Natalie Beazant fought through a pair of deficits as well as a 30 minute weather delay to upset eighth-seeded Anett Schutting of California 7-5, 6-3 and advance to the Round of 32 at the NCAA Women's Tennis Singles Championship at the Atkins Tennis Center at the University of Illinois, Champaign on Wednesday.
Beazant's teammate, Dominique Harmath, dropped her opening match in singles, falling to Beatrice Gumulya of Clemson, 6-3, 7-5.
The win was Beazant's second career win in NCAA singles play, moving her into second behind Wendy Wood for the most wins by an Owl in NCAA Women's singles. Wood won one match in 1984 and advanced to the round of 16 with a pair of wins in 1985.
"Natalie again today showed what makes her such a great player," Rice head coach Elizabeth Schmidt said. "She showed her mental toughness over and over, fighting back from 5-3 in the first set, and then not letting the delay get to her. She fought back from a break in the second set"
"I'm happy with the win," Beazant said. "It's a good start to the tournament for me so hopefully I can take this form on to tomorrow now."
Beazant rallied from a 5-3 deficit in the first set to win the last four games. She carried that momentum into the second set, taking a 1-0 lead before the match was delayed first by lightning and then by rain. Beazant and Schutting moved indoors and were waiting for a court when the weather cleared and their match was move back outside.
"Rain delays can be tricky," Beazant said. "It's tough to try and come back out and play the way you were playing before. Especially because your opponent then has time to adjust and change their game plan. Things that you did before might not necessarily work now. It's definitely mentally challenging," she added.
Once back outside, Beazant found herself trailing 3-2 after Schutting broke her serve, but Beazant responded with a break of her own and then won the last three games to close out the match. She will face Aeriel Ellis of Texas on Thursday with the match time to be determined later tonight.
Beazant and Ellis met earlier this year, with Beazant taking a 6-3, 6-1 win as part of Rice's historic 4-3 win over the Longhorns in Austin.
Her win over the No. 8 seed was one of two upsets of top eight seeds that highlighted the morning action. Top seeded Lauren Embree lost to Jacqueline Cako of Arizona State.
Beazant and Harmath will be in action tomorrow in doubles when they face the top ranked team in the country, Kate Fuller and Silvia Garcia of Georgia.
Although her initial outing in NCAA singles ended quickly, Schmidt said that just reaching the field of 64 was significant for Harmath.
"She played a very tight match, but Gumulya never really gave her an opening," Schmidt said. "This was a goal for her to make the field, and she worked very hard to put herself in position to make the tournament. It's another great step for our program to have two players here and the experience will certainly help Nique as she heads into her senior year," Schmidt stated.