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Hurricane Headliners: Alexa Noel

Hurricane Headliners: Alexa Noel

Christy Cabrera Chirinos by Christy Cabrera Chirinos

In Hurricane Headliners, Christy Cabrera Chirinos spotlights some of Miami’s top performing student-athletes as they look to continue excelling in and out of competition.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Alexa Noel has notched her share of big-time wins in her dazzling career.

After all, the redshirt junior is a two-time ITA All-American and a former Wimbledon Juniors runner-up who’s already competed at the junior level at the U.S. Open, the French Open and the Australian Open.

Still, there’s nothing quite like beating a top-ranked opponent, which is exactly what Noel did earlier this month when the Hurricanes knocked off ninth-ranked Texas A&M.

In that match, Noel – at the time ranked No. 25 nationally – earned a 6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-3 win over A&M’s Mary Stoiana, the nation’s top-ranked singles player, while playing at No. 1 singles.

It was Noel’s first win over Stoiana in three meetings, with the most recent of those meetings coming last October in the ITA All-American Championships. And it’s a victory Noel hopes will now, not only help set the tone for her this season, but for the Hurricanes as a whole as they set their sights on ACC play, which begins next week against Duke.

“Obviously, that match meant a lot. I played her twice before and she beat me both times in three sets,” Noel said. “So, it was almost like the exact same match again. I won the first, I’m up in the second and then she wins the second pretty tight and, in my head, I was like, ‘Here we go again.’ So, it was a really big thing for me to be able to regroup and come out and win the third. And it meant even more because I was able to contribute to our team’s success. That was a really big win for us.”

It was a really big win for the Hurricanes – and Noel.

Miami, which earned a 4-3 team win over Texas A&M, was able to bounce back after a pair of tough losses to then-No. 18 USC and No. 25 Vanderbilt at the ITA Kickoff. Noel, meanwhile, earned ACC Player of the Week honors for the first time this season and the fifth time in her Hurricanes career.

The goal now, she says, is for her and Miami to continue building on their success.

“I think we had a little bit of a tough start at Kickoff. We played two really good teams, but I don’t think we were expecting those outcomes,” Noel said. “So, to be able to bounce back so quickly, especially to turn it around within less than a week was really crucial. And I think it probably gives the team a lot of confidence after losing the doubles point to come back and win four out of six singles. That’s tough to do. So, I think everyone is in good spirits now.

“I think we have a lot to improve on, of course, but I think it kind of shows our caliber and what we’re capable of. Now, I think it’s just a matter of consistency and doing those things all the time, every match.”

For her part, Noel wants to continue to see her game grow during her senior season.

The Summit, New Jersey native never expected she’d play college tennis – not after rising as high as No. 4 in the ITF Juniors rankings in January 2020.

But after the COVID-19 pandemic halted sports across the world – including matches on the WTA Tour – she began to wonder if maybe playing collegiately would help her eventually make her pro dreams a reality.

She enrolled at Iowa where, as a freshman, she posted a 24-1 mark in singles and a 13-6 mark in doubles. She earned recognition as the Big Ten Player of the Year, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and was named an ITA All-American.

But an ankle injury she suffered during the 2021 NCAA Singles Tournament took a toll on her, both physically and mentally.

She had surgery and was sidelined for more than five months. As she navigated that tough stretch, she made the decision to transfer and the opportunity to play at Miami for head coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews proved intriguing.

"I think it kind of shows our caliber and what we're capable of..."

Alexa Noel, on Miami's win over No. 9 Texas A&M

She joined the Hurricanes last season and was a force all year, posting a 34-8 singles record and a 20-9 record in doubles.

Though she again earned All-American honors and advanced to the NCAA Singles Championship Round of 32, she fell short in her quest for a national title and finished the year ranked sixth nationally.

That, she said, has been motivation to go further this year – and bring the Hurricanes with her.

“I’d say personally, I learned a lot about myself and what it takes to kind of get to that next level,” Noel said. “I feel like last year, I would have some great wins, but then some average losses. This year has been about trying to balance that out more. I kind of think that’s what my biggest takeaway as from last year. And last year was good to be able to learn why those things happen, how they happen and how to improve. And I’ve taken all of that into account with my training and I think the girls have as well. …

“And what I want for this team, a lot of them are seniors, so, I want them to enjoy their last couple months of college, enjoy the program, enjoy playing tennis and just really have a great time. It goes by so fast, so I just want them to love the experience and I want to be able to contribute to them having a great last couple of months. And obviously, I want us to win every single match, right? That would be phenomenal. I know it’s probably unrealistic, but that’s what I want. And I believe from one [singles] through six, everybody can win. … I’m confident in our team and I want them to be as confident as I am in them, which I think they are.”

Lavassas Makes History – Again

Distance runner Daphnee Lavassas  – who already holds multiple Miami records for both the cross country program and the track and field program – continues making Hurricanes history.

After breaking the Miami program record in the 6K last November and becoming just the second Hurricane to earn a spot at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, Lavassas is off to an impressive start this spring, most recently clocking a time of 15:54.09 in the indoor 5000m at the David Hemery Valentine Invitational in Boston last weekend.

That time improved on Lavassas’ previous school record in the same event by 24 seconds. She set the mark of 16:18.29 at last year’s ACC Indoor Championships.

Lavassas and the Hurricanes are set to compete at the 2024 ACC Indoor on Feb. 22-24.

Ziehl in the Spotlight

Right-handed pitcher Gage Ziehl will get the start Friday when the Hurricanes open a new baseball season against the New Jersey Institute of Technology at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field.

And the junior is already earning some national recognition.

Ziehl, who hails from Macedon, New York was named to the Golden Spikes Award Preseason Watch List earlier this month. He is one of 55 amateur players to earn a spot on the list.

The pitcher posted an 8-4 record with a 4.30 ERA last season and had 100 strikeouts over 92 innings. He is the 16th Hurricane to earn a spot on the preseason watch list since 2008.

What to Watch This Weekend

The Hurricanes baseball team – and new head coach J.D. Arteaga – will start its season with a four-game series against NJIT at The Light beginning on Friday.

The opening weekend will kick off a remarkable 16-game homestand that will keep the Hurricanes in Coral Gables until a March 12 game in Boca Raton at Florida Atlantic.

Miami’s women’s basketball team – which has won two of its last three games – welcomes rival Florida State to the Watsco Center on Sunday afternoon, while the Hurricanes men travel to Chestnut Hill to face Boston College on Saturday afternoon.