Clayton State player earns regional honors

From staff reports

Clayton College & State University's Nathalia Collantes finished the 2003 women's tennis season with a perfect 16-0 singles record, and awards recognizing her superb play continue to pour in for the school's all-time singles winner.

Collantes, a junior from Bucaramanga, Colombia, has been named the NCAA Division II Mid-Atlantic Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) "Player to Watch" for 2003.

The ITA "Player to Watch" award goes to a player who has an outstanding season and is expected to perform at a high level the rest of his or her career.

This award's criteria also includes a player's sportsmanship and character.

The nation's 24th ranked player, Collantes enjoyed the best single season in Clayton history in 2003. She knocked off several of the country's top-ranked players, including a win over Georgia College & State University's Mia Paavilainen 7-5; 7-6; Division II's 15th-ranked player.

Paavilainen, an All-America candidate, led the Lady Bobcats to the NCAA Division II National Championship semifinals last weekend.

Another one of Collantes' top victories this season came against Emory University's Margaret Moscarto, Division III's 35th-ranked player; 7-5 and 6-2. The Eagles, ranked No. 1 in the country, are the favorite to win the NCAA Division III National Championship later this week.

Collantes has a career 58-14 record in singles play, the school's best all-time singles mark.

Last month, she was named to the Peach Belt All-Conference team and earlier this season was named PBC Player of the Week on two different occasions.

In addition to receiving the ITA Mid-Atlantic Region award in singles, Collantes and doubles teammate Jackeline Nieto have a good shot at being named Division II All-America in doubles.

Ranked fourth in the country, the duo finished the regular season with a 16-2 overall record and won 13 straight matches to close the season.

Their top victories came against GC&SU's Luiza Biktyakova and Paavilainen, who were once ranked second in the country in doubles.

The Clayton State duo defeated the highly touted GC&SU duo 8-5 during the regular season and 9-7 in the Peach Belt Conference Tournament.

Nieto and Collantes, who hold Clayton State's all-time best record in doubles play at 56-17, also had victories over Valdosta State's Eva Petschnig and Annika Biro, the 20th-ranked team, 8-2; and Rollins' Vanessa Caddick and Prieto, the fifth-ranked team, 8-4.

The 2003 Division II All-America singles and doubles teams will be announced in the coming weeks.

Nieto, a junior from Caracas, Venezuela, ranked 13th in singles, has a good chance of receiving the All-America honors for the second straight season in singles.

A player must be ranked in the top-20 in the final ITA rankings to be a NCAA Division II All-America in singles, while to be named in doubles, a team must be ranked in the top 10 in the final doubles poll.