Natalie Beazant's dazzling week of tennis seemed ready to add another day, but Alabama's Alexa Guarachi recovered to win the third set and move on the national semifinals with a 6-4, 1-6, 6-1 win at the Atkins Tennis Center on the campus of the University of Illinois, Champaign on Saturday.
Beazant was bidding to become the first women's tennis player in both Rice and Conference USA history to reach the semifinals of the NCAA Women's Singles Championship. She matched TCU's Story Tweedie-Yates in reaching the quarterfinals. Rice's previous best finish in NCAA singles play had been Wendy Wood, who reached the round of 16 in 1985.
"We are extremely proud of Natalie for everything that she has accomplished this season," Rice head coach Elizabeth Schmidt said. "She has represented Rice with such class and pride throughout it all while also making history by reaching the Elite 8 and becoming an All-American. It really has been a fun journey and we are all already looking forward to building on this experience in the 2014 season."
Beazant and Guarchi began their quest for a spot in the Final Four outside under threatening skies at Atkins, and the senior from Alabama built a 4-2 lead. Anticipated rains arrived ahead of schedule and the match was then forced indoors. Once inside, Beazant held serve then broke Guarchi to even the set at 4-4. But Guarchi responded with a break of her own and then held serve to take the opening set 6-4.
Beazant stormed out of the gates in the second set, bracketing an early break with a pair holds to jump out 3-0. Guarchi held serve in game four only to see Beazant resume her onslaught, holding serve twice and breaking Guarchi to even the match at a set each.
In the third set, Guarchi turned the tables on Beazant, breaking her twice in the first four games. She maintained her steady final set of play, holding off any chance for Beazant to manufacture a dramatic comeback similar to her second round win over Aeriel Ellis of Texas.