USTA Eastern Collegiate Series

September 22, 2020

With so much uncertainty regarding college athletics this fall, USTA Eastern, in conjunction with the Cary Leeds Center for Tennis and Learning, organized the first-ever USTA Eastern Collegiate Series to provide high-level competitive play opportunities for college athletes and juniors across the section. The series—a group of four standalone tournaments held over four weekends in August and September at Cary Leeds in the Bronx— featured players from over 20 colleges and universities, including Adelphi University, Columbia University, Hofstra University, New Jersey City University, New York University, SUNY Oneonta, St. John’s University, Syracuse University, UCLA, University of Connecticut, University of Texas, University of Virginia and Vassar College. Multiple measures were taken by Tournament Director Cesar Leon to ensure the safety of all athletes involved. 


“Many collegiate players and top juniors in the USTA Eastern section ended their seasons early in March and haven’t gotten the chance to play many—or any—competitive matches since then,” said USTA Eastern Youth Programs Manager Gustavo Loza, who developed the series. “We wanted to give them an opportunity to safely get back on the court and compete against other high-level athletes.”


Jessica Livianu, of St. John’s University, was grateful for the opportunity and appreciated that she could get multiple matches under her belt at the event.


“I was really happy to be back on the court and playing and competing,” she said. “Of course I’m still a little rusty, so I’m trying to brush off that rust so I can play better with every match.”


Livianu went on to lift the women’s trophy at the first tournament, held on August 17.


UCLA’s Elysia Bolton, who captured the women’s title in the second tournament of the series on August 24, was thrilled to be able to play at a high level again. During the shutdown, the Cold Harbor Spring native trained with pro players Kristie Ahn and Christina McHale but hadn’t played a competitive match prior to contesting the Collegiate Series.


“It felt really good to be back on the court,” Bolton said. “I haven’t played [a match] since March, when we beat Stanford, so it felt really good to play out some points.”


University of Texas sophomore Eliot Spizzirri (pictured), a former Eastern junior who won the boys’ doubles title at the 2019 US Open, echoed that sentiment. He hadn’t played a competitive match in four months and noted the event was helping him to find his timing on the court after an injury layoff during the COVID-19 shutdown.


“It was exciting to be competing again,” he said. “It’s been a great tournament. It definitely gave me a little extra motivation in practice this week.”


Some of the high-level USTA Eastern juniors who rounded out the Collegiate Series draws included Kaitlyn Carnicella, Daniel Cohen, Ari Cotoulas, Taylor Goetz, Ariana Pursoo, Nicholas Steiglehner and Valencia Xu. Steiglehner won the men’s title in the final tournament, held on September 20, while Pursoo reached two separate women's finals.


Collegiate Series Results:


Tournament 1 (August 14-17): 


Men’s Champion: Liam Krall (Southern Methodist University)

Women’s Champion: Jessica Livianu (St. John’s University)


Tournament 2 (August 21-24):


Men’s Champion: Gabriele Brancatelli (Purdue University)

Women’s Champion: Elysia Bolton (UCLA)


Tournament 3 (September 11-13):


Women’s Champion: Anna Shkudun (Syracuse)

*Only a women’s event was held


Tournament 4 (September 18-20):


Men’s Champion: Nicholas Steiglehner (Eastern Junior)

*Only a men’s event was held

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