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Articles by Ali

About Ali Jones

Ali Jones has been a speechwriter, book editor, publicist and writer, most recently for Muckety.com. She has been a tennis enthusiast from an early age and has played recreationally on various surfaces, including crushed seashells in the Philippines and red clay in the Czech Republic and Mexico. When she's not travelling with her son to his tennis tournaments, Ali writes and enjoys historical research.


Present-Minded Approach Helps Zapp Win Boys 16s Titles
Staying focused on the task at hand helped Logan Zapp capture the singles and doubles titles at the USTA Boys 16s National Clay Court Championships. The five-star recruit dropped only two games in the singles final in his home state of Florida.

Boca Raton's Slama Wins Hometown Championship
Blue Chip Mia Slama took the lessons learned from last year's USTA Girls 12 National Clay Court Championship to grow into this year's champion. The Boca Raton native defeated Alexia Harmon in three sets in the final last Saturday.

Castillo Makes Triumphant Return to Win Girls 14s Singles Title
Midori Castillo Meza just wanted to win one match at the USTA Winter National Championships in Arizona to improve from last year's result. The Chula Vista, California resident accomplished much more. She won the Girls 14s singles title while only losing two sets.

Banerjee Sustains Success With Two Titles in Boys 14s
Samir Banerjee carried over his confidence, mental discipline and maturity stemming from his stellar play at the National Indoor Championships and Orange Bowl to capture the Boys 14s singles and doubles titles at the USTA Winter National Championships in Tucson, Arizona.

Countdown: Rios Stays Close To Home At Ole Miss
Christopher Rios always dreamed about staying close to home and representing Ole Miss. It will soon become a reality. The four-star senior from Baldwyn has committed to play for Ole Miss.

Montgomery Closes Strong To Win Girls 14s
Robin Montgomery saved her best performance for last at the USTA Girls 14 National Hardcourts, defeating Reese Brantmeier 6-0, 6-1 in the singles final last weekend.

Alhogbani Goes Back-To-Back Again
Just like he did two years ago, Saud Alhogbani captures gold balls at USTA hardcourt and clay court nationals. Alhogbani beat Ben Shelton to win this year's Boys 14s hardcourts in Mobile, Ala.

Driscoll Bags Two Gold Balls at Girls 12s
Tsehay Driscoll didn't settle for winning just one gold ball at the USTA Girls 12 Clay Court Championships in Boca Raton. The California native grabbed two, capturing the singles and doubles titles.

Spring Signing Week '17: Riley McQuaid is an A&M Aggie
Riley McQuaid's resourcefulness, resilience and optimism have enabled her to weather tough losses and injuries that beset top athletes. McQuaid used those qualities when she was informed six days before the Fall signing period that her scholarship offer had been withdrawn. She was stunned, but she quickly regrouped - and her survival instincts led her to College Station, Texas.

Countdown: Puerto Rican Standout is a Xavier Muskeeter
Unlike many of his top-ranked peers, Alejandro Rodriguez-Vidal opted to train in Puerto Rico to hone his tennis. He spends his summers and winter holidays in his home in Orlando, Florida, and hits the courts sometimes, but he is mainly a product of Puerto Rican tennis. The plan has worked well for him - the 5-Star senior recently committed to Xavier University in Cincinnati.

Top Seeds Triumph at 12s Winter Nationals
True to form, the boys and girls top seeds emerged as the 2016 champions of the Winter Nationals in Tucson, Ariz. Californian Vivian Ovrootsky took home two gold balls in Tucson without losing a set. On the boys' side, Jackson Armistead of South Carolina defeated seventh-seeded Learner Tien of California in a match that came down to the wire by a score of 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (5).

Top Ten Senior Stephanie Schrage Commits to Princeton
Never mind that blue chip senior Stephanie Schrage has consistently ranked number one in the USTA Girls Eastern Section in the 12s, 14s, 16s and 18s divisions - or that she is ranked in the top ten of the senior class. Schrage lists high school tennis success as one of her favorite accomplishments. The team player will get the chance to excel for her college team next year - as a Princeton Tiger.

Fall Signing Week '16: Turchetta Heads West to Stanford
The pressure to decide is always intense for a blue-chip athlete such as Sam Turchetta. Numerous colleges reached out to him, and he welcomed all of the options. But a school in California was always at the top of the list.

Countdown: Georgia Snares Coppoc and Goulak
Georgia's academic and athletics reputation proved to be irresistible to a pair of blue chips and have verbally embraced the Bulldogs. Morgan Coppoc and Annette Goulak, who have played successful doubles together, were delighted to have the opportunity to play on the same college team.

Victor Lilov Strikes Gold Twice in Boys 12s
Victor Lilov, displaying the precocious abilities to analyze an ongoing match calmly and to make the appropriate adjustments, defeated a relentless 17th seed Braden Shick 6-4, 6-1, to win the singles crown at the rain-soaked Boys 12s National Hardcourt Championships in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Wiersholm Earns First Gold Ball in Boca Raton
In a finals match punctuated by suspense, surprise, momentum swings and two lefties, sixth seed Katja Wiersholm of Kirkland, Washington, emerged victorious over second seed Robin Montgomery of Washington, D.C., 7-6 (5), 0-6, 7-6(4) at the 2016 Girls 12 National Clay Court Championships.

Top Texan Chase Wood Chooses Florida State
"My parents always said that once your heart feels right, you'll know it," said Chase Wood, referring to his college choice. Wood's parents knew exactly what they were talking about as both played collegiate tennis - mom for Tennessee and dad for Arkansas. Taking into consideration his family's advice, athletic history and his own goals, the 17-year-old blue chip recruit and top-ranked Texas player verbally committed to Florida State University.

JJ Wolf Stays Home at Ohio State
JJ Wolf's success in tennis was consistent, but the emotional commitment to the game did not happen until recently. "I just fell in love with tennis," Wolf said. "I didn't like tennis that much until this past summer." Still a high school junior, his newfound dedication and passion for tennis has him focused on a pro career, but not before sharpening and maturing his game at Ohio State.

