Apache Ladies striving for third straight tennis title


The Tyler Junior College Apache Ladies are going for a three-peat in tennis — and this time they will have the home court advantage.

TJC and SPORTyler will be hosting the NJCAA Division I National Women’s Tennis Tournament at the JoAnn Medlock Murphy Tennis Center and the Louise Brookshire Family Tennis Courts. The tournament begins at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday and continues through the finals on Thursday.

Admission is free and open to the public.

“The tennis fans in this area are in for a tremendous treat,” said Dr. Tim Drain, TJC athletic director. “It is a great opportunity to watch some of tomorrow’s stars today in our own backyard. Further, it is a chance to support the Apache Ladies as they try to win a third straight national championship.”

TJC is ranked No. 1 in the nation by the ITA. Kerri Cartwright leads the way for the Apache Ladies with a No. 2 ranking in singles and a No. 1 rating in doubles with her partner Audrey Leitz.

Other Apache Ladies ranked in singles are Leitz (No. 13), Nelo Phiri (No. 22), Alejandra Enderica (No. 23) and Ariana Saldana (No. 38). TJC also has two other doubles teams ranked with Mary Alice Blacketer-Saldana (No. 8) and Phiri-Enderica (No. 14).

A total of 29 teams are expected with the schools from Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Georgia, New York, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Arizona and South Carolina attending.

State College of Florida is ranked second in the polls, while Laredo Community College is third. However, Laredo elected to not send their squad. Collin College of Plano is fourth, followed by Cowley County Community College of Kansas.

Cowley County sports the top-ranked player in Diana Davitaia.

It is a flighted tournament with a consolation draw (first match losers) in all divisions. The scoring in the main draw includes: the first round will be worth two points; a “bye” followed by a win is worth three points. Each additional win will be worth one point in the main draw. In the consolation draw, a win following a bye will be worth one point and a half point will be awarded thereafter.

A coaches breakfast is scheduled for Saturday with a seeding meeting later in the day. A banquet for the teams is scheduled for Sunday night at the Apache Rooms where the ITA Players of the Year and Sportsmanship awards are presented, as well as the NJCAA Women’s Tennis Hall of Fame induction, Drain said.

Drain said he is elated that Tyler, which is known as a tennis town, will host this collection of talented players.

“As I former tennis coach, I am obviously thrilled to see this level of tournament be played in our city,” Drain said. “Tyler Junior College is proud to partner with Cindy Smoak and SPORTyler for this event, as well as the NJCAA Division III Baseball World Series presented by The Tyler Office of Wells Fargo Advisors (May 19-25 at Mike Carter Field). Both of these events provide a tremendous economic impact to our city and are great family friendly events as well.”

NET NOTES: The Murphy Tennis Center is located at 1030 S. Palmer Avenue on the TJC campus. The Brookshire courts are adjacent to the Murphy Center. … The men’s tournament is May 14-18 at Collin College in Plano.

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