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Women’s Tennis Opens Season with ITA Kick-Off Weekend

January 24, 2014
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Courtesy: Texas A&M Athletics
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(photo: Texas A&M Athletics)

(Note: Saturday matches are now scheduled for 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. due to cold temperatures predicted for Saturday morning)

2014 ITA Kick-Off Weekend
Saturday-Sunday, Jan. 25-26
George P. Mitchell Tennis Center, College Station, Texas

Saturday, January 25
11 a.m.         No. 68 San Jose State vs. DePaul

3 p.m.           No. 7 Texas A&M vs. Mississippi State
Promotion: Fans can enter to win a $50 gift card courtesy of Aggieland Outfitters

Sunday, January 26
10 a.m.         Consolation match
2 p.m.           Championship match

Tickets: http://www.12thmanfoundation.com/ticket-center.aspxTournament Central: AggieAthletics.com

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The Texas A&M women’s tennis team opens its dual match season this weekend as the No. 7 Aggies play host to Mississippi State (1-0), San Jose State (2-1) and DePaul (0-0) in the ITA Kick-Off Weekend, Saturday and Sunday at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center.

The Aggies, making their first home appearance since a historic run to the NCAA national championship match last May, face Southeastern Conference-foe Mississippi State at 3 p.m. on Saturday. The match, which is not considered a conference match, is preceded by a 11 a.m. contest between No. 68 San Jose State and DePaul.

“Getting started at home with the season is terribly exciting especially with the new faces, and inherently the start of the season is exciting,” Aggie head coach Howard Joffe said. “It also is very daunting because of that; we have new faces and very little experience in some spots as well as a fall that certainly was plagued by some injuries. As the head coach, I’m definitely nervous and excited at the same time, but I’m very keen to see how we perform and how the team molds as the season goes on.”

The winners of the Saturday matches will face off in the championship match Sunday at 2 p.m. with the winner advancing to the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, Feb. 7-10, in Charlottesville, Va. The consolation match will be at 10 a.m. on Sunday.

“Winning the two matches gets you into the National Indoor Championship, which guarantees you another three matches against presumably top 20 or higher teams,” said Joffe, who is 45-10 entering his third season at the helm of the Aggies and 93-48 in the seventh season of his head coaching career. “So in that respect, it is daunting for us this weekend because our preparations have gone as well as they could have given the weather, but getting those wins will ensure extra matches, which is a critical item for us.”

Joffe returns five letterwinners from last year’s team that went 26-4 and finished with an all-time high No. 3 final ranking after advancing to the NCAA championship match for first time. He also welcomes four freshmen after losing three heralded seniors -- two-time ITA All-American Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar, NCAA Championship all-tournament team honoree and current student assistant coach Nazari Urbina, and Wen Sun -- from last year’s squad.

The Aggies, whose No. 7 ranking is the highest season-opening ranking in program history, are led by Cristina Stancu, the lone senior on the Aggies’ youth-laden team this year. She enters the spring ranked a career-high No. 14 in the ITA singles rankings after going 15-4 in the fall. Stancu also is No. 22 in doubles with sophomore partner Stefania Hristov. In addition, sophomore Ines Deheza is No. 51 in the preseason doubles rankings with freshman partner Rutuja Bhosale, who is No. 434 in the International Tennis Federation junior singles rankings released earlier this month and was as high as No. 55 in the world in 2012.

Also returning are sophomores Paula Deheza and Anna Mamalat. Freshmen Jana McCord, Mason Strickland and Saska Gavrilovska, a singles semifinalist at the National Collegiate Tennis Classic last weekend, round out the 2014 squad.

“Thank goodness the weather forecast sa­­­ys the weather is going to be rather good,” Joffe added. “Certainly for anyone who watched our team last year will see a younger team, but certainly a team that my hope is will play with a great amount of passion and we’ve got some awfully talented people, so I expect it to be enjoyable to watch and to see the folks who will replace last year’s seniors, Cris, Nazari and Sun.”

Texas A&M, which opened the 2013 season by defeating both North Texas and Arizona to advance to last year’s ITA National Indoor Championship, is 2-0 all-time against Mississippi State. The Aggies, who defeated MSU, 5-4, when the teams first met in 1989, defeated the Bulldogs, 6-1, last year in Starkville, Miss., in the teams’ first meeting as SEC foes.

A&M and DePaul have met once, with the Aggies defeating the host Blue Demons, 4-0, in 2011. A&M and San Jose State have never met.

Fans will notice several changes in the scoring as an ITA experimental scoring format will be in effect for both the ITA Kick-Off Weekend and the ITA National Indoor Championship:

·         The dual meet will consist of three doubles matches played first (worth a total of one point), followed by six singles matches, each individual match worth one point. Four points are required to win the team match.

·         The three doubles matches will each consist of one set, with regular scoring and a tiebreaker at 6-all. Once a team has won two doubles matches, the remaining doubles match shall not be completed.

·         Six singles matches will follow the doubles. Each singles match is two out of three sets, with each set using regular scoring, and a match tiebreaker in lieu of the third set.

·         The “clinch” policy is the current rule in the ITA Women’s Kick-Off Weekend, the ITA Women’s National Indoor Team Championships and the NCAA Women’s Team Championships. Therefore once four points have been reached, the remaining singles matches will not be completed in these events.

The format is being tested because the ITA Division I Operating Committee felt it was important to take a proactive approach on the issue of team match length. Long team matches have been seen as problematic for spectator attendance, physical stress on the student-athletes, and TV opportunities. More information on the ITA and the experimental scoring format is available at ITATennis.com.

Season and individual match tickets for all A&M home matches can be purchased online at http://www.12thmanfoundation.com/ticket-center.aspx during business hours by phone at 888-992-4443 or in person at the Ticket Center’s Kyle Field location, as well as at the Mitchell Tennis Center main entrance beginning one hour before match time.

A ticket for Saturday’s matches is also good for admission to the Texas A&M men’s tennis Saturday doubleheader against UTSA at 12 p.m. and Lamar at 4 p.m.

Visit AggieAthletics.com for more information on Texas A&M women’s tennis. 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/AggieWomensTennis

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