Countdown: Ty Gentry Stays Close to Home at Oregon
Ty Gentry is a natural talent, and even without his discipline to be exceptional, his athleticism and raw power would be anything but ordinary. Gentry's experienced coaches describe him as one of the best junior athletes they have worked with. Next year, the Blue Chip recruit and two-sport athlete will bring his six-foot-five frame to Eugene to play college tennis for the University of Oregon.

Basavareddy, Canete Strike Gold in 12s
The 12s champions of the 2016 Winter Nationals share a few things in common: Nishesh Basavareddy and Christine Canete were each seeded third and upset higher ranked players. Each player has a sibling who played in the 14s division, and both have Southern California roots. And of course, they now both own USTA gold balls. Basavareddy earned his first gold by beating top seed Samuel Landau 6-7(1), 6-1, 6-2, and Canete beat second seed Katrina Scott 6-2, 6-2.

Fall Signing Week '15: Blue Chip Emma Higuchi is a Cardinal
Recruiting interest was high on Emma Higuchi, whose résumé includes titles at the Easter Bowl and National Clay Courts, silver and bronze USTA balls, and World Juniors participant. Higuchi took her time and visited a number of schools this year before eventually deciding to take the five-hour drive north from her home in Los Angeles to Stanford University.

Countdown: Cao Twins are Bound for Memphis
The college search for four-star identical twins Josephine and Katherine Cao began and ended in Memphis, Tennessee. Hoping to get acquainted with various colleges and tennis coaches at the 2015 National Clay Courts, the Cao sisters were separately approached by coaches from the University of Memphis. A short while later, the sisters happily gave their verbal commitments to the Tigers.

Countdown: Maria Smith Heads to Berkeley
Maria Smith, who has spent short stretches over the past few years in the Golden State for tennis training, will call California home for the next four years, starting in January 2016. The senior from Houston, Texas, is graduating a semester early and will join the Golden Bears of the University of California, Berkeley.

Saud Alhogbani Wins Second Consecutive Gold
Saud Alhogbani's strategy in every tennis match is simple: give each point 100 percent, try to get everything back in play, and be aggressive when the opportunity arises. Superb execution earned the Blue Chip athlete from Alexandria, Va., the singles gold ball at the 2015 Boys 12s National Hard Court Championships in North Little Rock, Arkansas, defeating No. 5 seed Benjamin Kittay of Potomac, Md., 6-3, 6-0 in the final.

Kalieva Upsets Top Seed in Three Sets in 12s
Elvina Kalieva earned her first USTA Gold Ball at the Girls 12s National Clay Court Championships on a sunny Saturday morning. Kalieva, the No. 9 seed, won five three-set matches during the tournament - four where she lost the first set. The championship match against top-seeded Charlotte Owensby was no different, where she pulled out a thrilling 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory against the local favorite.

Spring Signing Week '15: Illinois State Champ Eddie Grabill to Dartmouth
Five-star senior Eddie Grabill is a coach's dream - he is an excellent individual player, but also the consummate team player. Grabill helped his high school win the Illinois state championships, including his doubles title in 2013 and the singles title in 2014. In December 2014 Grabill committed to play for Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.

Spring Signing Week '15: Alexis Nelson from Twin Cities Heads West
With many tennis players committing early, Blue Chip junior Alexis Nelson got an early jump on the college recruiting game. Her junior year not quite over, Nelson has made a verbal commitment to play for the University of California, Berkeley, in Fall 2016.

Kevakian Commits to the Columbia Lions
For five years Andrea Kevakian managed to keep up her blue chip status while successfully completing the rigorous academic requirements of Flintridge Preparatory School. There was little hesitation on her part when she was offered the opportunity to play for Columbia University, where the Californian will pursue an even more demanding academic and athletic schedule in Fall 2015.

Fall Signing Week '14: Kimberly Yee is a Cardinal
In 2008, Kimberly Yee was featured as one of the Class of 2015's rising stars. Over the past six years, she has sustained that level of blue chip excellence - achieving the top ranking in all age groups and amassing a slew of USTA balls and titles. With her stellar tennis credentials and matching academic achievements, Yee was courted by some of the country's top schools - and she believes she chose the perfect one for her: Stanford University.

Countdown: Blue Chip Trio Commits to Duke
Blue chip seniors Catalin Mateas, Vincent Lin and Adrian Chamdani, among the top in the Class of 2015, have verbally committed to Duke University. Ryan Dickerson, with his five-star credentials, joins the University as well, making Coach Ramsey Smith's Blue Devils one of the best recruiting classes of the year.

Kaitlyn McCarthy stays in-state with Blue Devils
Kaitlyn McCarthy the top-ranked senior of the Class of 2015, shortlisted four of the country's outstanding schools: Florida, UNC, Stanford and Duke. After visiting campuses, she narrowed them to two - Duke and Florida. "It was a tough decision, both schools are really great," said the blue chip recruit. With lots of family in the area, location dictated her outcome. Home is Cary, North Carolina, a 20-minute drive from Duke, where McCarthy will enter in Fall 2015.

Khan Twins Dominate Boys 12s in Little Rock
They may not yet be the most famous twins in tennis, but Zane and Faris Khan certainly are making their presence known in the junior tennis circuit. So far, the blue chip brothers have altogether won four gold USTA balls, three silver and four bronze. Zane has the upper hand for now, pulling a title over Faris 7-5, 4-6, 6-2 at the 2014 Boys 12s National Hard Court Championship.

Rice Owls Claim Top-ranked Texan Jacob Hansen
Most rising seniors see college as the next step to an independent life away from family. For Blue-Chip-to-be recruit Jacob Hansen, however, his decision was mostly determined by the fact that his parents finally settled in Texas after years of living overseas. The Hansens relocated to Houston, home to Rice University, where Jacob has verbally committed to play in Fall 2015.

Spring Signing Week '14: Maese Commits to Boise State
After almost a year of international competition and intense tennis training, Daniel Maese decided to return home to Texas. As his senior year was quickly coming to a close, Maese gave up his tennis activities momentarily so he could focus on academics. It was then that his coach suggested he check out Boise State, and three months after the initial contact, the four-star Texan committed to Coach Patton's Broncos.

