Elyse Lavender

Tennis player Elyse Lavender makes national tournament

Nov 6, 2019
Kathryne Davis

In less than a semester at Brenau University, Elyse Lavender is already making history as a member of the tennis team.

Lavender, a sophomore from Boynton Beach, Florida, is the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics representative at the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships from Nov. 6-10 in Newport Beach, California.

To make it into the tournament, Lavender defeated No. 1 seed Maria Genovese from Georgia Gwinnett College in the NAIA ITA Cup Championship after losing to her a few weeks earlier in the ITA regional championship finals. Despite the initial loss, she earned an at-large bid to the ITA Cup and the chance for the rematch.

“I knew that she wanted to win,” Brenau head tennis coach Andre Ferreira said. “She was training pretty hard. She was preparing herself and getting into the zone. This has been a goal of hers to advance to the tournament in California.”

The championships include 64 of the best college tennis players in the country with four coming from NCAA Divisions II and III, the NAIA and junior college. The rest of the players are from Division I. Lavender’s success in October earned her UTR/ITA National Player of the Month for the NAIA. Ferreira and Athletic Director Mike Lochstampfor believe she is the first from Brenau to be in this tournament since Antonina (Grib) Lerch in 2002.

“This was my goal before I even started the season,” Lavender said about playing in the tournament. “I already knew about the tournament and how to get there. I had gotten to my first goal by getting to nationals. After nationals, my goal was to win it so I could go to the fall championships.”

Lavender had a connection to Brenau long before she came to campus. She has known Ferreira since she was in elementary school and began hitting with him when he was a member of the Berry College tennis team. When she was 8, Lavender’s coach and father Jim reached out to Ferreira’s coach at Berry to see if anyone could practice with her. This continued for two years until the Lavenders moved out of state. The Lavenders and Ferreira kept in touch over the years.

After starting her college tennis career at Louisiana State University, Lavender realized the school wasn’t a good fit and started taking classes at Montreat College, where her father coached at the time. He decided to not go back to Montreat and contacted Ferreira to see if he had a spot on the Brenau team for his daughter. Jim Lavender is now a volunteer coach at Brenau.

“So after 13-14 years, we’re back together,” Ferreira said.

Brenau’s official season is in the spring, although they did play a match this fall season against Milligan College, which resulted in a 6-1 win for the Golden Tigers. Ferreira said Lavender will help the team improve on last season, when they won the Appalachian Athletic Conference championship for the second year in a row.

“It brings a little bit of recognition from other players and opponents,” Ferreira said of Lavender making the tournament. “I think the team is excited because we know we have a player on our team that’s really going to help us this year. When it comes to the spring season, it’s going to be difficult to beat her.”

Lavender faces Holly Hutchinson from Old Dominion University Wednesday, Nov. 6, at 5 p.m. eastern time. Live results can be found at scores.tennisticker.de/usa/ita/sb.html?tournid=4483.