On Thursday September 19th, the University of the Cumberlands (UC) tennis teams traveled to Georgetown, KY to participate in the ITA Regional Tournament. This was a kickoff for the Patriots fall and 2013-2014 season as they had high hopes going into the weekend. The ITA Tournament is somewhat different than your average tournament as teams participate, but compete as individuals. There were two individuals that really stood out among the rest to take their place among the region's best players.
UC senior Neesha Thirumalaichelvam (Selangor, Malaysia) took the #1 seed in this tournament and her performance on the weekend really proves why this is so. Over a three day span, she won 5 straight matches to become the ITA Regional Champion.
On Thursday, she took on Sara Beth Alford from Asbury University in the round of 32 as she received a bye in the round of 64. After two sets, Neesha took the 6-2, 6-0 win. This win led her to face her own teammate Chanel Williams (Cincinnati, OH) on Friday, but she was too much for Williams as she was defeated 6-1, 6-0, making her record 2-0 on the weekend. Her reign was far from complete though. Later in the afternoon, Thirumalaichelvam faced Milligan College's Sarah Rainwater in the quarterfinal round. This match was no trouble for Neesha as she defeated Sarah 6-0, 6-3, sending her straight to the semifinal round. In the semi-finals on Saturday, Neesha battled Jessica King from Lindsey Wilson College, and after a close first set 7-6, it seemed like stiff competition but that was untrue as she advanced for the win defeating King 7-6, 3-6, 6-2. In the final round to play for the championship, she faced another LWC Raider Alicia Rodriguez, but after a hard fought match, Neesha defeated Rodriguez in straight sets 7-6, 6-4. This was Thirumalaichelvam's second consecutive win of the ITA Regional Tournament. She now moves on to Ft. Myers, Florida on Oct 10-14 to play in the ITA National Championship tournament.
"Neesha fought gallantly against very good opponents," Coach Tan commented. "She was sharp with her targets and tactically she was able to wear her opponents out with her deep consistency. Neesha's forehand was menacing and troubled her opponents. She played with a lot of confidence and handled pressure well. She did us very proud."
Other Patriots ladies that succeeded in the tournament were sophomore Chanel Williams as she defeated Brescia's Dakota Durrett 6-0, 6-0 in the round of 32 before facing Thirumalaichelvam. Sydni Grimes (Cincinnati, OH) also succeeded in the round of 64 as she faced Milligan's Ahmee Kelly and won 6-0, 6-2, but fell in round 32 as Cumberland University's Angelica Sepulveda defeated Grimes 6-0, 6-1. In doubles action, #4 seed Grimes and Williams faced Bethel University's Shelby Kennedy and Selina Williams and won 8-0, but were then defeated in round of 16 by Cumberland University's Alena Gizdic and Angelica Sepulveda 8-0.
The other standout Patriot in the ITA Regionals was UC men's number 4 seed Ariez Heshaam (Kuching, Malaysia). On Thursday, he began his journey against Cumberland University's Pedro Rodriguez in the beginning round of 64. This was no competition for Heshaam as he defeated Rodriguez 6-2, 6-2, giving him a 1-0 start. Later in the afternoon, Ariez went up against Pikeville's Francois Billett and defeated him 6-0, 6-2. On Friday, Ariez battled number 9 seed Dmitry Babenkov, also from University of Pikeville, coming out with the win by a score of 6-4, 6-1. In the quarterfinal round, Heshaam faced Campbellsville University's Alejandro Soriano and won 7-5, 6-0, taking his record to 4-0 in the tournament. In the semifinals on Saturday, Heshaam battled against number 2 seed Manuel Marcelo and defeated Marcelo in quick 6-1, 6-1 sets. Advancing to the championship round, the 5-0 sophomore came up short in set three against Lindsey Wilson's Fernando Bogajo losing 4-6, 6-0, 6-2. Ariez finished the tournament with a 5-1 record.
"Ariez played so well defeating many #1 players from other schools," said Tan. "He was seeded 4th and beat the #2 seed 6-0, 6-0. He fought for each point with many points going long and way over 30 rallies. The championship made for a tough match, but Ariez showed tremendous fighting spirit and sportsmanship."
In doubles action for the Patriots, number 4 seed Daryl MacLeish (Atlanta, GA) and Tyler Smith (Central City, KY) took on Asbury University's Deuce Gibson and Nesbert Vaval in the round of 32 and advanced by a score of 8-3, but came up short in the round of 16 as they were defeated by number one seed Lindsey Wilson's Edberg Espinoza and Fabrico Morales 8-1.
Head Coach Chin Tan has this to say about the Patriots performance this weekend, "This was a very prestigious tournament as only 8 regional winners can go to nationals," said Tan. "We did really well as we were the only team standing in between powerhouse Lindsey Wilson and the championship trophy in the finals."
The Patriots fall schedule continues as they will host the 125th Homecoming tennis tournament on Saturday, October 5th. Tournament time is set for 9 a.m.
For more information on the UC Tennis program as well as all other Patriot athletics, please visit www.cumberlandspatriots.com.