Not only did Tyler Junior College celebrate a three-peat on Wednesday, it was also sweet 16.
The Apache Ladies, led by a deep and talented roster, clinched their third straight NJCAA Women's National Tennis Championship on their home court, the JoAnn Medlock Murphy Tennis Center.
It was also the 16th women's national tennis title and 30th overall tennis crown. It is also TJC's 46th national championship in all sports.
"All year they have been ranked No. 1 and everyone has been coming at them," TJC interim coach Dash Connell said. "They have dealt with that all year and they dealt with it again this week. I am very proud of them."
After five wins at singles on Wednesday, the Apache Ladies needed just one more victory and another championship trophy would be added to the Champions Room at the Medlock Center.
When Alejandra Enderica, a freshman from British Columbia, won her three-setter over Ali Underhill of Broward (Fla.) College, the Apache Ladies clinched the title. Enderica took the semifinal match, 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-2.
After the fourth day, TJC has 44 points in the flighted tournament. State College of Florida, based in Bradenton, Fla., is second at 37, but the Manatees can achieve only six additional points today. Two years ago in Tucson, Ariz., the Apache Ladies clinched a day before the national tournament concluded.
"Not every match was easy - there were some tough matches," Connell said. "We are a very deep team and that took some pressure off the upper flights. The personalities of this team mixed well.
"At the beginning of the year our goal was to get better each day - not win the national championship - but work each day to improve," said Connell, who took over the team in August after longtime coach John Peterson announced his retirement. "This team worked extremely hard. Work ethic was a big part of the success of this team."
The Apache Ladies started the day with 36 points with State College of Florida at 30.5 and Broward at 30.
As the beautiful East Texas day unfolded, the wins continued to mount for the Apache Ladies.
TJC's Audrey Leitz started things off with a semifinals win at Flight 2, followed by teammates Kerrie Cartwright (Flight 1), Nelo Phiri (Flight 3), Ariana Saldana (Flight 5) and Mary Alice Blacketer (Flight 6). That set up the Enderica's clincher in Flight 4.
The Apache Ladies also won two of their three doubles semifinals - Cartwright-Leitz in Flight 1 and Enderica-Phiri in Flight 3.
The only loss for TJC was in Flight 2 doubles where Blacketer-Saldana fell to the State College of Florida team of Ann Porry and Lai Wei, 2-6, 6-0, 6-3.
With the national championship safely in their corner, the Apache Ladies will try for first-team All-American as they are in eight of nine finals today, including all six singles title matches. Netters achieve first-team All-America status by winning their flight.
"I told the team you've done your job for the school, now you can be selfish and play for yourself," Connell said. "… play for yourself and for that first-team All-America."
The singles finals are scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. with the doubles championships slated to start at 11:30 a.m. Admission is free to the tournament.
The trophy presentations are scheduled following the completion of the doubles competition. The ceremony will take place on Court 1.
SMOKE SIGNALS: The Murphy Tennis Center is located at 1030 S. Palmer Avenue on the TJC campus. … The men's tournament is May 14-18 at Collin College in Plano. … The tournament draws can be found on apacheathletics.com. … 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 2013 women's tournament is scheduled for Tucson, Ariz., with the event returning to Tyler in 2014.
NJCAA Women's National
JoAnn Medlock Murphy Tennis Center and Louise Brookshire Community Tennis Center
Tyler Junior College
Semifinals - Diana Davitaia (1), Cowley County (Kan.) d. Kristina Kinarkina, Collin College, 6-2, 7-5; Kerrie Cartwright (2), Tyler, d. Greta Veinberga (3), St. Petersburg (Fla.), 6-4, 6-4.
Championship - Davitaia vs. Cartwright, 8:30 a.m.
Semifinals - Mariana Palacious (1), State College of Florida, d. Stephanie Cardullo (7), Broward (Fla.), 6-1, 6-7 (4), 6-4; Audrey Leitz (5), Tyler, d. Maja Sasa, Eastern Arizona, 6-2, 6-1.
Championship - Palacious vs. Leitz, 8:30 a.m.
Semifinals - Nelo Phiri (1), Tyler, d. Ana Liera (5), Broward (Fla.), 6-1, 2-6, 6-2; Lai Wei (2), State College of Florida, d. Idia Amen (7), Georgia Perimeter, 6-4, 6-1.
Championship - Phiri vs. Wei, 8:30 a.m.
Semifinals - Alejandra Enderica (1), Tyler, d. Ali Underhill, Broward (Fla.), 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-2; Ann Porry (3), State College of Florida, d. Kristin Richardson (2), Cowley County (Kan.), 6-3, 6-2.
Championship - Enderica vs. Porry, 8:30 a.m.
Semifinals - Ariana Saldana (1), Tyler, d. Mariah Vargas (3), Cowley County (Kan.), 6-0, 6-0; Ketevan Okruashvilli (4). ASA (N.Y.), d. Abby Martinez (2), State College of Florida, 6-2, 6-2.
Championship - Saldana vs. Okruashvilli, 8:30 a.m.
Semifinals - Mary Alice Blacketer (1), Tyler, d. Lacey Lapp (3), State College of Florida, 6-1, 6-1; Ievgeniia Kostenko (6), ASA (N.Y.), d. Regan Perme (4), Collin County, 6-2, 6-2.
Championship - Blacketer vs. Kostenko, 8:30 a.m.
Semifinals - Kerrie Cartwright-Audrey Leitz (1), Tyler, d. Kristina Kinarkina-Zinnia Leamana (6), Collin County, 6-2, 6-4; Mariana Palacios-Laurence Porry (5), State College of Florida d. Zsofia Biro-Diana Davitaia (2), Cowley County (Kan.), 6-3, 6-4.
Championship - Cartwright-Leitz vs. Palacios-Porry, 11:30 a.m.
Semifinals - Ann Porry-Lai Wei (3), State College of Florida, d. Mary Alice Blacketer-Ariana Saldana (1), Tyler, 2-6, 6-0, 6-3; Stephanie Cardullo-Ali Underhill (4), Broward (Fla.) d. Lexie Maytubby-Mariah Vargas (2), Cowley County (Kan.), 6-2, 7-5.
Championship - Porry-Wei vs. Cardullo-Underhill, 11:30 a.m.
Semifinals - Alejandra Enderica-Nelo Phiri (1), Tyler, d. Amanda Angulo-Paula Garcia (6), Broward (Fla.), 6-2, 6-2; Ievgeniia Kostenko-Tetiana Kovalska, ASA (N.Y.), d. Sandra Pickerill-Kelsey Reblin (3), Collin County, 6-3, 6-1.
Championship - Enderica-Phiri vs. Kostenko-Kovalska, 11:30 a.m.