Spring Signing Week '14: Mira Ruder-Hook Goes Wolverine Blue
Mira Ruder-Hook has a slight difference in opinion to the popular quote "winning isn't everything. It's the only thing." "Wins are more fun," said the senior from Denver, Colorado. "But it's the losses that have motivated me." That attitude propelled Ruder-Hook to more wins and a lofty ranking - and opened up many college options for the Blue Chip senior. Today, the Blue Chip senior announces her college decision - and it involves Blue.

Countdown: Huskies add Homegrown Blue Chip Stewart
Mitch Stewart, a blue-chip recruit from Federal Way, Wash., and owner of five USTA balls, is legendary for his patience, speed, and mental toughness. Those qualities, along with his endurance and thirst for competition, will be tested in the Fall of 2014, when he officially joins Head Coach Matt Anger's University of Washington Huskies. He signed his National Letter of Intent in November 2013.

Blue Chip Lebedev a Fighting Irish in 2015
Alexander Lebedev impressed college coaches with his focus, discipline, patience, skill and determination at the Boys' 16 Nationals in Kalamazoo, Mich. Among those who expressed interest in Lebedev, who is still a high school junior, was Notre Dame. A few months later, the blue chip junior from Island Park, New York, verbally committed to play for the Fighting Irish in 2015.

Cassandra Vazquez Joins Tar Heels' Elite Team
Cassandra Vazquez was born around the time her soccer-playing father got obsessed with playing tennis. She tagged along to the tennis courts with him, and almost 15 years later, her own passion for the sport has not only continued, it has only intensified - leading her to travel internationally playing ITF events. In the Fall of 2014, however, the 5-foot-9 righty will stay put in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to play for Coach Brian Kalbas' stellar Tar Heels squad.

Fall Signing Week '13: Thai Thompson to College of Charleston
During her freshman year, Thai Thompson joined her high school tennis team just so she could keep fit for soccer, her primary sport. Two weeks after joining in, she was hooked. Soccer became a distant memory, and four years into tennis, the righty has made a verbal commitment to play for the College of Charleston.

Fall Signing Week '13: Texan John Mee Stays In-State
John Mee is no stranger to Longhorn country, having grown up in Dallas and spending many tournament weekends in Austin. After a college search that took him to Illinois, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Arkansas, he has decided that Austin is where he wants to be for the next four years. Mee has committed to play for the University of Texas in 2014.

Fall Signing Week '13: Austin is Third Gator Blue Chip
It's a tough call for super-achieving USTA juniors: College tennis or the professional tour? For Brooke Austin, a 17-year-old from Indianapolis, Indiana, it was hardly a stretch to see herself as a fulltime WTA competitor. But after weighing the decision from all angles, Austin concluded that college tennis - and two-time NCAA champion Florida - would be the logical steppingstone to her dream of a professional tennis career.

Countdown: Karim Arem to the Big Red
Karim Arem's college plans have always been anchored on academics more than athletics, and he has always thought the Ivies represented the best education anywhere in the world. Cornell, however, had an unfair advantage: Arem's older brother, Mansour, is currently a junior there. Arem's brother encouraged him to contact Big Red coach Silviu Tanasoiu, and that suggestion proved to be the best advice given by one sibling to another.

Blue Chip Senior William Griffith Commits to Cal
"There are so many great schools in California that you can't really go wrong," William Griffith said of his decision to narrow his college choices to those in his home state. The blue chip's visits to UC Berkeley, UCLA and USC reinforced this belief, but did not make his decision easier. Having been born and raised in Fresno, however, Griffith had a natural affinity for Cal. After much thought, he accepted a verbal offer from Cal Coach Peter Wright.

Brooksby Claims First Gold in North Little Rock
Jenson "JT" Brooksby first qualified for Level-1 tournaments as a precocious nine-year-old Californian. Now, three years and thousands of practice balls later, the blue chip athlete finally owns his first gold ball in singles. On the second Saturday of August 2013 in North Little Rock, Arkansas, Brooksby defeated the fourth-seeded surprise finalist Thomas Yu, 6-3, 6-1 in the USTA Boys' 12 Nationals.

Texas Blue Chip Grant Solomon Goes Harvard Crimson
Grant Solomon reached the end of the road in his college deliberations with a regret that most prospective student-athletes would love to have: from a list of great schools, he could choose only one. Some of the top tennis programs in the country had courted the blue chip recruit from Dallas, Texas, and he saw much to like at all the schools. But in the end, the rising senior's answer was "a firm yes" for Harvard.

New York's Steven Sun shines in Winston-Salem
Steven Sun, affectionately known as "The Machine" at his club, started a bit off-kilter and got down 5-3 in the first set, and again 2-0 in the second of the 2013 National Clay Court Championship finals. Just as an engine sometimes sputters, Sun momentarily stalled, but a quick reboot allowed him to prevail over Blue Chip Brandon Nakashima 7-6(3), 6-2.

In the SPC, It's Books Over Backhands
As teenage athletes across the country turn away from the traditional brick-and-mortar education to tack on more training hours, the Southwest Preparatory Conference (SPC), the nation's largest geographical private school athletic conference with schools in Texas and Oklahoma, embraces its old-school ethic: academics before athletics.

Spring Signing Week '13: Arizona's Bhat Heads to Albuquerque's Lobos
Rachana Bhat's tennis goals have always been simple: try to win as many matches as possible, never dwell on the past, and keep focused on the future and the opportunities it presents. Playing for the sheer joy of competition and pushing herself in every match certainly has paid off - she developed skills, habits, discipline and an unrelenting will to overcome her opponents. These are among the reasons New Mexico signed her to a National Letter of Intent.

Countdown: UConn Snags Five-star Alderman
After winning the high school state championship in Mass. as a freshman, Emma Alderman faced a dilemna - should she continue to play high school tennis and defend her title, or does she move on and try to make her mark on the national stage? Alderman chose the latter, and with her five-star rating, she is one of the highest-ranked recruit that UConn has ever attracted.

