By Tyler J. Scott
Santa Clara women’s tennis player Katie Le finds herself competing amongst the best in her sport following a successful season. The talented junior is currently playing at the 2013 NCAA Division I Women’s Tennis Championship in Urbana, Ill.
This is the second year in a row that Le has been selected to participate in the prestigious event. This go-around, she received an at-large selection.
Le’s emotions were high in anticipation of the tournament.
“I’m definitely really pumped up to go this year because last year I got in not as an automatic bid, but because I was the highest-ranked in the conference,” said Le. “This time I’m ranked a lot higher and I have a lot more confidence going into it.”
For singles, 64 athletes are selected to attend this event every year.
Le enters the tournament ranked No. 26 overall, according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. She began play yesterday. Despite a close match throughout, Le bested the University of Michigan’s Emina Bektas 7-6(3) and 7-5 to stay alive and fight another day.
In Illinois, the third-year Bronco will look to feed off of her success from the regular season.
Le had a 6-3 preseason record and is currently 22-12 in singles competition.
The junior standout captured key victories in the process that have prepared for this moment.
“I have had a few great wins this season over really high-ranked players and that definitely just gave me the confidence that I need to know that I can beat anybody (at the championships),” Le said.
On April 7, she defeated Saint Mary’s College’s Jenny Jullien, who was ranked No. 17 at the time. This victory gave Santa Clara its first regular season West Coast Conference Championship in the university’s history.
Le also defeated University of California, Berkeley’s Anett Schutting, who was ranked No. 9, by scores of 6-3 and 6-1 at the Cal Winter Invite on Jan. 20. She also took down Stanford University’s Nicole Gibbs, defending NCAA champion in women’s singles, by scores of 6-7(1), 6-3 and 1-0(8) on April 3.
During her already impressive three-year career at Santa Clara, Le has received First and Second-Team honors in singles and doubles.
In addition, she was the 2011 West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year and the 2012 WCC Player of the Year.
Le has captured the No. 1 position in both singles and doubles again this season and is looking to improve on last year’s early tournament exit, acknowledging that she has changed her mentality.
“This year I have a whole different mindset and I want to definitely win a few rounds, whereas last year I was just happy to be there,” said Le.
Le was ousted in the first round a year ago by Georgia State University player Abigail Tere-Apisah. Le fought to a three- set loss by scores of 6-7(4), 7-5 and 0-6. In spite of the loss, Le became the first Bronco to receive an individual bid to the singles tournament.
Despite 63 other singles players competing in this year’s NCAA Division I Women’s Tennis Championship, Le remains up to the task.
“I definitely need to just focus on every single point that I play one at a time and not think about how I have to win a round and then two rounds to be All-American,” Le said. “I really just need to focus on the moment and not the big picture.”
In terms of preparation for the event, Le kept her same practice schedules and stayed on top of her school work to remain focused.
Singles play runs from May 22 to May 27. The matches will be best-of-three sets and 12-point tiebreakers at six games.
Contact Tyler J. Scott at email@example.com.