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EAC Smashes Competition at Region I Tournament in Glendale

Eastern Arizona College followed up a fourth consecutive ACCAC women’s tennis title with a fourth straight Region I tournament championship April 19 at Paseo Racquet Club in Glendale. The Monsters won in even more convincing fashion than usual. It was the first time under Coach Eric Arrington that EAC won all six singles titles and all three doubles titles. Eastern’s No. 1 singles player, Mele Iongi, was named the ACCAC Player of the Year for the second consecutive season. She won the award last year playing for Mesa Community College.

The EAC tennis team won the Region I tournament in Glendale on April 19, including all six singles titles and all three doubles titles. The Monsters include, front from left, Cara Smith, Mele Iongi, Allison Evans and Kaydee McWhorter; back, Natalie Young, Rachel Clarke, Kalei Gora and Lara Pujol. Iongi won the Region I championship match 6-1, 6-1 over Tatum Rochin of Pima. At No. 1 doubles, Iongi and Kalei Gora won their finals match 6-0, 6-0. Lara Pujol, Eastern’s No. 3 singles player, exacted some revenge on Gabriela Rodriguez of Pima in her finals match. Rodriguez had defeated Pujol twice in their regular season meetings, but Pujol crushed Rodriguez 6-2, 6-2 to win the No. 3 singles title.

Others who won singles titles were No. 2 Gora, No. 4 Allison Evans, No. 5 Rachel Clarke and No. 6 Natalie Young. Iongi, Gora, Evans and Clarke all finished the season undefeated in singles. No. 1 doubles (Iongi and Gora), No. 2 doubles (Pujol and Evans) and No. 3 doubles (Clarke and Young) all went undefeated for the season. The addition of Iongi and Gora this season gave Eastern its deepest team ever. Pujol and Evans, at No. 3 and No. 4, are better than nearly every No. 1 and No. 2 in the conference.

Evans is the best local player the team has had under Arrington. She was a two-time state champion in singles at Safford before playing for the Monsters. In conference play, Evans has gone 20-0 in singles over the last two years. Arrington said he isn’t the least bit nervous about the upcoming NJCAA Nationals in Tucson, which begin May 7. He’s excited to start the tournament because he said the team is playing better than ever.

The players are also dealing well with the intense practices Arrington is known for leading up to nationals. The players haven’t complained, and they’re working hard to prepare for their best national finish yet. Last year the Monsters finished 11th at nationals, but Arrington thinks they have a legitimate shot at the top five this year.

By Brian Wright

Sports Editor, Eastern Arizona Courier