Ellis Earns Three-Set Win, Secures All-America status at NCAA Championship
ATHENS, Ga. – For a second consecutive day, Texas junior Aeriel Ellis fought off multiple match points and rallied for a three-set victory, as she secured All-America status in round two of the singles competition Thursday at the NCAA Championship.
The 40th-ranked Ellis pulled out a 3-6, 7-6 (9), 6-0 victory over South Carolina’s 48th-ranked Anya Morgina to advance to the NCAA round of 16 and thereby secure an automatic singles All-America honor from the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA). Ellis is the first Longhorn to earn back-to-back ITA singles All-America honors since 1999, when Sandy Sureephong completed the feat. Ellis joins an elite group of just 10 Longhorns who have earned multiple singles All-America honors.
Ellis will meet California’s sixth-seeded Jana Juricova in the round of 16 on Friday at a time to be announced later. Ellis and Juricova last met at the 2010 ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championship, where Ellis registered her top finish in a national championship event. Juricova prevailed in that match, 2-6, 7-5, 6-4.
Morgina opened Thursday’s match by holding serve and breaking Ellis’ serve for a 2-0 lead. Morgina later held serve for a 5-3 lead and broke Ellis once more to take the opening set, 6-3.
“After a long match yesterday and playing in the heat, Aeriel started off slowly, but she found a little extra something that we all knew she had in her,” UT head coach Patty Fendick-McCain said. “She managed to play her way out of a hole with some great tennis.”
Ellis broke Morgina in the second set’s opening game, but Morgina broke Ellis twice on her way to a 4-1 lead.
“My coaches kept me thinking positively,” Ellis said, “and I started to move around faster to feel more confident and win more points.”
Ellis then held serve, broke Morgina, held serve once more and broke Morgina again to take a 5-4 lead. Morgina broke back and held serve to force Ellis to stay in the match by holding serve, which she did.
Morgina held match points in the tiebreaker with scores of 6-5, 7-6 and 9-8, but Ellis would not be denied. The Californian saved all three match points and ultimately converted her second match-point opportunity to take the tiebreaker, 11-9 and force the third set.
“Aeriel hit a pair of winners on two of those match points against her,” Fendick-McCain said, “and she forced an error on the third one. Aeriel put all of her concentration into making shots at that time, and she executed them perfectly.”
In Wednesday’s opening-round match, Ellis dropped the first set, saved match points in the second set and cruised to a dominant third-set win to claim the match. Ellis followed a similar blueprint and dominated in the third set on Thursday without yielding a game to Morgina, as she cruised to a 6-0 third-set win to become a two-time ITA singles All-American.
“I think Aeriel, more than any other player, has been very open to the coaching and the give-and-take involved in this sport,” Fendick-McCain added. “She has been an active participant in her own tennis and doesn’t just lay back and wait to be told what to do. There’s no limit to what she can do when she puts her mind to it.”
“It’s a huge honor to be an All-American in back-to-back years,” said Ellis, who missed five matches earlier this season due to the passing of her mother. “My mom is definitely my inspiration. I know she would want me to try my hardest, and it means a little more to win now. It makes me try a lot harder, and with that comes good things.”
The good things continue to snowball for Ellis, who earlier this week was selected as the national recipient of the ITA’s Cissie Leary Award for Sportsmanship. As Fendick-McCain notes, Ellis’ return to the sport was met with challenges that have since been overcome.
“Aeriel did not hit a ball and did not think about tennis during the time she was away,” Fendick-McCain said. “It is extremely hard to find your form when you’re completely away from the court. It is understandable that she struggled a little bit in finding her form. She certainly has the emotional motivation to find a little more fire in her belly. It’s a true testament to her fighting spirit and her determination. She set a goal of being an All-American again, and the tournament is still out there for her. It’s anybody’s game.”
NCAA Championship – Singles Round of 32
Dan Magill Tennis Complex – Athens, Ga.
#40 Aeriel Ellis (Texas) def. #48 Anya Morgina (South Carolina) - 3-6, 7-6 (9), 6-0
Multiple Singles All-Americans in Texas Women’s Tennis History
Beverly Bowes (1984, 1985, 1987)
Aeriel Ellis (2011, 2012)
Susan Gilchrist (1990-93)
Anne Grousbeck (1986-88)
Lucie Ludvigova (1994, 1995)
Cristina Moros (1995, 1996, 1998)
Kelly Pace (1993-95)
Vickie Paynter (1992, 1993)
Sandy Sureephong (1998, 1999)
Farley Taylor (1995, 1996)
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