By Craig Sanders
Arizona Daily Wildcat
The Arizona women tennis team's Angela Bernal and Stephanie Sammaritano failed to qualify for the All-American Championships held in Pacific Palisades, Calif., last weekend.
The tournament consisted of top players from all over the nation who were submitted by their colleges and accepted by the tournament committee. Bernal and Sammaritano, the Wildcats' top doubles team, received invitations to compete for Arizona.
"This was probably the toughest tournament outside of the NCAA's," said UA assistant coach Stephanie London. "It was a very strong draw. Some of the top players in the nation were competing."
Said Bernal: "The competition was pretty good. All of these girls are All-American caliber and none of them like to lose."
Bernal and Sammaritano were seeded second in the qualifying bracket before being upset and failing to advance to the main draw of the tournament. The pair defeated the Campbell team of Milorivea and Milorivea 6-2, 7-5 in the first round and Domanico and Nelson of Brigham Young 6-2, 6-2 in the second. Arizona was finally eliminated in the third round by the Florida State duo of Juul and Sowel.
Bernal and Sammaritano, ranked No. 19 by the Rolex Collegiate Tennis Rankings, battled hard throughout the first two sets, losing 3-6 and winning 6-4. They were finally eliminated 3-6 in a hard fought third set that ousted the Wildcats from the tournament.
"I was a little disappointed because we beat this team last year," Bernal said. "We were up in the first set, but they came back on us. Our execution was a bit off and they battled back. We can't expect people to lay down and die."
"I felt they had a good chance to advance to the main draw," London said. "It was a little disappointing that they didn't advance in doubles because they were seeded second. I don't feel it is a big loss because this was our first real taste of competition. Our season doesn't begin until January and I'm just hoping we peak at the right time."
In singles, Sammaritano lost in the first round to Michigan's Sarah Cyganiak in straight sets 6-2, 7-5. Bernal was able to defeat top-seeded Karolina Bulat of South Carolina 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, but fell to San Diego's Bridgey Joyce 6-1, 2-6, 6-1 in the second round, dropping her from the tournament.
"It was frustrating to lose, but that was not the most important thing," Sammaritano said. "At this point we are simply trying to gain experience and learn from each other and other players."
Currently, Bernal and Sammaritano are the only Wildcat doubles team that is set, but even that may not be permanent. It is still preseason play, and UA head coach Becky Bell hasn't made any decisions yet on roster placement. The team is still at a point were it is finding its feet and the rosters won't be solidified until January. With only seven players on its team this season, depth may present problems as the year progresses.
"Injuries can really hurt because when one player is missing its like half the team," Bernal said. "There is a problem though. We have a tight team that practices and plays well together. That's not always possible on a larger team. The chemistry is much better than last year's."
"It is very good attitude,"
Sammaritano added. "As a team I think we can do very well. Everyone is there to help each other in practice. When someone gets an injury we all try to help them."
The Wildcats next play at the ITA Rolex Regionals in Irvine, Calif., from Nov. 9-13.
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