Teah Flynn Organizes Groundbreaking Tennis Relay
For a 15 year old, Teah Flynn has done more community service than most adults, logging hundreds of volunteer hours raising funds for charities, walking dogs owned by disabled people, and producing PSAs. On February 9, Flynn, a two-star sophomore from Farmington, Arkansas, will host her most ambitious volunteer project so far - a Tennis Relay to raise money for genomic cancer research.

Paladin Pride: Karlee Bryde Signs with Furman
For four-star Karlee Bryde, tennis has been means of self-discovery and of strengthening family ties. Over a decade after she began playing tennis, the sport once again offered up another opportunity - a scholarship to Furman University.

Fall Signing Week '12: Thoroughbreds Join SMU Mustangs Stable
Anna Kate Anderson, Macie Elliott, and Mary Elizabeth Wright marked November 2012 as a double milestone in their young lives. Not only was it the first time for each to cast her ballot for the presidential elections, it was also the month that each affixed her signature to a National Letter of Intent to play for Head Coach Kati Gyulai's Southern Methodist University Lady Mustangs.

Fall Signing Week '12: Goldhoff is Hooked by the 'Horns
After his infamous trip to the finals of the Boys' 18 Clay Court Championships in July, George Goldhoff's phone started ringing early and often. Many top college coaches wanted to talk to the 17-year-old senior from Irvine, Calif. In the end, Goldhoff decided to head to Austin, Texas.

Countdown: Wake Forest Scores Trio of Stellar Recruits
On a stormy Saturday in early September, three high school tennis players were among the horde of screaming Wake Forest fans watching the Demon Deacons defeat North Carolina in football. Not long after, Samantha Asch, Kimmy Guerin, and Luisa Fernandez - all on official visits of Head Tennis Coach Jeff Wyshner - made verbal commitments to WFU for Fall 2013.

Sherry Thomas, a Mother with a Mission
When DJ Thomas was a toddler, his fingers clung tightly to the fence as he enviously watched his sisters hit tennis balls. "Mama, I want to do that," said the youngster. "No, little boys don't play tennis," said his mother, who thought DJ would gravitate to football and basketball like her late husband. DJ, however, has proven to his mother that yes, little boys do play tennis, and that they can get really, really good at it.

Following a Family Tradition, Robbie Bellamy Commits to USC
Robbie Bellamy has been steadily climbing the rankings over the past two years, and that rise had not gone unnoticed by coaches. After sorting through the incoming calls, the reigning 18s champion of USTA/SoCal narrowed his choices down to two: top-ranked USC or third-ranked UCLA. Bellamy ultimately committed to the reigning four-time NCAA champion Trojans.

Blair Shankle is a 2013 Baylor Lady Bear
World traveler and Blue Chip recruit Blair Shankle's family ties are so tightly knit and deeply rooted in her native state that when the time came for her to choose a college, they played a huge factor, along with academics and athletics. Baylor University, two hours from where the Shankle clan lives, fit the bill to a T and received Shankle's early verbal commitment.

Roscoe Bellamy - 2012 Little Rock Champion
Top seed Roscoe Bellamy, pushed to a third set by a 17th seeded finalist, calmly set aside the heat, humidity, fatigue, doubts, hopes and emotions that accompany a Level-1 championship match. In doing so, he overcame a spirited challenge by Danny (DJ) Thomas 7-6, 3-6, 6-2 to win the gold ball at the 2012 Hardcourts in North Little Rock.

Georgia's Bryde Reigns Supreme in Winston-Salem
In the battle of wills and forehands between a pair of blue chips, Trent Bryde of Georgia emerged victorious over Californian Roscoe Bellamy in a dazzling display of grace, athleticism, sportsmanship and maturity from each competitor in the Boys 12s Clay Court National Championships.

Makenzie Craft is Gone to the Dawgs
With her sister off to college in the fall, Makenzie Craft's motivation to pursue her own college plans intensified. She visited a host of schools, but none of them felt right. Upon the suggestion of her coach, she went south to Athens, Ga., and she found what she was looking for. Craft recently signed with the University of Georgia for Fall 2012, a year earlier than her class.

Ojai Wrapup Part II: Whittle, Ho, and Brymer Win Titles
Every spring except one since 1899, the tradition-steeped Ojai competition - the nation's oldest amateur tournament - has attracted some of the country's finest tennis players. The 2012 edition was held last weekend with more than 1,500 participants. Eli Whittle, Alison Ho, and Gage Brymer are among the newest champions.

Schaefer, Hafezi, and Pelletier Win Titles at The Ojai
Hardcore tennis competitors know it simply as "The Ojai," a rite of passage in American amateur tennis. Champions include names like King, Ashe, Connors, Austin, Chang, Sampras, and Davenport. This year, Dominique Schaefer and Arash Hafezi, and Jacqueline Pelletier can add their names to that list by winning junior titles.

Spring Signing Week '12: Mary Meyers Flies with the Falcons
In an application process that took about six months to complete, Mary Meyers breathed a sigh of relief when she turned in her completed papers to the Air Force Academy in February. A few weeks later, when Coach Kim Gidley called to say that she had been accepted, Meyers was left almost speechless.

Countdown: Husky fan Barnhart joins his Dream Team
Hudson Barnhart had long wanted to be part of Coach Matt Anger's Washington Huskies Squad, and in the fall signing season, Barnhart finally fulfilled that goal and became the first U-Dub signee for 2012-13.

Countdown: Trinh Roars with the LSU Tigers
Tam Trinh sported a white LSU cap to his first Kalamazoo Championship in 2010, when he and his partner went on a magical run as the first unseeded team in 25 years to win the 16s doubles title. In fall 2011, the five-star Trinh made his intentions official with the Tigers by signing a National Letter of Intent to play for Louisiana State University.

Top 2013 Prospect Edward Covalschi Picks Notre Dame
With college tennis as the logical denouement of his stellar USTA career, Blue Chip Edward Covalschi started looking at his options midway through his junior year of high school. He whittled down the list to his top choices: Ohio, Michigan, Cornell, Illinois, and Notre Dame. In the end, the myth and magic of the shillelagh-wielding Leprechaun and the Fighting Irish won him over.

