One of the biggest honors for a collegiate tennis player is to make the NCAA’s singles tournament. Up until 2014, no woman had that honor in DePaul tennis history.
DePaul sophomore Ana Vladutu was the first.
Vladutu traveled to Athens, Georgia May 21 with head coach Mark Ardizzone to face Kyle McPhillips of UCLA. While she ended up losing in the first round, the match was a valuable learning experience.
“It was an amazing experience,” Vladutu said. “Just the fact I was the first player to make the tournament was great. To be able to play on those amazing courts was a great experience.”
Vladutu fell to McPhillips 6-1, 6-2 in straight sets. Phillips, however, was the No. 38 ranked player in the nation. Vladutu entered the match at No. 112.
Vladutu earned a berth in the NCAA tournament after DePaul clinched the Big East Championship in April. She also was chosen as DePaul’s represenative after beating nationally ranked players from other universities.
The sophomore had a strong fall, upsetting Michigan’s Emeina Betkas. Betkas was ranked No. 25 at the time.
Reflecting on match, Vladutu said that McPhillips outsmarted her on the court.
“I didn’t play my best match,” Vladutu said. “She was a good player. She knew how to play me. I’m planning on having a good summer and play in many tournaments so I can have another strong fall and get better.
“The overall plan is so I can make the NCAA tournament again,” she said.
Ardizzone said Vladutu’s work ethic is one of the areas he likes in his player. He also thanked her parents for her development.
“As coaches, we can’t make girls compete in the summer; it’s against the rules,” Ardizzone said. “A lot of kids put the rackets away, but her parents decided they were going to keep pushing her to get better.”
He added that he is proud of Vladutu and is glad she realizes how much further she has to work.
“I know Kyle McPhillips and I knew it was a terrible matchup for Ana because of the contrasting styles,” Ardizzone said. “(Vladutu) is a bit of an up and down player. For her to take that next step, she has to take that mentality of being a more consistent player. I thank (McPhillips) for showing she still has some steps to take.”