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Gandia nets ITA honors

From staff reports

Clayton College & State University's freshman tennis player Julia Gandia splashed onto the NCAA Division II scene this spring, defeating a number of the nation's top-ranked players and her accomplishments did not go unnoticed by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.

Gandia was named Wednesday the NCAA Division II's "Rookie of the Year" by the ITA. She becomes the second Clayton State women's tennis player to receive a national ITA award, as former three-time All-America Jackeline Nieto received the 2002 ITA "Player to Watch Award."

A 5-7 freshman from Almansa, Spain, Gandia finished the season ranked sixth in the nation in the ITA singles poll, the highest ranking of any player in Clayton State history. She will more than likely receive All-America honors, as the top-20 singles players in NCAA Division II receive the honor later this year. Earlier this season, she was named the Peach Belt Conference Freshman of the Year, as well as a member of the All-Conference team. She finished the season with a 16-2 record in singles and had several impressive wins, 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. Gandia's only losses on the season came when she was forced to retire in a match against a player from NCAA Division I St. Louis University due to an ankle sprain and to Armstrong Atlantic State's Luisa Cowper, the nation's fourth-ranked player. In addition to her superb play in singles, Gandia also teamed with Julia Chergova to compile a 14-4 record in doubles. The duo finished the season ranked third in the nation in doubles and also has a good shot at All-America honors. As a team, Clayton State finished the season with a 12-10 record, ranked 31st in the country. The Laker season came to an end in the NCAA Division II Mid-Atlantic Regionals, the fourth time in the last five years, the program has competed in the NCAA National Tennis Championships.