Top 2013 Prospect Nick Wood Chooses Georgia
Late in the summer, after Nick Wood was sidelined with a stress fracture in his elbow that required surgery, he decided to use the down time to get his college search out of the way. Applying the same work ethic that has propelled him to TRN's elite Blue Chip ranks, Wood took unofficial visits and narrowed his candidates to a pair of SEC rivals: Tennessee and Georgia. Ultimately, Georgia captured his heart.

Courtney Amos to Yale
Eighteen-year-old Courtney Amos had her heart set on the Ivy League. By the end of an official visit to Yale University in September, the five-star recruit from Tucson, Arizona, had found her college home.

Fall Signing Week '11: Becker O'Shaughnessey to Alabama
Becker O'Shaughnessey was born and raised in the South. And now, just as he had planned it, that's where he'll play his college tennis starting next fall. After a search that came down to four schools - Alabama, Georgia, Georgia Tech, and N.C. State - the five-star recruit from Macon, Georgia, is poised to sign a national letter of intent to play for the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, just four hours from his home.

Fall Signing Week '11: Stephanie Nauta is Charlottesville-Bound
Stephanie Nauta has always been inspired by a single goal - to be a professional tennis player. But she is cautious about jumping to the pro ranks too quickly. "I see that I need to get stronger and have a lot to improve on," said the blue chip senior. Nauta's decision to sign an NLI with Virginia next fall is the latest triumph for advocates of college tennis as a worthy training ground for aspiring touring professionals.

Fall Signing Week '11: Redlicki Chooses the Devils
It was the sort of streak that most tennis players can only imagine. For 30 matches during the summer of 2010, Michael Redlicki was untouchable, powering his way to prestigious titles at the Claycourts and Hardcourts. That breakout run opened many doors for the big lefty from Illinois, and college coaches started calling. Now, Redlicki is poised to take the next step in his tennis journey and sign an NLI with Duke University.

Countdown: Brooke McAmis a True Maroon Cougar
As she began her college search, Brooke McAmis was told by a good friend that "when you visit a school, you'll just know." And when she went to the historic College of Charleston, she knew. It was love at first sight for the five-star athlete and she has decided to make an early commitment.

Countdown: Van Cott Twins to Tulane
Twins Alexander and Ian Van Cott began their search for a college tennis home with a simple stipulation: They were going someplace warm and sunny. The 5-star recruits from Unadilla, New York, recently took a major step toward their shared goal of playing college tennis on warm, sun-splashed days by verbally committing to attend Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Countdown: Kyle McPhillips heads West to UCLA
Kyle McPhillips can hardly wait to hit the courts in sunny Southern California as a UCLA Bruin freshman next fall. In fact, the blue-chip recruit from the Cleveland suburb of Willoughby, Ohio, is already packing her suitcase in her mind's eye.

Nolan Paige Heads to Palo Alto to Join Cardinal
As a highly prized tennis player, Nolan Paige received phone calls, letters and Facebook messages from coaches vying for his commitment. In the end, Paige succumbed to the sincerity and persistence of Head Coach John Whitlinger and recently committed to Stanford University before beginning his senior year.

Del Corral Plays Golden Encore in Little Rock
In the final stretch of a grueling 2011 summer schedule marked by record-breaking heat, Alexander del Corral emerged as the top 12-year-old boy in the U.S. by collecting his second consecutive Level 1 singles crown of the year. He defeated 2011 Clays doubles champion Nathan Perrone, 6-2, 6-2 in North Little Rock during a week of relentless rain.

Hance upsets hometown favorite in Winston-Salem
Kenneth Connor Hance, a 12-year-old Californian who once played Agassi's son in a TV ad, dashed North Carolina's dream for a three-peat when he beat Greenville's Patrick Kypson in a dominating 6-2, 6-1 finals performance at the 2011 USTA National Clay Court Championships.

2012 Commitment: Andrew Korinek a Longhorn
Last summer, seeded 5th at Texas' premier sectional tournament, Andrew Korinek blew through the 18s division to win the title, firmly establishing himself as one of the top Texas juniors of his generation. Shortly afterwards, Texas coach Michael Center offered Korinek an early scholarship. After discussion with his family, Korinek accepted - and he will be a Longhorn in the Fall of 2012.

Spring Signing Week '11: Diaz Fulfills Lifelong Dream as Buckeye
Blue Chip Christopher Diaz narrowed down his college choices to his hometown team and his father's alma mater. In the end, he opted to stay at home in Columbus and be part of Ohio State's athletics, whose tradition of sports excellence he has known for as long as he can remember.

Countdown: Wolfpack Welcomes Ronald Powell
At the start of his junior year, Ronald Powell got some alarming news - he had torn cartilage in his wrist that would require surgical repair. Two surgeries and ten months of rehab later, Powell would return to the court and start to regain his tennis form. This past fall, Powell decided to play his college tennis in Raleigh, N.C., with Coach Choboy and the N.C. State Wolfpack.

Countdown: Buell Heads Off to the Generals
During her junior year in 2009, Meghan Buell and her partner won the Ohio state doubles title. That caught the attention of several college coaches, including Eric Ishida, head coach at Washington and Lee. In early 2011, after a phone call and an official visit, Buell verbally committed to the Generals.

Favorites and Unseeded Texan Win in Tucson
Four athletes who train at USTA High Performance Centers - three are 12 years old and one is 13 - claimed the top prizes in Tucson, which was ravaged by rain and cold during the Winter National's final rounds. The Girls 12s champion, Sofia Kenin, won five matches on New Year's Day. Kenin, Stefan Kozlov and unseeded Maria Smith train at the High Performance Center in Boca Raton. William Blumberg trains at the Flushing Meadows facility.

In Scottsdale, Top Girls Prevail, Upsets in Boys
In the last major junior championship of 2010, three Californians and a New Yorker left Arizona with top honors. In the Girls 18s, No. 1 Gabrielle Andrews beat Kyle McPhillips, and in the 16s Jamie Loeb took both sets over No. 2 Christina Makarova. No. 8 seed Thomas Pura upset No. 1 Sean Karl in the Boys 16s, while No. 15 Eric Johnson, losing the first set at love, came back to win the 18s over No. 17 Anthony Tsodikov.

