June 3, 2021
For the second straight year, the Lady Warrior tennis team of East Central Community College ranked No. 21 in the final Oracle ITA tennis polls. This ranking the team earned the first-ever bid to the NJCAA DI Tennis Championship in Mesa, Ariz. The Lady Warriors posted a 21st place finish, fourth-best among MACCC schools in attendance.
"We had some rough starts in singles play at the start of the tournament, but turned things around with some inspired doubles in the afternoons," said ECCC head coach Jay Pacelli. "All of our hard work in improving our doubles really paid off in Mesa. I'm very proud of our women and their determination throughout the event after having some very tough draws."
ECCC's Natalia Beltran (Bogota, Colombia) was in action at No. 1 singles for the Lady Warriors and had a tough match against Eastern Arizona's Mariana Ramirez. In the quarterfinal round of the consolation bracket, Beltran fell to Linda Claire Eloundou of New Mexico Military Institue, 8-2.
Alejandra Vargas, a sophomore also from Bogota, Colombia, took on a challenging opponent in Arianna Calcatelli of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in the opening round of the main draw of the No. 2 singles flight. Vargas dropped that match before falling Iowa Central's Sofia Andrade in the quarterfinals of the consolation bracket.
Sarah Cline (Brandon) played No. 3 singles for ECCC and faced Iowa Central's Juliana Vidal in the main draw. Cline dropped that match, 6-0, 6-1, but made a valiant run in the consolation bracket. Cline defeated Emi Smith of Hinds 8-3 before taking down Eastern Arizona's Mikayla Herrera 8-3 in the semifinals. In the finals, Cline defeated fellow MACCC opponent Kaylen Bond of Mississippi Gulf Coast 8-5 to win the consolation bracket.
"I'm so proud of Sarah and her effort in this tournament," said coach Pacelli. "She is one of the toughest competitors I have ever coached, and she played her heart out at a high level. She is a natural-born leader and it showed in this tournament."
Anna Moore (Decatur) played in the No. 4 flight for the Lady Warriors and lost to Tiffany Beukes of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in the main draw. In consolation play, Moore had a back-and-forth match with Morgan Ross of Hinds but lost the tough, well-played match, 9-7.
ECCC's Madison Gregg (Maben) was in the No. 5 singles flight and faced a tough opponent in Paula Acosta Ricci of Collin College. Gregg picked up four games against Eastern Arizona's Alissa Carter but fell 8-4.
Courtney Gill (Carthage) rounded out the singles play at No. 6 and grabbed two games in the opening round of the main draw against Collin College's Reagan Ramsey. Gill advanced to the consolation bracket semifinals with a big 8-6 win over Central Alabama's Kaelyn Albright. Gill fell in the semis, 8-1, in a hard-fought match against Ashleigh Chelette of Mississippi Gulf Coast.
In doubles action, Beltran and Vargas teamed at No. 1 and had a big win in the opening round, 6-3, 6-4, over the University of South Carolina-Sumter. The duo faced No. 4 seeded Barton College in the second round and fell 6-0, 6-0. Barton went on to advance to the semifinals.
Cline and Moore played No. 2 for ECCC and defeated Central Alabama 6-1, 6-3 in the first round. The pair battled it out with Gulf Coast in the second round, but fell 6-3, 6-2.
Laila Sisson (Collinsville) and Madison Autry (Kosciusko) were the No. 3 team for the Lady Warriors and faced Barton in the opening round, a match they dropped. In consolation play the duo grabbed four games in a tough match with Sauk Valley but fell 8-4.
The Lady Warriors continue their stellar consistency at competing at a high level on the court under the leadership and tutelage of coach Pacelli with three consecutive seasons finishing in the top 25 nationally, and now with a national tournament appearance.