For three University of Mary Washington tennis players, the start of Fall Break means sweet home Alabama.
Juniors Randy Loden, Becky Morse-Karzen and Stephanie Kurti will be representing the blue and grey when they compete in the ITA Small College National Championships in Mobile, Ala. this weekend.
Kurti could barely believe that she had been chosen to compete in the Nationals competition.
“When my coach called me last week he said, ‘You may need to sit down for this,’ and I was nervous it was bad news, and then when he told me Becky and I were going to Alabama as the at-large selection I was ecstatic,” she said. “I almost cried and I was jumping up and down screaming.”
Loden won his spot into the ITA championships after winning his ITA Southeast Regional singles competition Oct. 1.
Loden defeated Methodist University tennis player Chris Fletcher 1-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), winning the match when Fletcher back-handed a ball into the net.
“It was a pretty cool feeling knowing I had won,” Loden said. “I felt like it was a pretty big accomplishment.”
Loden begins match play at the National tournament Wednesday morning at 10:30 a.m., when he will face off against Mikey Lim, a student of Claremont-Mudd Scripps in California.
Morse-Karzen and Kurti were eliminated in doubles competition in the ITA regional tournament but were able to latch on to an at-large bid to Nationals, thanks in part to finishing the 2006-2007 season ranked No. 12 in the country.
Morse-Karzen said that her and Kurti have been giving everything they have in practices this past week, and have even found time to play outside of their typical practice hours.
Women’s head coach Patrick Catullo said this is the first time he has sent UMW players to such a nationally recognized tournament.
He will work with Morse-Karzen and Kurti on their strategies once they get to Alabama and learn more about their opponents.
In the meantime he is very proud of the two tennis players.
“It always feels good to be in a premier tournament,” he said. “I think it sends a message that our program is heading in the right direction.”
Morse-Karzen and Kurti face off in their first match against Marissa Lin and Vindya Dayananda of the University of Chicago, the city where the two Eagles are originally from.
The match is set to begin on Thursday afternoon at 1 P.M.
If either Loden or Kurti and Morse-Karzen win their first matches they will move on to the semifinals of the competition later on Thursday. If they lose they will still be eligible to play but would have to settle for fifth to eighth place depending on how they play.
Should the ball bounce in UMW’s favor, the tennis teammates would go on to play in the championship game on Friday.
Loden would play at 8:30 a.m. with Kurti and Morse-Karzen at 4:30 p.m.
The players left yesterday for the tournament and a dinner banquet which all competitors attend, and then it’s on to match play today.