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James Hill | | May 23, 2014

Hill: Clark returns with purpose

  Gabrielle Clark missed the fall season after suffering three fractured ribs.

CLAREMONT, Calif. -- Top-seeded Gabrielle Clark of Emory advanced to the singles quarterfinals Thursday at the NCAA Division III Women's Tennis Championships at the Biszantz Family Tennis Center.

Clark first bested Caroline Ward of host Claremont-M-S 6-1, 6-1; and then defeated Middlebury's Alexandra Fields 6-1, 6-0 in the second round. Up next is Elysa Kohrs of MIT in Friday's quarters at 1:30 p.m. ET. The semis will be played at 5 p.m. the same day, while the championship match is scheduled for Saturday.

On Wednesday, Clark played No. 1 singles and doubles for the Eagles, who won the team championship with a 5-1 victory against the Amherst Lord Jeffs. Clark and her  partner, Michelle Satterfield, lost to Jordan Brewer and Gabby Devlin in the No. 1 doubles line. The Lord Jeffs duo is the defending NCAA champion.

Clark came back, though, and beat Brewer in straight sets in the singles event.

During the course of the tournament, Clark was also named the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Senior Player of the Year.

Clark and Satterfield, the No. 4 doubles seeds, beat Jessica Ly and Ceara Sumida of Redlands 6-1, 1-6, 6-0 in Thursday's Round-of-16 match.

In 2012, Clark emerged as the NCAA singles champion. She became the first African-American woman to win the  singles crown, in any division. Last year, Clark was eliminated in the national semifinals.

Clark earned her bachelor of business administration degree from the highly regarded Emory on May 12. With a specialty in accounting, Clark plans to return to her home in Chicago and study for the four parts of the CPA exam. In Jan. 2015, Clark will move to New York and work for PricewatterhouseCoopers.

Until then, there is the matter of the NCAA tournament in Southern California. Clark is a resilient young lady. She missed the important fall season, after falling off a ledge, fracturing three ribs, and nearly lacerating her kidneys.

"Having a strong spring season meant a lot to me," Clark said. "I'm taking it one match at a time. I would like to finish strong in the individuals. I think I can lean on the fact that I've won a national championship."

In the other quarterfinal matches, the No. 5 Devlin meets fourth-seeded Kara Shoemaker of Williams. Ria Gerger of Middlebury is paired against the third-seeded Brewer, while Kathleen Elkins of Williams will go against the No. 2 seed, Washington & Lee's Sonja Meighan.

Brewer and Devlin, the No. 2 seeds in doubles, beat Rebecca Ho and Corinne Rauck of Washington (Mo.)  6-3, 6-3. Devlin can claim three consecutive doubles titles, including two with her current partner.

Ward and Katie Kuosman, the third seeds from  C-M-S, took out Tiffany Cheng and Megan Tang of Chicago 6-0, 6-4. Ward was the 2013 NCAA doubles runner-up.

Also advancing were top seeds Shelby Harris and Lindsay Raulston of Mary Washington.

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