Castellvi wins, Encina bows out

Lady Vol tennis star Vilmarie Castellvi cruised into the quarterfinals of the NCAA Singles Tournament for the second-straight year with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over 19th-ranked Amanda Johnson of Duke on Wednesday.

The top-seeded and No. 1-ranked Castellvi will square off with No. 22-rated Mira Radu of Ole Miss, who upset No. 7-seeded Adria Engel of Arizona State, 6-1, 7-5, Thursday at 9 a.m. on the Stadium Courts at Ring Tennis Complex. Castellvi defeated Radu during the regular season by a 6-0, 7-5 count.

Castellvi jumped out to the early 2-0 lead on Johnson, winning the first game at love on her serve and then coming back from a 0-40 score in the second. The next game featured an eternal deuce that Johnson eventually claimed, but it was one of only two that the Blue Devil junior would get on the morning. Castellvi ripped off the next three games for a 5-1 advantage, and after allowing Johnson to get her final deuce game of the match, the Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, native put the opening set in the books, 6-2.

''Once she (Johnson) got down in the first set, I think she kind of lost her focus," Castellvi said. ãShe started missing a lot more than she did in the beginning.''

Castellvi dominated the second stanza as well with tiring rallies that had an obvious impact on Johnson's play. Although several of the games went to deuce, Castellvi came through on every crucial point in the tightest of situations. She raced to a quick 2-0 advantage once again, and after surrendering what would be Johnson's only game of the set, Castellvi went on a tear. Johnson had a chance to get back into the match when she trailed 4-1 but led 40-0 on her serve, however, Castellvi dashed her hopes of rebounding by grinding out the game in her favor. Fittingly, Castellvi won the final game of the match at deuce as well.

''I feel great,'' said Castellvi following the win. ''I am just taking it one match at a time. There are a lot of good players here so I am not taking anyone for granted, whether they are seeded or not.''

With the victory, Castellvi improved to 43-4 on the year and extended her winning streak to 22 outings. She also upped her record versus ranked foes to 37-4, which includes an astounding 18-1 mark against Top-25 opponents. Castellvi needs one more triumph to equal her total from last year.

Castellvi will be looking to become the first Lady Vol in school history to reach the semifinals of the singles tournament when she squares off with Radu. Castellvi and Stacey Martin are the only Big Orange netters to compete in the quarters, with Castellvi doing the honors in back-to-back years and Martin accomplishing the feat in 1989. The only Lady Vols to reach the semifinals in the NCAA Individual Championships were Shannon Kagawa and Mandy Wilson, doing so in doubles in 1992.

Tennessee junior Tammy Encina lost 6-0, 6-2 to No. 2-seeded and ninth-ranked freshman Christelle Grier of Northwestern, who handed Castellvi two of her four losses this season. The 59th-tabbed Encina could not stop the powerful and speedy Englishwoman's mastery of the Lady Volunteers, falling by a 6-0, 6-2 score.

Unforced errors were the story of the first set for Encina, as she tried to overpower Grier with hard groundstrokes from the baseline. Grier counterpunched with even more blistering shots, which resulted in either winners or miscues by Encina. There was a chance for Encina to get on the board when she found herself serving at deuce in the fifth game, but Grier dictated the next two rallies to go up 5-0. A dominant service game by Grier after the changeover gave her the 6-0 victory.

Encina finally got her first game after trailing 2-0 in the second set by simply keeping the ball in play and letting Grier make the mistakes. Grier took the next game and Encina was in danger of falling behind 4-1 when she faced 15-40 on her serve, but the Miami Beach, Fla., native scrapped together four consecutive points to set Grier's margin at only one, 3-2, as the two traded sides. Grier, though, took over from there and gave Encina more than she could handle, winning the next three frames for a 6-2 conquest.

''She (Grier) hits a really heavy ball and is very good in all facets of the game,'' said Encina. ''It was just too tough to counter against her. I tried hitting the ball heavy and deep, but she is a better player. No excuses, she is just better.''

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