published Monday, June 16th, 2014

Marie Casares cleans up at Tennesssee Valley Open Championships tennis tournament

When she's not playing tennis, Marie Casares finds herself often mimmicking the actions of a tennis player. Shuffling side-to-side, imaginary ground strokes, the rising Vanderbilt senior is always doing something to stay sharp for her sport.

She's pretty good when she is playing tennis, too.

Casares won two championships at the Tennesssee Valley Open Championships on Sunday at Manker Patten, defeating Alabama's Natalia Maynetto 6-0, 6-2 for the women's open title while teaming with fellow Lady Commodore Courtney Colton to defeat University of Tennessee at Chattanooga teammates Kelsey Coots and Kayla Jones 6-4, 6-4 for the open doubles title.

The two wins also netted her $1,650.

"I think the constant movement is a way of reminding you how much you like to play," Casares said. "Maybe you chose to take a break because you needed one, or for whatever reason you couldn't play that day or for a couple of days, so it helps you remember how much you like it.

"I think it's neat to find yourself so attached to your sport."

Future University of Georgia Bulldog Wayne Montgomery claimed the largest prize Sunday in the men's open singles championship, defeating Vanderbilt's Gonzales Austin 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in a match that took close to three hours to complete. Montgomery's win won him $3,000.

The Vanderbilt programs enjoyed lots of success Sunday in the open divisions. Austin teamed with Colton to win the mixed doubles title, defeating former Baylor standout Samantha Caswell and Pavels Grigorjevs 6-1, 6-3.

Austin earned $1,850.

"We have a solid program at Vandy," Casares said. "This tournament is close, so we try to take advantage of that and play more when we're here for the summer. I'd like to thank Ned [Caswell, tournament director] a lot; this is a great way to keep people motivated and playing, because everybody regardless of age gets a chances."

Casares was 32-7 for Vanderbilt in her junior season, playing everywhere in the lineup from No. 2 to No. 6. The Lady Commodores finished 21-7 before falling to Florida in the Round of 16 in the NCAA tournament.

It's her second season playing in the TVOC, as was the singles runner-up last season, falling to current teammate Sydney Campbell.

"I wanted to come back this year and bring home the championship, which I did," Casares said. "I enjoy playing tennis either way, but everybody likes to win, so it was a good experience both years and I was proud I could get it done this time."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.

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