From staff reports
Clayton College & State University's "one-two" tennis punch of Julia Gandia and Julia Chergova were recognized last week among the top tennis players for 2005 in the Peach Belt Conference.
Gandia, a 5-7 freshman from Almansa, Spain, became the first Laker tennis player to receive Peach Belt Freshman of the Year honors and the fourth to receive All-Conference recognition. She currently has a 15-2 record in singles, falling only to Armstrong Atlantic State University's Lusia Cowper, the nation's fourth-ranked player, and in a match when she had to retire due to an ankle injury.
Ranked sixth nationally in singles, Gandia has a good shot of becoming Clayton's State second All-America tennis player in singles. The nation's top 15 players in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings receive All-America honors. Former Laker standout Jackeline Nieto was a three-time All-America in singles from 2002-04.
Gandia has several impressive wins on the season, including a win over Columbus State University's Diana Gherghi, the nation's third-ranked singles player, and also a win over the nation's eighth-ranked player in Nicole Pilkat from the University of West Florida.
In addition to receiving All-Conference honors in singles, Clayton State's No. 1 doubles team of Gandia and Chergova were also named to the All-Peach Belt team. The doubles team has a 13-4 record on the season and is currently ranked third in the nation in doubles.
The duo has several big wins on the season, including victories over AASU's Cowper and Peaty, the nation's fourth-ranked team; North Florida's Lilia Hung and Julie Stoppelli, the nation's 15th-ranked team; and a victory over the 18th ranked team of GCSU's Anya Shchupak and Celine Martin.
The doubles team also has a good shot at receiving All-America honors as the top five doubles teams in the ITA rankings receive the honor. Clayton State's doubles team of Nieto and Nathalia Collantes received the honor twice from 2003-04.
As a team, 28th-ranked Clayton State is 12-9 on the season and is waiting word on whether it will receive a bid to NCAA Division II National Tennis Championships in May from the Mid-Atlantic Regional. The top eight teams from the region advance to the event. Clayton State was ranked eighth in the last regional poll but should jump ahead of at least one team in the poll, as the Lakers have defeated the University of South Carolina Aiken, who is ranked ahead of CCSU, twice since the last poll.
Gandia's Freshman of the Year honor is the third time this athletic season that a female from Clayton State Athletics has received the Peach Belt Freshman of the Year award. Freshman soccer player Olaitan Yusuf was named PBC Freshman of the Year after leading the nation in scoring and freshman cross country runner Allison Kreutzer was named PBC Freshman of the Year, as well as PBC Runner of the Year, after winning the PBC meet and later finishing second in the country at the NCAA National Championships.