COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Sixth-ranked Texas A&M picked up its biggest win in school history Sunday afternoon, knocking off two-time defending national champion and fourth-ranked Florida, 4-3, at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center.
It is the sixth consecutive victory for the Aggies (8-1, 2-0 SEC), whose previous highest ranked win was against No. 5 USC in 2004 when A&M head coach Howard Joffe was an assistant for the Women of Troy.
Florida, which entered the contest riding a 37-match winning streak in SEC regular season matches, suffers its first conference loss since April 5, 2009, and falls to 7-2 overall and 1-1 in league play.
The nail-biting clincher came down to the last match singles standing, where 53rd-ranked Alexandra Cercone of Florida and A&M's Nazari Urbina, ranked No. 67, would battle for three sets at the No. 3 line. Urbina had squandered two set points in the opening frame as Cercone came back from a 5-4 deficit to take a 6-5 lead. Urbina then tied the set to force a tiebreaker, but Cercone would pull away for an 8-6 win to take the first set.
After dropping the first two games of the second set, Urbina took the lead at 3-2. She would later hold a 4-3 lead and then won the next two games to close out the set and force a decisive third set. Urbina continued her streak into the third set, taking a commanding 5-0 lead before Cercone won her first game after losing seven straight. Urbina then closed out the match, serving an unreturnable ball to cap the team's monumental win.
The Aggies, who were picked to win the SEC Western Division, opened the match by winning the crucial doubles point against the preseason overall SEC-favorite Gators. A&M's 11th-ranked duo of Stefania Hristov and Cristina Stancu got a clutch ranked win against No. 15 Lauren Embree and Sofie Oyen on the No. 1 court. The teams were on serve with A&M holding a 7-6 lead when the Aggie duo broke Florida for only the second time in the match to win, 8-6.
A&M's all-freshman tandem of twin sisters Ines and Paula Deheza would give the Aggies the 1-0 lead by defeating Cercone and Brianna Morgan, 8-4, at the No. 3 line. The Dehezas trailed, 4-2, before reeling off six consecutive games to win and put A&M ahead.
A&M's Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar and Wen Sun held a 7-5 lead over Danielle Collins and Carolina Hitimana at 7-5 when the point was decided and play was stopped.
Florida, which fields nationally ranked players at every singles position, quickly tied the score at 1-1 at the start of singles as 114th-ranked Morgan defeated Sun, 6-2, 6-1 at the No. 4 line.
Stancu, a junior transfer from Maryland currently ranked No. 83 in the nation in singles, returned the lead to the Aggies as she posted the highest ranked win in her collegiate career with a 7-5, 6-0 victory over 11th-ranked Oyen at the No. 2 line. Stancu had trailed Oyen, who was No. 1 in the preseason rankings on January 3, 5-4, in the opening set before winning nine consecutive games to close out the straight-set victory.
Collins, ranked No. 76, countered with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Hristov at No. 5 to tie the score at 2-2. Florida then took its first lead of the match with a win at No. 1 singles. In a battle of top 10 players, Embree, the No. 1 singles player in the nation, held off sixth-ranked Sanchez-Quintanar, 6-4, 7-5, to hand the A&M senior her first loss in dual match play and put the Gators up 3-2.
Aggie freshman Anna Mamalat tied the match for the third and final time with a three-set victory at the No. 6 line. Mamalat won the first set against Olivia Janowicz, 6-4, but Janowicz raced to a 6-1 win in the second set.
Mamalat got back on track to start the third set, winning the first two games. Janowicz, however, rallied for three consecutive games to go up 3-2. The match was back on serve with Mamalat leading 4-3 when the Philadelphia native broke Janowicz to go up 5-3. With A&M serving for the match, Janowicz won the game to get within 5-4 before Mamalat closed out the 6-4 win in the third to tie the team score at 3-3, leaving it up to Urbina to come through with the win.
The Aggies, who improve to 5-0 in home matches, hit the road for the first time in conference play next weekend, taking on No. 12 Vanderbilt in Nashville on Friday and No. 53 Kentucky in Lexington on Sunday.
Free live scoring will be available on AggieAthletics.com. Aggie fans also can keep up to date with the A&M women's tennis team on Twitter by following @AggieWTEN or on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/?ref=tn_tnmn#!/pages/Aggie-Womens-Tennis/143874782434654
Texas A&M Head Coach Howard Joffe Quotes:
(On how important this win is)
"It's obviously a huge win at a personal level as a head tennis coach for me, but more importantly for Texas A&M University. I think this is the best win in program history and also they are the two-time national champions defending, so it's a huge win for a variety of those reasons, and I'm just thrilled for our kids.
