Castellvi, Encina notch wins

A pair of Lady Vols advanced to the second round of the NCAA Singles Championship in Gainesville, Fla., with victories on Monday.

Top-ranked and No. 1-seed Vilmarie Castellvi posted a 6-1, 6-3 victory over No. 75 Jessica Rush of Northwestern, while 59th-rated junior Tammy Encina cruised by No. 55 Anne Nguyen of Georgia, 6-1, 6-2. UT senior Crystal Cleveland, ranked No. 51, fell to Cal's No. 6-seeded Raquel Kops-Jones, 6-4, 6-3.

Cleveland was the first Lady Vol to take the court on Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex. After the two competitors broke each other's serves to start off, the match remained on serve until Jones went up a break at 4-3. Cleveland, however, managed to break back the next game, but Kops-Jones went up 5-4 after an errant shot by Cleveland sailed beyond the baseline. The Golden Bearsâ top competitor dominated in the next game, overpowering Cleveland with her powerful ground strokes for a 6-4 triumph in the first set.

The second frame stayed tight during the first six games, as neither player could muster a service break. Finally, Kops-Jonesâ relentless attack at the net gave her a break, 4-3, heading to the changeover. After holding serve the next game, Cleveland found herself at deuce when she saved a match point by ripping a screaming passing shot down the line. The next two points, though, would belong to Kops-Jones, giving her the 6-3 win.

Despite the loss, Cleveland concluded her career as one of the winningest players in Lady Vol history. Her singles record stands at 125-36, giving her third-place on the school's all-time list. Clevelandâs 119-34 mark in doubles also holds the No. 3 slot as well. She is one of only four Tennessee competitors to capture at least 100 victories in both singles and doubles play.

''Crystal has been invaluable to us over the past four years,'' said UT Co-Head Coach Sonia Hahn-Patrick. ''Her results speak for themselves. She's had an awesome career on and off court and set a lot of precedents for future players.''

Castellvi stepped onto the stadium courts midway through Cleveland's first set. It did not take long for the Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, native to run her record to 41-4 and extend her winning streak to 20 matches. Things were knotted up, 1-1, in the initial set before Castellvi ran off five straight games for a 6-1 win. After Castellvi grabbed a 3-2 lead at the changeover in second stanza, she never relinquished the lead and cruised to a 6-3 win. She will take on No. 29 Maja Mlakar of Arizona today.

After giving away the first game in her match with Nguyen, Encina put on a tennis clinic, tallying 11 games in a row. A slight lapse in mental focus allowed Nguyen to claim a couple games to end Encina's run in the second set. Serving with the advantage on deuce in the eighth game, the Miami Beach, Fla., native lifted a perfect lob on the backhand side over Nguyen's head for the 6-2 triumph. It was her sixth-straight victory and seventh in a row versus a ranked opponent.

Encina will now get set for a showdown with No. 12 Sara Walker of UCLA today. A victory would make Encina UT's third All-American this year. Castellvi and Schaub have already clinched the status by virtue of their seedings in the singles and doubles tournaments. Tennessee has posted three All-Americans in one year only one other time in 1981 when Michelle DePalmer received the nod in singles and sisters Paula and Peta Kelly grabbed the accolade in doubles.

Castellvi and rookie Melissa Schaub will team up for the first round of the doubles championship today, as well. The pair is currently ranked fifth and seeded fourth for the tournament. They will face No. 25 Jennifer McGaffigan and Michelle Webb of Illinois at 2 p.m. Castellvi and Schaub won a thriller over the Fighting Illini tandem during the regular season, 9-8(4), in Urbana-Champaign, Ill.


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