Fall Signing Week '10: New Yorker Tahir Bound for Durham
The very modest Jason Tahir didn't think he was good enough to make the Duke team so he set his eyes elsewhere. This week, however, the blue-chip recruit, whose tennis skills and accomplishments speak louder than the young man himself, will sign a Letter of Intent with the Blue Devils.

Fall Signing Week '10: Withrow an Aggie in Maroon and White
College could not come any sooner for Jackson Withrow, the nation's 10th-ranked player. The blue-chip recruit from Cornhusker country has committed to play for the Aggies of A&M and is scheduled to be in Texas by January 2011.

Fall Signing Week '10: Chappell to the Horned Frogs
After a flurry of college coaches came knocking on his door, Nick Chappell finally narrowed his choice to the last two. The seventh-ranked junior's ultimate goal is to play and succeed on the professional tennis circuit. His college choice came down to who can best help him achieve that goal. The man for the job, he thought, was David Roditi, the newly-hired coach of the TCU Horned Frogs and former junior Davis Cup captain.

Fall Signing Week '10: Amber Li a Yale Bulldog
Five-star recruit Amber Li had just returned from an official visit when the phone rang in her Tampa, Fla., home. It was Danielle McNamara, the women's coach at Yale University, calling to arrange a visit during a family trip to Florida. Yale was already one of Li's top college choices. And a few days after her dinner with Coach McNamara, it was Li's only choice.

Countdown: Like Jensen, 2011 Orange Have Star Power
Luke Jensen arrived at Syracuse University in 2006 with an ambitious vision for the women's tennis program: He wanted his players to become serious contenders on the pro circuit, but also leave with an academic degree that provided a future after their playing careers. With things playing out according to script, Jensen has received verbal commitments from four highly-ranked seniors that are at the same time dazzled by his star power - and not cowed by his demanding program.

Countdown: Jeremiah a Cowgirl
Mary Jeremiah's college invitations would turn almost anyone green with envy. But, after checking out colleges throughout the South Central and Southeastern United States, the blue chip senior decided to wear the orange and black of a Cowgirl.

Countdown: Koch in Garnet and Black
Although seventeen-year-old Kyle Koch headed into his senior year of high school with a solid tennis resume, the 6-foot-3 South Carolinian expected stiff competition for a coveted NCAA Division-I tennis scholarship. But Koch's big game had caught the eye of Josh Goffi, the recently-hired coach at South Carolina. Within weeks of Goffi's arrival, Koch announced his verbal commitment to stay in-state and play for the Gamecocks.

Lone Star Excellence
While the world's best tennis players battled it out at the USTA National Tennis Center in New York City over Labor Day weekend, top Texas juniors squared off in suburban Dallas in the semi-annual showdown known as the Excellence. A future Baylor Bear took the title in the Girls 18s, while a pair of qualifiers punched through to the finals of the Boys 18s.

With Flourish, Levine Strikes Gold In Little Rock
After competing mostly in the 14s, Robert Levine wanted to test his skills against his peers one last time. At the Clay Courts last month, he won doubles gold and lost by a hair in the semis in singles. Last week, he added a singles gold ball, overcoming Clay Courts runner up and fourth seed Nathan Ponwith 6-3, 6-2.

Tarheel Hero Kodali Takes 12s Clays
Down a set and 5-3, Anudeep Kodali was unflustered. He pumped himself up, moved his feet and used his ever-reliable forehand to put away the few short balls that came his way. In a 200-minute match with many momentum swings, the North Carolina native emerged victorious. He won his first USTA gold ball at the Boys 12s Claycourts National Championships 4-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(6).

Nicholas Baez: Bienvenidos a Barcelona
Nicholas Baez could not have imagined that a leisurely European vacation would drastically change the course of his young life. In July 2010, Baez and his mother will move to Spain so he can train full-time at the Academia Sanchez-Casal in Barcelona. Ali Jones talked with the Baez family about this significant move.

Tucker Tennis Sends off Eight Seniors to Division I
Trent Tucker wants to regain Tulsa's old glory. Tulsa was once known as the "Oil Capital of the World" with numerous gushers spitting oil. But Tucker is not digging for black gold. Instead, he's planting seeds of tennis. His 2010 harvest has been bountiful: eight of his students have signed on to play Division I tennis - to Cornell, Duke, Florida, Iowa, Marquette, Oklahoma, OSU and UMKC.

Kyle McPhillips, Gordon Watson have Golden Easter Bowl
Kyle McPhillips and Gordon Watson each have a collection of gold balls at home from winning national titles. This past weekend, they both added to their collections - capturing titles in the 16s division of the Easter Bowl Championships in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

Gabrielle Andrews and Jordan Belga take gold in 14s Easter Bowl
Blue Chip athletes Gabrielle Andrews and Jordan Belga both laid claim to Easter Bowl Championships this past weekend in California in the 14s division. Their marquee matchups against Kimberly Yee and Stefan Kozlov, respectively, had plenty of drama - with both matches going to three sets.

Spring Signing Week '10: Aaron Pfister to Michigan State
To tennis aficionados around Flint, Michigan, Aaron Pfister is a familiar name. His two consecutive state singles championships resulted in him being named "Mr. Tennis" by the Michigan High School Tennis Coaches Association - and Player of the Year by The Flint Journal for the second straight year. Next year, Pfister will be in Green and White as a Michigan State Spartan.

Spring Signing Week '10: Courter an OSU Cowgirl
From the rich vein running through Georgia's tennis landscape that produces top-quality gems, another sparkler from Lawrenceville has been unearthed. Five-star Julia Courter is off to Stillwater, Oklahoma, for further polishing.

Spring Signing Week '10: Joey Fritz to Amherst
Joey Fritz is a modern-day Renaissance man. An excellent student, pianist, and tennis player, the five-star recruit makes sure his life is in balance and has his priorities set: school always comes first. When it came time to pick colleges, he gravitated toward smaller schools with strong academic traditions. Fritz selected Amherst as his college destination.

