A couple of Bahamian female tennis players turned in strong performances at the HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) National Championships this past week. The championship caters to HBCU schools in 15 participating collegiate institutions with over 250 players competing.
Afrika Smith played for the Bethune-Cookman University (BCU) Wildcats and Iesha Shepherd played for the Jackson State University (JSU) Tigers.
The colleges competing were Alabama A&M University, Bethune-Cookman University, Bluefield State College, Clark Atlanta University, Florida A&M University, Grambling State University, Jackson State University, Johnson C. Smith University, Morgan State University, North Carolina A&T University, Shaw University, Southern University and Xavier University of Louisiana.
Smith played in the flight C category and advanced to the C finals. In the round of 32, she defeated Xavier University of Louisiana freshman Lindsey Dixon, 6-1 and 6-0. In the round of 16, Smith knocked off Natalie Malone of Georgia State University, 6-2 and 6-0. In the quarterfinals, she defeated India Woods from Alabama A&M, 6-2 and 6-3, and in the semifinals, she defeated Ayana Rengiil of Alabama A&M, 6-1 and 6-1.
Smith faced Arielle Nealy of Florida A&M in the Women’s C Flight final where she lost, 6-2 and 6-2.
In doubles, Smith teamed up with Chalina Godbolt, and they made it to the quarters where they lost to Ruiz Diaz and India Woods from Alabama A&M.
Wildcats’ Interim Head Coach Robert ‘Tony’ O’Neal spoke about Smith and her teammates’ performances.
“Our players came ready to play and displayed maximum effort,” he said.
Shepherd, who moved from Chicago to attend Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi, participated in Flight B singles and Flight A doubles. She was instrumental in her team placing third overall at the championships.
Shepherd advanced to the semifinals in singles and doubles. In singles, in the quarterfinals, she defeated Morgan State’s Averinia Mitchell but then lost to Rachel Harden of Florida A&M in the semifinals. In doubles, Shepherd teamed up with Nina Zhang and they defeated the duo from Alabama A&M University in the quarters but lost in the semis to the number one ranked team of Lailaa Bashir and Angela Charles-Alfred of Xavier University of Louisiana.
The Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association (BLTA) congratulates Smith and Shepherd on a good start to their collegiate seasons and wishes them well as they continue their tennis exploits.