GREENSBORO - Senior captain Azeib Nigatu knows she is getting close to the end. She knows the opportunity to play in the MEAC women's tennis tournament is down to one. She also knows, as the team captain, it is her job to make sure her teammates are ready for that opportunity.
On Saturday, the Aggies lost to conference foe Bethune-Cookman 7-0 at the Piedmont Indoor Tennis Center. The Aggies are now 2-12 overall and 1-4 in the MEAC. B-CU improved to 18-5 overall and 3-0 in the conference. The Aggies need Norfolk State (7-10, 1-3) to lose to Savannah State at home on Monday because the Spartans' 4-3 win over A&T on Feb. 17 gives them the tiebreaker advantage between the two schools.
If SSU beats NSU, then Nigatu's final chance to advance to the MEAC tournament held on April 13-15, comes on Monday, April 9 when the Aggies play a home match against N.C. Central at 3 p.m. Nigatu, who lost to B-CU's Chinatsu Kajiwara 6-1, 6-1, takes her role as the Aggies' leader seriously.
As the leader, she has had to be the biggest advocate for making sure the team stays motivated, gets support from fans and sets the example for future team captains.
"It's difficult," Nigatu said about being the captain. "You have to show a lot of spirit for your school. You have to show a lot of heart and a lot of pride so you know and they know how you feel about what is at hand, especially when we're playing in a tennis match. We don't get a lot of support from the outside community, so we have to encourage each other."
Nigatu would love to have the support of the outside community, which she defines as locals, peers, faculty and staff. The Aggies have two remaining home games, the match against NCCU and an April 4 contest against Winston-Salem State at 2 p.m.
"It would help us play a little harder knowing someone is out there who actually cares," said Nigatu.
The Aggies should garner more support once they move their matches back on campus. This season they had to play their home matches at the Piedmont Indoor Tennis Center facility at 21 Oak Branch Dr., # B off West Wendover Avenue while renovations are being made to the Lady Aggies Tennis Center. Regardless of where the tennis team is playing in future years, Nigatu plans to support the team even if no one else does.
"It will be hard on me if we don't make the tournament this year," she said. "My first two years we made it, so it would be difficult to take because it is my last chance. If I don't make it, I'm always going to be here to cheer on (Aggie tennis) teams that are playing 5, 10 years from now. I want to see them make it (to the tournament). Life goes on.
Nigatu's future life includes psychology. She is a psychology major who plans to work in industrial and organizational psychology. Industrial and organizational psychology is the study of employees, workplaces and organizations. Nigatu plans to get her master's in that field.
In the meantime, she has at least three matches remaining in her career as the Aggies travel to Farmville, Va., to face Longwood University Saturday, April 7 at 2:30 p.m. But there was always more to her presence on the tennis team than just hitting ground strokes and volleys.
"A leader is someone who steps up and shows everyone how it is done - on and off the tennis court," said Nigatu. "You have to set an example for the underclassmen so they know the example to continue setting for those who are coming underneath them."
Tennis Match Results
Bethune-Cookman vs North Carolina A&T
Mar 31, 2012 at Greensboro, N.C.
Bethune-Cookman 7, North Carolina A&T 0
1. SZABOOVA,Katrina (BCU) def. CROSS, Cayla (NCATW) 6-3, 6-1
2. ROBAKIDZE,Gvansta (BCU) def. COLBERT, Kenya (NCATW) 6-1, 6-0
3. KAJIWARA,Chinatsu (BCU) def. NIGATU, Azeib (NCATW) 6-1, 6-1
4. SPELLER,Stacy (BCU) def. STALLING, Kimberly (NCATW) 6-1, 6-2
5. PETERSON-PAUL,S. (BCU) def. AUSTIN, Victorea (NCATW) 6-1, 6-0
6. CHINCHILLA,Gaby (BCU) def. BURRAGE, April (NCATW) 6-0, 6-1
1. ROBAKIDZE,Gvansta/SZABOOVA,Katrina (BCU) def. CROSS, Cayla/NIGATU, Azeib (NCATW) 8-5
2. KAJIWARA,Chinatsu/CHINCHILLA,Gaby (BCU) def. HENRY, Nianna/STALLING, Kimberly (NCATW) 8-5
3. BURRAGE, April/COLBERT, Kenya (NCATW) def. GONZALES,Nancy/RODRIGUEZ,Laura (BCU) 8-3