It didn’t take Natalie Beazant long to position herself among the best women’s tennis players in the country. As a freshman four years ago, Beazant took the conference by storm and earned Player and Freshman of the Year honors, only the fifth player in conference history to achieve both honors in the same year. Throughout the years, the personal accolades have added up for Beazant, who has been named to the All-C-USA singles first team in all three of her years, in addition to a coveted All-American spot in singles.
The road to her current success wasn’t straightforward or easy. Since the age of three, tennis has been an essential part of Beazant’s life; however, her path to where she is today truly began at the age of 11, when her family moved to Florida from England. In Florida, Beazant attended the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, an athletic training institute meant for high-level athletic training. Constantly moving back and forth between England and Florida throughout her childhood, Beazant said she did not know how to go through the college re- cruitment process.
“Being in America helped me understand the college process a little but I still didn’t fully understand it,” Beazant said. “I was the first in my family to ever go to college. When I was being recruited, I didn’t know what I was looking for. I feel like I’ve landed on my feet here at Rice [University]. Rice has gone above and beyond my expectations.”
Head Coach Elizabeth Schmidt, who recruited Beazant, has been a constant posi- tive force for Beazant and the women’s ten- nis team, as have first-year Assistant Coach Taylor Fogleman and his predecessor, Younes Limam. According to Beazant, the team’s coaches are a primary reason that Beazant has succeeded at Rice.
“The coaches have been unbelievable here for the past four years,” Beazant said. “Our head coach, Elizabeth [Schmidt], has been un- believable. She is an amazing woman and has made my experience here one of the best of my lifetime. We have also had two fantastic assis- tant coaches since I’ve been here and they have both been fantastic.”
This season, as the team prepares to enter their final match before the conference tourna- ment, Beazant continues to work hard as she seeks to top her best Rice tennis memories. Spe- cifically, she said she seeks to relive the team’s unmatched success during her freshman year.
“Freshman year, we made the sweet 16 at NCAAs,” Beazant said. “We beat Ole Miss at Ole Miss in the second round to make it. The feeling I got when we won that match was one of the greatest feelings I have ever had with tennis.”
Now, as the team has gained experience and skill over Beazant’s four years, expectations are rising every year, and winning the confer- ence championship, previously a lofty goal, is now a coveted and attainable step for the team. Beazant said she looks to make Rice history by reaching the elite eight at the NCAA championships — held the same day as her graduation. “Winning conference is definitely a big goal for us,” Beazant said. “As a team, that is some- thing that we aim for and value as a program. My personal goal is to not make graduation. That would mean that we accomplished something that the school has never done before.”
Beazant, currently ranked 21st in the country in singles, seeks to finish her Rice tennis career with a strong performance in the individual NCAA Championships. There, she would compete against the top college tennis players for individual honors. With a strong spring sea- son that currently has her at a singles record of 14-2, Beazant said she has proven she can compete with the best.
“I would love to be able to play at the individual NCAA championships this year,” Beazant said. “It is a great event to be able to play. There are lots of good players and good matches. I would love to be able finish off my Rice career there. It would be a great honor and really exciting.”