Friday, May 12, 2017

Nuggets draw bye, will play IWU or Asbury in 2nd round

Women's Bracket  (PDF)

NEW ORLEANS — Eighty-four days ago, Xavier University of Louisiana women's tennis was ranked 19th in the NAIA and trying to find a way to move up.

The Gold Nuggets succeeded, beating five ranked teams since then and climbing in five of the next six coaches polls. XULA was rewarded Tuesday with a No. 7 seeding and a first-round bye for next week's NAIA National Championships at Mobile, Ala.

XULA (7-13) will play in the second round — the round of 16 — at 1 p.m. May 17 against 10th-seeded Indiana Wesleyan or 23rd-seeded Asbury. The Wildcats (33-7) and the Eagles (12-3) will meet at 1:30 p.m. May 16 in the first round. Tournament venue for the 14th consecutive year will be Copeland-Cox Mobile Tennis Center (851 Gaillard Drive, zip code 36608, phone 251-208-5181). Admission is free.

XULA qualified for nationals with an at-large bid; Indiana Wesleyan (Crossroads League) and Asbury (River States Athletic) earned automatic bids as a result of winning conference tournaments.

One of the victories which sparked the Gold Nuggets' ascent was a come-from-behind 5-4 victory Feb. 18 against then-No. 7 Indiana Wesleyan in the Grizzly Invitational at Lawrenceville, Ga. After falling behind 4-2, XULA rallied with singles victories from Lacee Ancar, Brandi Nelson and Sha'Nel Bruins, who clinched with a 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 decision over Olivia Reed. The dual match lasted more than five hours — it began at 8:24 p.m. and concluded at 1:29 a.m.

"That was one of the Nuggets' best victories ever," said 14th-year XULA coach Alan Green. "Our team learned it was capable of handling pressure against a talented opponent. The match was a big boost to our confidence."

XULA is 3-0 all-time vs. IWU — including victories at nationals in 2010 and 2013 — and never has met Asbury.

The Gold Nuggets earned a bye for the fourth time in the last five years. They lost 5-2 to Northwestern Ohio in the 2016 opening round. This is XULA's 11th all-time appearance at nationals, its sixth in a row and ninth in the last 10 years.

XULA sophomore Charlene Goreau, a consensus NAIA All-American a year ago, is No. 34 in the most recent ITA singles rankings. Including fall tournaments, Goreau is 14-12 in singles and 11-13 in doubles this season.

Indiana Wesleyan, located in Marion, makes its 18th consecutive appearance at nationals — the Wildcats never have missed since the NAIA adopted a dual-match format in 2000. IWU reached the quarterfinals a year ago and has three ranked singles players this season: No. 19 Rachel Bottorff, No. 40 Alex Mella and No. 44 Lizzie Bauss. Goreau beat Bottorff 6-4, 6-0, and Nelson defeated Bauss 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 in February.

Asbury, from Wilmore, Ky., makes its second straight appearance at nationals and second overall. The Eagles lost in the 2016 first round. This year Asbury won 12-of-13 duals, including its last nine, after an 0-2 start.

Ed Cassiere, Sports Information Director

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