ITA ranked junior Aeriel Ellis, hoped this tournament would display the amount of effort the team has put into their preseason.

“It’s been one of the more difficult preseasons that we’ve had,” said senior Krista Damico, “Not only have the coaches been pushing us, we’ve been pushing each other in practice and holding one another accountable.”

On the opening day of the tournament, Texas showed their doubles strength by posting three wins, although sophomore Cierra Gaytan-Leach and freshman Noel Scott were defeated 8-3 in the next round by Miami’s Anna Bartenstein and Gabriela Mejia. The Longhorns’ top doubles pair in Damico and Ellis defeated the Tar Heels’ Haley Hemm and Tessa Lyons 8-3 but fell in the next round to a doubles pair from University of Virginia.

“Duke is obviously our first tournament of the year and it’s honestly one of the hardest we play in,” Damico said.

While Texas faced early losses in the opening rounds this weekend, the players triumphed in several of their consolation matches. Both Ellis and sophomore Elizabeth Begley won their first consolation matches 6-1, 6-1 and 6-4, 6-3 respectively. And although Damico and Gaytan-Leach posted consolation wins, they both fell in their next round during Saturday’s tournament play. Texas has high expectations for this season, after reaching the finals of the Big 12 Championship last year.

“We really want to win the Big 12 championship this year,” Damico said. “We’ve fallen short the past couple of years, losing in the finals both times, but this year I think we have a real advantage with all our young, up and coming players that these other schools have yet to see.”

The Longhorns claimed the victory in three singles matches on the final day of the tournament, leaving the Duke Invitational with eight consolation singles wins. Begley and Scott finished the weekend with wins. After colliding with teammate Gayton-Leach, Damico defeated her fellow Longhorn, taking the opening set 6-3 with Gayton-Leach retiring in the next. On Sunday, the Longhorns’ top player, Ellis, fell to Alabama’s Alex Guarachi 2-6 in the first set, then managed a 7-5 win in the second set, but lost the tiebreak 10-4 to end the match.

Printed on September 20, 2011 as: Damico, Ellis pace Horns as they wrap up first tournament