(On the importance of the doubles)
One of the things I always say about doubles is it's one of the great illusions, because when you analyze a race to four points and with the doubles really represents only 1/7th of all the points, in that respect it's not that important. And yet if you win it, it does mean all you need to do is split the singles matches. I thought today our kids just did a phenomenal job with their passion and their energy. Winning the doubles point was clearly was a crucial item in the win today.
(On how strong Florida's team is top to
Florida's singles lineup, every single player is nationally ranked. What that really means is that they don't lose much, because if you are playing No. 4, 5, or 6 on their team, you are not getting enough opportunities to get nationally ranked unless you just don't lose. So the obvious is that they have a very strong team for the doubles point and Nos. 1-6 in the singles. It was never going to be the case that we were going to get anything cheap.
(On winning the doubles point)
In the doubles point, Hristov and Stancu, they always bring great competitiveness and energy and I thought they played particularly well today. Sun and Sanchez didn't get to finish but they were leading 7-5 and they played as well as they've probably played this year. And Ines and Paula Deheza, it was a complete night-and-day from their performance against South Carolina two days ago, and it was topsy-turvy. We were down, we were up. At the end of the day, all these teams have very, very good players, especially a team like Florida. It was just very, very difficult.
(On Cristina Stancu's win at No. 2 singles)
Stancu was down 4-1 in the first set and I'm very, very proud and pleased for Stancu, because her skill level has improved enormously since she came to Texas A&M. She hasn't gotten a ton of ranking credit, and today her level of improvement was evident in the results. Oyen was ranked No. 1 in the nation a few weeks ago.
(On Anna Mamalat's win at No. 6 singles)
The other match which was a big one for us was obviously Mamalat. Nip-and-tuck, tooth-and-nail. One of the great things is when you have very good characters like Anna on the team, good things happen. She doesn't get too excitable. She stays the course and she was able to get us over the finish line.
(On Nazari Urbina's win at No. 3 singles to
clinch the victory)
Probably the most fitting of the day, Nazari, a Texas A&M veteran who does nothing but work really hard, who has no agenda other than working hard and the team, ended up outplaying her girl and got us the win. She's in for the long haul and is a lady of great substance. I just could see the scoreboard, but at no point did I believe Nazari was going to go away lightly. Nazari's hard work in the gym paid off because she was running around like Bambi in the third set and I feel like the kid from Florida was taking on some water.
(General comment on the win and the SEC)
All of these matches, we do have a young team in the sense that we have four freshmen, so every time we go out there it represents new challenges. We are going to have to keep competing. On the one hand it is a great milestone for our program. On the other hand, we need to take a day's rest and get back to hard work, because every match in the SEC is going to be a tough match. I'm just really proud of our eight kids, proud of the job that everyone at Texas A&M has done in support of them, of Mark Weaver (assistant coach). Those are the guys who deserve the credit."
No. 6 Texas A&M 4, No. 4
March 3, 2013
George P. Mitchell Tennis Center
College Station, Texas
1. #1 Lauren Embree (UF) def. #6 Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar (TAMU), 6-4, 7-5
2. #83 Cristina Stancu (TAMU) def. #11 Sofie Oyen (UF), 7-5, 6-0
3. #67 Nazari Urbina (TAMU) def. #53 Alexandra Cercone (UF), 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1
4. #114 Brianna Morgan (UF) def. Wen Sun (TAMU), 6-2, 6-1
5. #76 Danielle Collins (UF) def. Stefania Hristov (TAMU), 6-3, 6-4
6. Anna Mamalat (TAMU) def. #109 Olivia Janowicz (UF), 6-4, 1-6, 6-4
Doubles (Texas A&M wins the point)
1. #11 Hristov/Stancu (TAMU def. #15 Embree/Oyen (UF), 8-6
2. Sanchez-Quintanar/Sun (TAMU) vs. Collins/Caroline Hitimana (UF), 7-5 unfinished
3. Ines Deheza/Paula Deheza (TAMU) def. Cercone/Morgan (UF), 8-4
Order of finish
Doubles: 1, 3
Singles: 4, 2, 5, 1, 6, 3
Texas A&M: 8-1, 2-0 SEC
Florida: 7-2, 1-1 SEC