Tennis players find a fit at Texas A&M

By Nancy Morgan, Times Sports Correspondent
Published February 24, 2008

Choosing to play their college tennis at Texas A&M was an easy decision for Morgan Frank (American Online School) of Dunedin and Christi Liles (Saddlebrook Prep) of Largo.

Both were impressed with the Aggies' campus and facilities and felt especially comfortable with their future teammates and coach. Liles entered school during the summer, and Frank did last month.

"My dad attended here, so that certainly played a role in my decision, plus I loved the team and coaches," said Liles, 19. "A big thing, too, was they have my major, construction science, and not many schools do.

"I've always set high expectations for myself, so I expected to come in and contribute to the team."

Liles hit the court swinging and played to a 10-3 singles record in the fall season, and she was 10-3 in doubles.

"Christi comes in with a lot of success in juniors, winning gold balls in doubles," coach Bobby Kleinecke said. "She also was one of our biggest surprises from the fall based on how she came in and took control of singles. The thing that I'm really counting on is that when we begin playing matches, that will bring the best out of her in both singles and doubles, when she is side by side with her teammates."

Frank, who reached a top 20 national ranking in the 16-under and 18 age divisions and was in the top five in Florida, knew she was capable of playing at the college level and was eager to do so at a Division I school.

"I took a semester off and was lucky Coach got back in touch with me," said Frank, 18. "I expected to do pretty well at first because I felt more relaxed and was really enjoying the team atmosphere. The team support is the best thing ever. In juniors, it's just you, but here it's all about team."

Frank describes her singles game as that of an aggressive grinder and relies on her speed and stepping in to hit balls with confidence.

"Although Morgan is joining us in January, she is a blue-chip recruit who has beaten many talented players," Kleinecke said. "She brings fire and a wealth of athleticism to the court ... she is willing to do whatever it takes to win a match."

Frank earned her first collegiate player of the week honor after winning both her singles matches in straight sets at the No. 5 spot against No. 74 Rice and No. 34 LSU. Up to last week, Frank was 4-0 in singles and had given up just three games overall.

All-around court player Liles, who hits two-handed off the backhand and forehand, defends the No. 4 singles spot and No. 1 doubles with senior Tiffany Clifford from Arkansas.

In the 28th-ranked Aggies' first four matches, Liles has posted a 3-1 record in singles and doubles.

Frank is 2-0 in doubles with partner Stephanie Davidson of Texas.

More tennis: Sophomore Lindsey Davis (Tarpon Springs) has competed in the No. 5 singles and No. 3 doubles for Methodist University in North Carolina.

Track: Two-sport freshman Russell Snyder (Northeast) raced to a school record for Embry-Riddle in the 3,000 meters with a time of 8:56.00 in its invitational.

Diving: Junior Austin Hampton (Admiral Farragut) won the 1-meter dive for North Carolina State against Maryland and was second on the 1- and 3-meter boards in a loss to North Carolina. The ACC Championships were to be this weekend.

Swimming: Claire Thompson (Admiral Farragut) won the 1,000 freestyle and the 500 free and tied for first in the 200 free in South Carolina's loss to Florida State. Twin Christine (Admiral Farragut) came in second in the 1,000 free.

- Freshman Kylie Kastes (Countryside) swam a personal best in the 200 butterfly with a time of 2:09.37 for Arkansas against Auburn. Twin Katie (Countryside) was third in the 200 IM in a matchup with Vanderbilt.

Softball: USF senior outfielder Kit Dunbar (Countryside/Western Kentucky) connected for an RBI single in the sixth inning to help the Bulls beat No. 5 Tennessee 4-1.

- Sophomore Tara Toscano (Palm Harbor University) added a hit in USF's victory over Tennessee.

Soccer: Goalkeeper Zac MacMath of St. Petersburg (Bradenton Academy) and center midfielder Anthony Wallace (Lakewood/USF) are eligible for consideration to join the 2008 Olympic team.

MacMath recently signed with Maryland to play Division I soccer, and Wallace made his professional debut last year with FC Dallas in Major League Soccer.