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Fall Signing Week '11: Stephanie Nauta is Charlottesville-Bound

As a rising junior tennis player, Stephanie Nauta was inspired by a single goal.

Stephanie Nauta is heading to UVa
"From the beginning, I've always wanted to go pro," said the Texas-born 17-year-old, who has trained with Coach Pat Harrison at the IMG Bollettieri Academy in Florida for the past three years.

But three years of competition in ITF junior tournaments and professional events led the blue-chip recruit to consider an interim step in her quest.

"I've played those pro tournaments and I've seen how hard it is to get there," said Nauta. "I see that I need to get stronger and have a lot to improve on. I've seen a lot of players who have turned pro when they weren't ready, and they got injured and it didn't turn out well. I didn't want to just throw away my college eligibility by doing something I wasn't ready for."

Nauta's decision to sign a national letter of intent to attend the University of Virginia next fall is the latest triumph for advocates of college tennis as a worthy training ground for aspiring touring professionals.

Ultimately, her decision came down to two schools: the 2011 NCAA champion University of Florida squad, and Virginia.

"I think last month was when I decided it would be either Florida or Virginia," said Nauta. "Those were my two favorite coaches when I met them in San Diego at the hardcourt nationals [in August]. I took a visit to Florida. They have a really strong team and great coaches, but I didn't think the school fit with what I was looking for academically."

At Virginia, Nauta will be joining a rising program under the leadership of Head Coach Mark Guilbeau and Assistant Coach Troy Porco. Since Guilbeau took control of the program in 2005, the Cavaliers have finished in the year-end Top 25 rankings twice and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament four times. Last year, broke through and reached the round of 16 for the first time in school history.

"I just feel like Virginia took a big interest in me and saw potential," said Nauta. "I think their team, even though they're not No. 1 like Florida, has a lot of potential. And I believe the coaches at Virginia can really help me with my game."

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Page updated on Sunday, November 23, 2014
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