UMBC's Lopez makes most of Claycourt exit Tennis player captures ECAC Southern title

Notebook

October 02, 1998|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

Despite a short stay in the main draw of last week's National Claycourt Championships in Pikesville, UMBC tennis player Oscar Lopez followed the first rule of college life: Never waste a good weekend.

After losing to Kansas' Luis Uribe in the first round of the tournament, and to Georgia's Talito Corrales in a consolation match, Lopez strolled north and beat Temple's Gio Sasaki, 6-3, 6-3, for the individual title at the ECAC Southern Division championships in Princeton, N.J.

UMBC won the team title as well on the shoulders of Lopez, a junior from Torrejiva, Spain, who seems elfin in every way from his 5-foot-4 height and genial manner to the mischievous way in which he often chafes more imposing opponents into submission.

"He's probably the best No. 1 I've ever had," UMBC coach Keith Puryear said. "Probably the best No. 1 I'll ever have."

Lopez, 20, was lured to Catonsville last year by the same forces that bring a lot of foreign players to U.S. colleges -- an opportunity to study and play at the same time. But Lopez, a math and mechanical engineering major who had a 3.85 GPA last semester at UMBC, initially landed at San Jacinto Junior College, just 20 minutes outside Houston.

After his freshman year, he decided that San Jacinto -- one of the nation's top JC tennis programs -- wasn't doing much for him scholastically. "The tennis was at a good level, but academically I was looking for something else," Lopez said. While he considered going to Drake and Vanderbilt, UMBC was the only school offering a full scholarship. With the school being near Washington and New York, Lopez found the Retrievers' program to be a good fit.

He went 22-11 last season, while sometimes wondering if he should have considered professional tennis. While learning the game on red clay, he often beat quality players by utilizing the cool and focused style of his boyhood idols Ivan Lendl and Emilio Sanchez.

"All the Spaniards I used to beat, they now have good ATP rankings, so sometimes I wonder if I should have tried," Lopez said. "But I also love studying, so there's that conflict."

Loyola's Aversa excels

The path continues uninterrupted for Jennifer Aversa, who is performing every bit as well in college as she did in high school.

Aversa, who helped Mount de Sales Academy win three straight Association of Independent Schools cross country titles, is now the top runner at Loyola as a freshman. Until an 11th-place finish last Saturday at the Mount St. Mary's Invitational, she had finished in the top 10 in her first three meets and has been the Greyhounds' top runner at every meet this season.

She'll run next at the Maryland College Invitational at Howard Community College on Oct. 10.

Div. III football

Compared to the relatively mediocre display of football at most Maryland schools in the other divisions, Division III schools have sparkled this season. Western Maryland, Frostburg State and Johns Hopkins have records of 4-0, 3-0 and 2-1, with the Green Terror and Bobcats heading the top of the Centennial Conference and Atlantic Central Football Conference, respectively.

Correction

The cross country runner cited here a week ago, Mike Taye, runs for Frostburg State, not Salisbury State. The Bobcats -- not the Sea Gulls as written here last week -- had won all of their meets going into the Dickinson College Invitational in Carlisle, Pa., where Taye won again. Saturday morning, Taye and the Bobcats are hosts for the Frostburg Invitational at Fort Frederick Park in Big Pool. The women run at 11 a.m. and the men run at 45.

Pub Date: 10/02/98

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