MOBILE, Ala. — Oodles of opportunities, oodles of disappointment. That could summarize Xavier University of Louisiana’s 5-4 women’s tennis loss Wednesday to Indiana Wesleyan in the round of 16 of the NAIA National Championships.
The Gold Nuggets (7-14), ranked and seeded seventh, built a 4-2 lead before the Wildcats (37-8), ranked and seeded 10th, won three consecutive 3-set singles matches after dropping the first set in all three. The clincher was Thewuni Devaraja’s 6-7 (9-11), 6-4, 6-3 victory against Yi Chen Pao in a matchup of two freshmen on the sixth court.
Indiana Wesleyan also rallied in doubles. Alex Mella and Lizzie Bauss, the ITA’s 14th-ranked NAIA tandem, defeated Charlene Goreau and Emma Kranendonk 8-6 after trailing 6-3.
The Wildcats’ victory, their first in four dual matches against the Gold Nuggets, was nearly three months to the day since losing 5-4 to XULA in the Grizzly Invitational at Lawrenceville, Ga., after holding a 4-2 advantage.
Nevertheless, Brandi Nelson — one of three seniors competing for XULA for the last time — Lacee Ancar and Goreau produced some notable performances.
Nelson and Ancar won in doubles and singles. They teamed for an 8-3 victory against Olivia Reed and Ellen Hornett. Nelson then beat 44th-ranked Bauss 6-4, 6-2 to equal Nour Abbes’ Gold Nuggets record of 10 matches won at NAIA nationals. Beginning with the 2015 round of 16, Nelson won nine of her final 10 matches.
Ancar beat Marissa Klein 6-4, 6-3 to become the fourth Nuggets freshman to win in doubles and singles in an NAIA tourney debut. The others who accomplished that were Dominique Bell in 2004, Marian Lang in 2009 and Abbes in 2014.
Goreau, ranked 34th in singles, improved to 2-0 this season against 19th-ranked Rachel Bottorff with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 victory.
The other XULA seniors in their collegiate farewells were Kranendonk, Sha’Nel Bruins and Dasia Harris. Nelson and Bruins received bachelor’s degrees from XULA this past weekend; Harris was not in the lineup against IWU.