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No. 9 Texas A&M Opens SEC Play at No. 5 Florida

February 27, 2014
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Courtesy: Texas A&M Athletics
(photo: Texas A&M Athletics)

College MatchDay
No. 9 Texas A&M (6-2, 0-0 SEC) at No. 5 Florida (8-2, 0-0 SEC)
Friday, February 28, 5 p.m. (4 p.m. CT)
Alfred Ring Tennis Complex, Gainesville, Fla.
Video: ESPN3, WatchESPN

TEXAS A&M AGGIES

Record: 6-2, 0-0 SEC
Ranking: No. 9
Coach: Howard Joffe
Career Record: 99-50 (7th season)
Record at A&M: 51-12 (3rd season)
Recent Results: defeated No. 15 Baylor, 4-3, Feb. 20, at College Station, Texas
Next: at South Carolina, Sun., March 1, 12 p.m. (ET)

Ranked Players:
S - #15 Cristina Stancu
S - #57 Saska Gavrilovska
S - #118 Anna Mamalat

FLORIDA GATORS

Record: 8-2, 0-0 SEC
Ranking: No. 5
Coach: Roland Thornqvist
Career Record: 385-86 (17th season)
Record at UF: 310-36 (13th season)
Recent Results: lost at No. 3 Stanford, 7-0, Feb. 23, at Stanford, Calif.
Next: vs. Missouri, Sun., March 1, 1 p.m. (ET)

Ranked Players:
S - #7 Olivia Janowicz
S - #24 Brianna Morgan
S - #27 Alex Cercone
S - #34 Sofie Oyen
S - #45 Kourtney Keegan
S - #76 Belinda Woolcock
D - #20 Woolcock/Oyen
D - #22 Oyen/Keegan
D - #34 Janowicz/Keegan
D - #52 Keegan/Woolcock

MATCH PREVIEW

No. 9 Texas A&M (6-2) makes its first-ever trip to Gainesville as the Aggies take on No. 5 Florida (8-2) in both teams’ Southeastern Conference opener. First serve is at 5 p.m. (4 p.m. CT) at the Ring Tennis Complex. Both teams tied for the 2013 SEC regular-season championship along with Georgia. The match between the Aggies and Gators is part of USTA’ College MatchDay, similar to ESPN’s College Game Day for football. Singles will be played first, followed by doubles if the score is tied 3-3. Live video of the match can be seen on ESPN3 or by using the WatchESPN app.

TEXAS A&M NOTES

·         No. 10 Texas A&M improved to 6-2 by defeating No. 15 Baylor, 4-3, in the Aggies’ only match last week. It was A&M’s third win against a top 20-ranked opponent this season.

·         Texas A&M head coach Howard Joffe is aiming for the 100th victory of his head coaching career. He enters the Florida match 99-50 in the seventh season of his head coaching career and 51-12 in his third season at A&M.

·         A&M is 3-2 against top-25 opponents, including a 4-3 victory at No. 3 North Carolina, marking the highest ranked win in program history

·         A&M is picked to place third in the SEC according to a preseason vote of the league’s head coaches.

·         Last year in A&M’s inaugural season in the SEC, the Aggies opened conference play with a 5-2 victory over No. 43 South Carolina in College Station. A&M went on to win its first eight league matches -- including a 4-3 win against No. 4 Florida -- before suffering its only conference loss, a 4-2 setback to No. 3 Georgia. A&M ended the conference season 12-1, tying Florida and Georgia for the SEC regular season championship.

SERIES NOTES VS. FLORIDA

·         Texas A&M and Florida are tied 1-1 in the all-time series, which began last year

·         This is the first meeting between the two teams in Gainesville

·         Florida won the most recent meeting, defeating A&M, 4-1, in the 2013 SEC Championship semifinals, April 20, 2013, in Starkville, Miss.

·         In the first-ever meeting, the then sixth-ranked Aggies stunned fourth-ranked and two-time defending national champion Florida, 4-3, on March 3, 2013, in College Station as A&M handed the Gators what would be their only SEC loss of the season. In the last match standing, A&M senior Nazari Urbina, now a student coach for the Aggies, came back to defeat Alexandra Cercone at No. 3 singles, snapping Florida’s 45-match winning streak against SEC teams in conference regular season, SEC Tournament and NCAA Championship matches combined and the Gators’ 37-match winning streak in SEC regular season matches, a streak which began April 5, 2009.

TEXAS A&M IN THE ITA RANKINGS

·         Texas A&M moved up one spot to No. 9 in the ITA team rankings released on Tuesday.

·         Senior Cristina Stancu climbed one spot to No. 15 in singles, one spot shy of her career high set in the Jan. 2 preseason poll.

·         For the first time this season, A&M does not have a team ranked in doubles.

·         Freshman Saska Gavrilovska is No. 57 in singles after coming in at a career-high No. 47 in the prior individual rankings released Feb. 11.