Countdown: Mamalat a Marquette Golden Eagle
When 5-Star senior Daniil Mamalat finished up his junior year, he started to look around at colleges - including Indiana, Penn State, and Marquette. The more he learned about Marquette, the better he liked it. Finally, he signed on.

American Andrews brings home European trophies
Blue chip Gabrielle Andrews barely had time to return to her California home to rest on her 2009 Winter Nationals laurels. Almost immediately, the 13-year-old champion was on the road again, representing the United States in two of the most prestigious European junior tournaments: Aegon Teen Tennis and Les Petit As. That trip was a very successful one.

Conversation with Oklahoma Coach David Mullins
Sooners Women's Head Coach David Mullins recently signed the top two players in Oklahoma: Whitney Ritchie and Mia Lancaster. Both women are five-star recruits with impressive singles resumes. Even more stellar are their doubles credentials. They attend the same high school and as a pair share five national doubles titles and a state title.

Copper Bowl Wrapup - 12s and 14s
On the first week of 2010 new arrivals and competitors from the previous week's Winter Nationals converged at the Hilton El Conquistador in Oro Valley for the annual Copper Bowl. In the younger divisions, Girls 14s top seed Dasha Ivanova upheld her ranking and lost only one game in the finals. Two seed Parris Todd and five seed Liam Caruana upset the top seeds in their 12s division; and Boys 14s third seed Augustus Ge prevailed over the two-seed.

Winter Nationals Part I - 12s and 14s
The first day of 2010 was picture perfect for tennis in Tucson. The top-seeded players for all four divisions came through all the way in straight-sets victories in the finals. By noon on New Year's Day, Alexandra Letzt, Gabrielle Andrews, Spencer Furman and Gage Brymer each was crowned singles champion.

Top Two Oklahomans Sooners To Be
Sooners Coach David Mullins didn't need to look far from Norman for his 2010 recruits: he recently signed the top two women in Oklahoma - Mia Lancaster and Whitney Ritchie.

Q&A with Carlos Brandon Florez
For freshman Carlos Brandon Florez, opportunity came knocking almost as soon as he donned the Saluki maroon and white in fall 2009. The number one player of the team graduated and the next in line was out with an injury. Ali Jones caught up with Florez during the holiday break to talk tennis, school, and his new life away from his family.

Fall Signing Week '09: Katz Chooses the Quakers
Five-star recruit Zachary Katz has made the decision to head East to play college tennis for the Pennsylvania Quakers. His coach, the legendary Rick Macci, thinks it is a great fit. Zach is very bright and will get a super education," Macci said. "He can be a top Ivy League singles and doubles player right away."

Fall Signing Week '09: Kosakowski Decides
The pull of a close-knit family and a university's athletic and academic tradition made Daniel Kosakowski's college choice easy. The native Californian with strong Polish roots will stay in Los Angeles and don the blue and gold of the UCLA Bruins.

Fall Signing Week '09: Mira to the Commodores
Maria Mira, with her grit, determination, and serve-and-volley game is heading to Tennessee next fall to wear the black and gold of the Vanderbilt Commodores. "I chose Vanderbilt based on the following factors: the small student population, its academic excellence and topnotch tennis program with a great coaching staff and its beautiful campus in the heart of Nashville."

Fall Signing Week '09: Hold That Hilsman
Five-star recruit Cal Hilsman will officially don the orange-and-white jersey at Clemson this coming January, and he can't wait for the day to come. "It was a no-brainer," he said about his decision to go to Clemson, less than two hours from his home in Spartanburg, S.C. "It just felt right. I really think that this is the best environment for me to grow not only as a tennis player but as a person. It is close to home and close to heart."

Countdown: Smyth to the 'Cats
Blue Chip Lacey Smyth had numerous suitors vying for her commitment: Colorado, Pepperdine, San Diego and Washington. Ultimately, her heart went to Arizona. "I chose Arizona [because of its] supportive coaching staff, the cohesiveness of the team, and the career opportunities available at the University," said the #3-ranked Californian.

Countdown: Hanna Mar Remains a Devil
Hanna Mar's college mascot will be no different from her high school's, except for its color: she's trading her Hinsdale Central Red Devils for Duke University's Blue Devils. "I visited a number of schools and there was just a feeling I had at Duke," said Mar.

Lauren Davis defends 16s crown, extends win streak to 39
Lauren Davis has a shelf-load of trophies at home, including the fourth USTA gold ball that she earned at the 2009 Girls 16s National Hardcourt Championships this week. But trophies are not what drive Lauren to play tennis. She loves to compete more than anything else. This year, the Ohio native returned to San Diego to defend her title and earn another shot at the U.S. Open wild card that goes to the winner.

Wiersholm Prevails in All-Washington Marathon Finals
A mere 20 days after Henrik Wiersholm flew home with the doubles gold ball from the 2009 National Claycourt Championships, he added another two: both singles and doubles gold from the Boys 12s National Hardcourt Championships in North Little Rock, Arkansas. Blue-chip recruit and third-seed Henrik defeated fellow Washington state native and sixth-seed Spencer Furman 7-5, 5-7, 7-6, in a match that lasted almost four hours.

Charlotte Calhoun to SMU
Rising senior Charlotte Calhoun has made an early verbal commitment to Southern Methodist University, a private liberal arts college located in a quiet, tree-lined suburb hemmed in by the sprawling city of Dallas - and a stone's throw from Calhoun's childhood home. Ali Jones talks with Calhoun about her decision.

Jarmere Jenkins Chooses Virginia
The Jenkins family is all about tennis - particularly of the college variety. The oldest Jenkins child, Jackie Jr., played for Northwestern. Jarmaine played for Clemson. Terrance and Richard are in college in Atlanta and play the local circuit. Deangelo is on his high school tennis team. Now the family is preparing for another fall sendoff - Jarmere has signed a National Letter of Intent with the Virginia Cavaliers and has the hallowed Grounds of Charlottesville all abuzz.

