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International Foes Are Not A Problem For Cross

Courtesy: NC A&T Sports Information
          Release: 03/04/2012
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Junior Cayla Cross is accustomed to playing against international competition. Photo by Kevin L. Dorsey
Courtesy: NC A&T Sports Information
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GREENSBORO - Delaware State was able to beat North Carolina A&T 7-0 Saturday afternoon in women's tennis action. Before the two teams played, Delaware State junior Kristen Lopez walked into the Piedmont Indoor Tennis Center and with a deep island accent yelled the name "Cayla."  

"Who is calling my name?" asked Cayla Cross, the North Carolina A&T junior tennis player out of Bermuda.

"I'm calling your name," Lopez returned as the two shared a reunion moment once Cross figured out who was calling her name. The two hadn't seen each other since they were 14 years old. But their friendship picked up where it left off.

These types of reunions happen to Cross frequently. The 21-square foot island of Bermuda is so tiny; Cross didn't get an opportunity to play for her high school. Instead, she played for youth travel teams in Bermuda, which allowed her to travel all over the Caribbean.  

Before coming to A&T, she has played in Guatemala, Saint Vincent, Barbados and the Bahamas. She has even played outside of the Islands, in places such as Greece, New York and Miami. Therefore, playing against international competition is nothing new for Cross.

"You get to meet a lot of people," said Cross about her travels. "You get to experience a lot of different cultures, and you make lifelong friends. It really prepared me."

Cross' international opponent on Saturday in No. 2 singles was Serbian Kristina Aleksic. Cross and Aleksic played a thrilling match in which Alkesic won 7-5, 7-6 (7-5) in the tiebreak.

"It doesn't bother her at all. She knows them all," said A&T coach James Dunwoody about Cross playing against international competition. "She is much more adept in playing the international style of play than my American players.  She can handle the pressure a lot better. When it is close, it doesn't bother her. It bothers my other players. It doesn't bother her. She is used to it."

Cross' biggest issue on the court is where she plays, according to Dunwoody. Dunwoody said it is his responsibility to put more talent around her because ideally she should be slotted as a No.4, 5 or 6 singles player in the lineup and not where she has played most of the season, as a No. 1 or 2. Cross has lost tough matches against Shaw, East Carolina and Norfolk State recently.  

"Cayla is an overachiever," said Dunwoody. "That's what puts her in position to play close matches even though she is playing against people she really shouldn't be playing against at No. 1. She understands when it is a critical time in the match. When it gets close, she knows how to deal with it."

Cross, who is an accounting major and an A&T scholar athlete, took an early 2-0 lead on Alkesic in the first set on Saturday. Alkesic rallied to take a 4-3 advantage before Cross came back to reach set point at 5-4, and she led 40-30 in the game that would have clinched the set for her. But Alkesic evened the score at 40 all and then powered two consecutive service aces to win the point. Cross lost the next two games to give Alkesic the set.

"I was extremely frustrated after the first set," said Cross. "She had a powerful serve. I didn't attack it the way I needed to. I thought I hit the ball down the middle too much. When you do that, power players like her are able to hit the ball at an angle. I thought for the most part, I fought back. I didn't let my first set affect my second."

In the second set, Cross again was up 6-5, leaving her one point away from victory. Alkesic was able to break her serve to tie the set, and went on to take a 5-2 lead in the tiebreaker. Cross fought back to make it 6-5. But when Alkesic called her serve out of bounds, a call Cross questioned before conceding. Cross dropped to 2-8 on the season and 0-2 at No. 2 singles.

"I just have to make sure I don't back up off my pace," said Cross, who chose A&T after going on a tour of HBCU schools when she was in high school. "It was a really tight match. It seems as if I have a lot of those."

Cross and Azeib Nigatu lost their doubles match against Alkesic and Vanja Adononva 8-3. Cross wonders which old friend she will see Monday. The Aggies have a huge match against Florida A&M at the Piedmont Indoor Tennis Center Monday at 1 p.m. The Aggies need just one MEAC victory against Southern Division opponent to qualify for the MEAC Tournament on April 11 in Raleigh, N.C. The Aggies are 2-8 overall and 1-1 in the MEAC.

Delaware State 7, North Carolina A&T 0
Mar 03, 2012 at

Singles competition

1. KOZLOVA,Ksenia (DSU) def. COLBERT, Kenya (NCATW) 6-1, 6-3

2. ALEKSIC,Kristina (DSU) def. CROSS, Cayla (NCATW) 7-5, 7-6, 7-5

3. ADONONVA,Vanja (DSU) def. STALLING, Kimberly (NCATW) 10-6, 6-2

4. SICIC,Marina (DSU) def. NIGUTA, Azeib (NCATW) 6-3, 6-2

5. ANDRADE,Cristina (DSU) def. BURRAGE, April (NCATW) 6-0, 6-0

6. BANAS,Maya (DSU) def. AUSTIN, Victorea (NCATW) 7-5, 6-3

Doubles competition

1. ANDRADE,Cristina/SICIC,Marina (DSU) def. STALLING, Kimberly/HENRY, Nianna (NCATW) 8-5

2. ADONONVA,Vanja/ALEKSIC,Kristina (DSU) def. CROSS, Cayla/NIGUTA, Azeib (NCATW) 8-3

3. BANAS,Maya/KOZLOVA,Ksenia (DSU) def. BURRAGE, April/COLBERT, Kenya (NCATW) 8-4

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