PASSING SHOTS

·         Rutuja Bhosale is the reigning SEC Freshman of the Week after going a combined 2-0 in the victory against Baylor, A&M’s only match last week. It is Bhosale’s first such honor, while teammate Saska Gavrilovska is a two-time SEC Freshman of the Week as well as a one-time SEC Player of the Week.

·         Gavrilovska posted the highest ranked win by a freshman in A&M history, defeating fifth-ranked Haley Carter of North Carolina, 0-6, 6-2, 1-0 (10) to help the Aggies defeat the No. 3 Tar Heels, 4-3, on Feb. 4, in Chapel Hill.

·         A&M is 1-1 in away matches, defeating No. 3 North Carolina, 4-3, and falling at then-No. 14 Virginia, 4-0, on Feb. 9. Both of those matches were played indoors.

·         Texas A&M enters SEC play riding a three-match win streak.

·         A&M is 3-2 against ranked opponents, having defeated No. 3 North Carolina, No. 15 Baylor and No. 17 Texas. Losses have been to No. 14 Virginia and No. 16 Northwestern. Both losses were indoors.

TEXAS A&M HEAD COACH HOWARD JOFFE

Howard Joffe (pronounced joff-ee), one of the brightest young collegiate tennis coaches in the country, is 51-12 in his third season at A&M and 99-50 in the seventh season of his head coaching career. He has rapidly transformed the Aggies from pretender to contender, and in 2013 the Maroon and White shocked the nation by reaching the NCAA Championship finals for the first time. A&M, whose previous best finish in the NCAAs was a round of 16 appearance in 2004, narrowly fell to 17-time national champion Stanford, 4-3, in the championship match. The Aggies concluded their historic 2013 campaign ranked an all-time high No. 3 in the final team rankings with a 26-4 record, marking the most wins in school history.

 Texas A&M, competing in its first season as a member of the powerful Southeastern Conference in 2013, also had experience unprecedented success during the regular season which resulted in A&M receiving a 14th consecutive bid to the NCAA tournament and an all-time high No. 3 seed in the 64-team tournament. Joffe directed the Aggies to their then-highest ranked win in school history by knocking off two-time defending national champion and fourth-ranked Florida, 4-3, snapping the Gators’ 45-match winning streak against SEC teams in conference regular-season, SEC Tournament and NCAA Championship matches combined. The statement win was part of a 13-match win streak, tying the all-time school record for consecutive victories first accomplished in Joffe’s debut season as the Aggie skipper. A&M would go on to win the SEC Western Division title and stake claim to a share of the SEC regular-season crown with the Gators and Georgia.

Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar, who followed Joffe to A&M from Maryland, concluded her stellar two-year career as the most heralded player in Aggie women’s tennis history, becoming the program’s first two-time All-American. After being ranked an A&M all-time high No. 3 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s preseason singles rankings in January 2013, the senior was No. 5 in the final rankings, the highest final ranking in school history.

The Aggies also produced numerous highlights during Joffe’s inaugural season at Texas A&M. Although the team lost, 4-3, to Ole Miss in Joffe’s debut, the Aggies rebounded with a school-record 13 consecutive victories, obliterating the previous record of nine straight wins. The Aggies would later defeat No. 6 Texas (April 17, 2012), which marked A&M’s highest ranked win since defeating No. 5 USC in 2004, when Joffe served as an assistant for the Women of Troy.

The Aggies went on to tie for second in the Big 12 Conference behind the stellar play of Sanchez-Quintanar. The junior went 9-0 in conference matches and 24-1 in dual matches all at the No. 1 line and became the first player in Big 12 history to garner both Big 12 Player of the Year and Big 12 Newcomer of the Year honors in the same season. Sanchez-Quintanar, who first became the highest ranked player in Texas A&M history when she received a No. 4 singles ranking on Feb. 28, 2012, would go on to become the first Joffe-coached player to earn ITA All-America honors after receiving a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Singles Championship. She would also become only the second player in Texas A&M history to reach the quarterfinals of the prestigious tournament.

Texas A&M made its 13th consecutive NCAA appearance in 2012, and after narrowly falling at No. 15 Michigan, 4-3, in the NCAA second round, Joffe’s Aggies finished the season 19-6 and ranked No. 17 in the final ITA rankings. It was A&M’s first top-20 final ranking since tying for 16th in 2004 and its third highest final ranking in school history.

Joffe played college tennis at Pepperdine from 1990-92 and led the Wave to three consecutive West Coast Conference titles. He was an ITA All-American in 1992, the same year he was the 1992 WCC singles champion and reached the semifinals of the NCAA Singles Championship. After three years (1992-94) on the professional tour, Joffe began his coaching career in South Africa. In 2002, he was hired as the women’s assistant coach at perennial power USC, where he finished his bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2006. The two-time ITA West Region Assistant Coach of the Year and a runner-up for the 2006 national award, Joffe left USC in 2007 to be the head coach at Miami (Ohio). In his second season, Joffe was named the Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year after leading the RedHawks to a 16-7 record and an appearance in the NCAA tournament. He then left to become the head coach at Maryland, where he led the Terrapins to an NCAA tournament berth in 2011.

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