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Nuggets find focus, become XU's 1st to reach NAIA semis
May 16, 2013

Results

     MOBILE, Ala. — Alan Green, the women's tennis coach at Xavier University of Louisiana, described it succinctly. "We got on each other," he said of a team meeting during the customary 10-minute break between the doubles and singles matches in Wednesday's quarterfinals of the NAIA National Championship.
     The spirited discussion — Green addressed his players, then the players talked among themselves — was beneficial for the Gold Nuggets. After dropping 2-of-3 doubles matches, top-seeded and top-ranked Xavier rallied in singles and defeated ninth-ranked Embry-Riddle (Fla.) 5-3.
     This is the first time a Xavier team in any sport has reached the NAIA's national semifinals. The Gold Nuggets will play fifth-seeded William Carey at 1 p.m. Friday, and for the second straight day it will be a rematch of a regular-season dual. Xavier won 5-1 at Carey on April 5 when the Lady Crusaders were ranked second and the Nuggets were sixth. That victory was one of several which helped propel Xavier to the school's first-ever No. 1 ranking on April 16.
     One month later, the Gold Nuggets still are No. 1. Remaining there, however, is another issue.
     "When you're on top, you've got a target on your back every time," Green said. "We have to understand that. Both times we played this week, the other team came out with a lot of energy — a lot more than we had. We have to be able to come out from the start and match our opponent's energy. I hope we learned something here today and will come out tomorrow with the same sense of urgency we had during singles."
     Xavier's only doubles victory came at the third flight when Amanda Materre and Olivia West defeated Ana Gonzalez and Meena Bennett 8-3. The Nuggets' Kourtney Howell and Brion Flowers, No. 1 in the most recent ITA NAIA doubles rankings, lost 8-5 to Hui-l Huang and Kristina Marova after winning by that same score in their March 28 meeting. Howell and Flowers entered with a 10-match win streak.
     "Embry-Riddle outworked us at the start," Green said. "They wanted it more than we did."
     But after 10 minutes of talk, the Nuggets were able to flip on the energy switch and keep it on. "In singles," Green said, "we came out and took charge on five of the six courts."
     XU freshman Simone-Alyse Ewell tied the dual at 2 with her 6-1, 6-3 victory against Giovanna Tomiotto at No. 4. Materre, the only Nugget to win in doubles and singles Wednesday, gave her team a 3-2 lead when she defeated Paolo Montero 6-1, 6-3 at No. 3. It was Materre's eighth consecutive singles triumph. Marova defeated Flowers 6-3, 6-2 at No. 2 to tie the dual for the third time, but Amber Brown at No. 5 put the Nuggets ahead to stay with 6-2, 6-3 decision over Gonzalez.
     Howell then clinched for the Nuggets for the second straight day and a team-leading eighth time this season when she beat Huang 7-5, 6-1 in a matchup of top-10 NAIA players. Howell needed two tiebreakers to beat Huang in the regular season and conclude a 7-2 XU victory.
     Xavier's comeback in singles defied a seven-season trend. Before Wednesday, the Nuggets were 0-55 in dual matches since the start of 2007 when they lost at the top two doubles flights. It happened six times previously this season, but all against NCAA Division I opponents.
     In six previous appearances at nationals, all under Green, the Nuggets never got past the second round.
     "This is a great accomplishment to be in the semifinals," Green said. "I never thought as a coach that I would reach the heights that no other XU coach had ever reached. I am honored and humbled to be able to accomplish this for our great university. It's amazing."
     But there's more work to do Friday, and Green's analysis was equally succinct. "If we're No. 1, we have to play accordingly," he said.
     The Nuggets extended their school-record win streak, which they set Wednesday, to 11. They're also 12-0 this season against ranked NAIA opponents. Embry-Riddle, the NAIA runner-up a year ago, finished 12-11.


 

 
Gulf Coast Athletic Conference

National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics
The Xavier Gold Rush and Gold Nuggets compete in Division I of the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) as a member of the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC). Xavier fields men's teams in basketball, cross country, tennis and track and field and women's teams in basketball, cross country, tennis, track and field and volleyball.

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