Spring Signing Week '09: Bartnik In Like a Lion
Like many highly-ranked tennis players, Nicole Bartnik has traveled extensively throughout the world. The people she's met, the countries she's visited and the memories she holds dear have helped shape her college choice. Bartnik has chosen to get a bite out of the Big Apple, the city that never sleeps - she recently committed to Columbia University.

Spring Signing Week '09: Bernstein Rides the Green Wave
In 2005 the world looked on in horror as the floodwaters and winds of Hurricane Katrina swept through the historic city of New Orleans. The devastation is still evident four years later, but so is a renewed spirit of resurrection. Adam Bernstein, Florida five-star standout, wants to be part of that rebuilding in his own way. He signed a National Letter of Intent to play for Tulane University.

Spring Signing Week '09: Welnetz a Nittany Lion
Bryan Welnetz has become somewhat of a legend in South Texas' tennis landscape. As a junior in high school in 2008, he won the 5A state singles championships. A 5-Star recruit who is ranked #2 in the Texas 18s, Welnetz signed a National Letter of Intent last fall to wear the Nittany Lions' blue and white in 2009-10.

Spring Signing Week '09: Doerfler Knight
Five-star recruit Jenna Doerfler is methodical, orderly and organized. When it came to the college recruiting process, she kept a list of questions for college coaches. After each session, she would write down their answers and her thoughts. She learned a lot about herself in the process - including that there is no place like home: Jenna will stay in-state and, wear the black and gold of Central Florida like her parents.

Countdown: Irving Bears Down at Arizona
Before Kelly Irving can answer her phone, "Bear Down Arizona" beckons the caller to leave a message. Bear Down, of course, is the fight song for the University of Arizona in Tucson. The Knoxville product chose the Wildcats over Auburn and William & Mary

Countdown: Lampa in the Eye of the Red Storm
Five-star recruit Michael Lampa (Ocean, N.J.) has grit, determination, and an endless quest for excellence. Those attributes have swept him up in the eye of the Storm - the Red Storm, that is, of St. John's University.

Blue Chip Burdette Decides
In 2008, Blue Chip athlete Mallory Burdette racked up thousands in frequent-flier miles playing her ITF schedule. Enjoying travel, competition and camaraderie among the players, Mallory seriously thought about going on the professional circuit. Despite the her success and the lure of the pro circuit, she finally decided that college was the best way to go.

Fall Signing Week '08: Cyclone Jenna
After considering Missouri, Wyoming and Gonzaga, Jenna Langhorst has committed to Iowa State for one reason: Coach Armando Espinosa. "He has already impacted the tennis program a lot," says the 4-Star senior. Ali Jones talked with Langhorst about her decision process.

Fall Signing Week '08: Wilson Geauxs to LSU
Ebie Wilson will take heat, humidity and hurricanes any day. After all, she has lived all her life on Alabama's Gulf Coast. In looking for colleges, she narrowed down her choices to Alabama and LSU, which are both within easy driving distance from her home in Mobile. Her sister is a sophomore at Alabama and while that would have been convenient for the family for Ebie to join her, Ebie chose LSU instead.

Fall Signing Week '08: Dunkle to Samford
Coach Kemper Baker and the Samford Bulldogs kicked off their recruiting season by crossing state lines into Georgia for 4-Star recruit Zachary Dunkle of Atlanta. Dunkle will join a Samford squad that won a conference title in its final year in the Ohio Valley Conference - and one now hoping to make noise in the Southern Conference.

Countdown: Sam Wells to Vanderbilt
Sam Wells couldn't help but notice the man in the Vanderbilt shirt who was watching his match against Charlie Jones at the 2008 National Clay Court Championships. It was Vanderbilt Coach Ian Duvenhage who was actually watching Sam's opponent, a new Vanderbilt recruit. A few months later, Coach Duvenhage offered Sam a spot on the Vanderbilt team.

Countdown: Chris Cha to Michigan
Chris Cha has always enjoyed the big stage in Kalamazoo, Michigan. After his junior year, he received offers from Stanford, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Princeton. In the end, the 5-Star senior chose to go to Ann Arbor, not too far from where his favorite Kalamazoo takes place.

Countdown: Kline Chooses the Paladins
Lauren Kline grew up on the tennis court - literally. For as long as she can remember, Lauren has been hitting tennis balls and toddling on-court. That's because her parents are both accomplished tennis players as well as teaching professionals. Needless to say, tennis is the family business and Lauren is a major investor and stockholder who is expanding the franchise from Louisville to Greenville, where she will soon join the Paladins of Furman University.

Spring Signing Week '08: Demos Heading to Drake
Four-star recruit Gabriela Demos is the top-ranked player in Missouri and 134 in her TennisRecruiting class. Her champion's heart and athletic skills got Demos on TennisRecruting's Hot 100 list in 2006. Back then, she made it her goal to attend a university and represent it on the tennis court. That goal has been achieved: Demos has committed to Drake University.

Spring Signing Week '08: Kargl Chooses the Tribe
For five-star recruit Katie Kargl, team spirit and school size mattered most. When she visited The College of William and Mary, however, she found a group of women in a small school setting who played topnotch tennis, who hit the books just as hard, and who enjoyed each other as friends off court, very much like Kargl herself.

Countdown: Herzberg Heads for the Bears
Five-star recruit Cassandra Herzberg is a young woman who is not afraid to leave her comfort zones. Herzberg, a sun-spoiled Florida native, is going to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where temperatures hover in the 40s on a nice winter day.

Countdown: Clausen Stays In-State
Neil Clausen plays the piano and loves chess. He's a voracious reader and an outstanding student. And, he also happens to be a five-star tennis recruit. Rollins College may have struck gold with this multi-talented teen-ager.

Shankle Takes Maureen Connolly Brinker Championship
On the eve of St. Patrick's Day, Blue Chip Blair Shankle (Comfort, Texas) held off a fierce opponent in Ellie Yates (Ridgeland, Mississippi) 7-6, 6-0 to win the Maureen Connolly Brinker Girl's 14s National Championships in Dallas.

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Colette Lewis has covered topflight junior events as a freelance journalist for over a decade. Read her weekly column, follow her on Twitter, and and find more of her daily commentary at ZooTennis.

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