Down a set and tied 4-4, the Tyler Junior College duo of Mary Alice Blacketer and Ariana Saldana knew it was go time.
Blacketer and Saldana won eight of the next 10 games to score a key win in Flight Two Doubles of the NJCAA Women’s National Tennis Tournament on Tuesday at the JoAnn Medlock Murphy Tennis Center.
“We started being more aggressive at the net,” said Saldana, a sophomore from Cedar Park. “We knew we had to keep it up and stay calm.”
Blacketer and Saldana, the No. 1 seeds, rallied to take a very tense 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 win over the ASA (N.Y.) College pair of Natalia Khakimova and Lyudmyla Lisovska in a second-round matchup.
“We had a couple of tough, close matches today and that win was the icing on the cake,” TJC coach Dash Connell said. “I was talking to (Blacketer and Saldana) about coming to net. They are at their best at the net.”
After the escape, Blacketer and Saldana breezed to a 6-1, 6-1 in the quarterfinals over the Lexi Hertling and Jean Ochs of Johnson County (Kan.).
“We calmed down and played better,” said Blacketer, a sophomore from Lubbock. “We were up 4-1 in the second set and then it was 4-4. We knew we had to be more aggressive at the net.”
It paid off as the Apache Ladies picked up three key points.
After Day 3, two-time defending national champion TJC is leading the team race with 36 points. State College of Florida is second with 30.5, followed by Broward (Fla.) (30), ASA (29) and Cowley County (Kan.) (29).
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.
Action continues today at 8 a.m.
All matches are being played at the JoAnn Medlock Murphy Tennis Center and the Louise Brookshire Family Tennis Center on the campus of TJC. Admission is free to the tournament.
The Apache Ladies remain unbeaten in all six singles flights and all three doubles flights.
The Final Four in Flight 1 has the top three seeds with Kristina Kinarkina of Collin County the only unseeded player. She upset Chloe Murphy of Seminole State (Okla.), 6-3, 6-0.
She will now face top seed Diana Davitaia of Cowley County in the semifinals. The other semifinal has TJC’s Kerrie Cartwright, the No. 2 seed, will meet No. 3 seed Greta Veinberga of St. Petersburg (Fla.). Both matches are slated for 8:30 a.m.
In Flight 2, TJC’s Audrey Leitz, the No. 5 seed, upset No. 4 seed Gita Niznik of ASA, 6-1, 6-7 (5), 7-5. She will face No. 2 seed Maja Sara of Eastern Arizona in the semifinals. The other semifinal has No. 1 seed Mariana Palacios of State College of Florida meeting No. 7 seed Stephanie Cardullo, who upset No. 3 seed Zsofia Biro of Cowley County.
Both matches are scheduled for 8:30 a.m.
Other TJC netters in singles semifinal action include No. 1 seed Nelo Phiri vs. No. 5 seed Ana Liera of Broward at 8:30 a.m. in Flight 3; No. 1 seed Alejandra Enderica vs. unseeded Ali Underhill of Broward at 10:30 a.m. in Flight 4; No. 1 seed Saldana vs. No. 3 seed Mariah Vargas of Cowley County at 10:30 a.m. in Flight 5; and No. 1 seed Blacketer vs. No. 3 seed Lacey Lapp of State College of Florida at 10:30 a.m. in Flight 6.
A total of 29 teams are competing with the schools from Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Georgia, New York, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Arizona and South Carolina attending.
The tournament continues through Thursday’s championship matches.
SMOKE SIGNALS: 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. … The tournament draws can be found on apacheathetics.com.
NJCAA Women’s National Tennis Tournament
JoAnn Medlock Murphy Tennis Center and Louise Brookshire Family Tennis Center
Tyler Junior College
Semifinals — Diana Davitaia (1), Cowley County (Kan.) vs. Kristina Kinarkina, Collin College, 8:30 a.m.; Greta Veinberga (3), St. Petersburg (Fla.) vs. Kerrie Cartwright (2), Tyler, 8:30 a.m.
Semifinals — Mariana Palacious (1), State College of Florida, vs. Stephanie Cardullo (7), Broward (Fla.), 8:30 a.m.; Audrey Leitz (5), Tyler, vs. Maja Sasa, Eastern Arizona, 8:30 a.m.
Semifinals — Nelo Phiri (1), Tyler, vs. Ana Liera (5), Broward (Fla.), 8:30 a.m.; Idia Amen (7), Georgia Perimeter, vs. Lai Wei (2), State College of Florida, 8:30 a.m.
Semifinals — Alejandra Enderica (1), Tyler, vs. Ali Underhill, Broward (Fla.), 10:30 a.m.; Ann Porry (3), State College of Florida, vs. Kristin Richardson (2), Cowley County (Kan.), 10:30 a.m.
Semifinals — Ariana Saldana (1), Tyler, vs. Mariah Vargas (3), Cowley County (Kan.), 10:30 a.m.; Ketevan Okrusashvili (4). ASA (N.Y.) vs. Abby Martinez (2), State College of Florida, 10:30 a.m.
Semifinals — Mary Alice Blacketer (1), Tyler, vs. Lacey Lapp (3), State College of Florida, 10:30 a.m.; Regan Perme (4), Collin County, vs. Ievgeniia Kostenko (6), ASA (N.Y.), 10:30 a.m.
Semifinals — Kerrie Cartwright-Audrey Leitz (1), Tyler, vs. Kristina Kinarkina-Zinnia Leamana (6), Collin County, 1:30 p.m.; Mariana Palacios-Laurence Porry (5), State College of Florida vs. Zsofia Biro-Diana Davitaia (2), Cowley County (Kan.), 1:30 p.m.
Semifinals — Mary Alice Blacketer-Ariana Saldana (1), Tyler, vs. Ann Porry-Lai Wei (3), State College of Florida, 1:30 p.m.; Stephanie Cardullo-Ali Underhill (4), Broward (Fla.) vs. Lexie Maytubby-Mariah Vargas (2), Cowley County (Kan.), 1:30 p.m.
Semifinals — Alejandra Enderica-Nelo Phiri (1), Tyler, vs. Amanda Angulo-Paula Garcia (6), Broward (Fla.), 1:30 p.m.; Sandra Pickerill-Kelsey Reblin (3), Collin County, vs. Ievgeniia Kostenko-Tetiana Kovalska, ASA (N.Y.), 1:30 p.m.