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No. 8 Texas A&M Set to Open SEC Tennis Tournament Against Missouri

April 16, 2014
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Courtesy: Texas A&M Athletics
(photo: Texas A&M Athletics)

Tournament Central

TOURNAMENT PREVIEW

·         Eighth-ranked Texas A&M (17-5, 10-3 SEC) is the No. 5 seed at the 2014 SEC Women’s Tennis Tournament and will face No. 13 Missouri on Thursday at 5 p.m. at the Mizzou Tennis Complex in Columbus, Mo. Missouri (9-20, 1-12 SEC) defeated No. 12 seed Arkansas, 4-0, on Wednesday to advance.

·         The Aggies finished one game behind Vanderbilt, Georgia and Florida, who all tied for second place with 11-2 records during the SEC regular season. Alabama won the SEC regular championship with a 12-1 mark.
·         Florida is the defending SEC tournament champion.
·         Last year in A&M’s inaugural season in the SEC, the Aggies tied Florida and Georgia for the regular-season title and were the No. 2 seed at the SEC tournament. A&M defeated 19th-ranked and No. 7 seed Auburn, 4-0, in the quarterfinals before falling to second-ranked and No. 3 seed Florida, 4-1, in the semifinals.
·         The Tournament Central page along with live scoring and video is available here.

TEXAS A&M NOTES
·         Texas A&M has won four of its last five matches and enters the tournament riding a three-match win streak.
·         A&M closed out the regular season by defeating No. 29 Ole Miss, 4-3, and Mississippi State, 4-0, last weekend to go 11-0 in home matches.
·         A&M climbed two spots to No. 8 in this week’s ITA team rankings. It is the second highest ranking the Aggies have received this season. A&M has been ranked No. 7 in six of the 13 weekly rankings this season and has been in the top 11 every week since the first ranking was published on Jan. 2.
·         The Aggies are 12-5 against nationally ranked opponents, including a 4-3 victory at No. 3 North Carolina on Feb. 4, marking the highest ranked win in program history.
·         Texas A&M head coach Howard Joffe posted the 100th victory of his head coaching career in the SEC opener at South Carolina on March 2. He enters the SEC Tournament 110-53 (.675) in the seventh season of his head coaching career and  62-15 (.805) in his third season at A&M.

SERIES NOTES VS. MISSOURI
·         Texas A&M is 20-1 all-time against Missouri, including 9-1 in matches played in Columbia.
·         On March 22, the then-seventh-ranked Aggies defeated the Tigers, 4-0, in College Station. It was A&M’s 12th consecutive victory against Missouri.
·         Missouri’s lone victory against A&M was a 5-2 decision on Feb. 2, 2003, in Columbia.
·         The former Big 12 Conference foes are meeting for the first time in the SEC Tennis Championship.

TEXAS A&M IN THE ITA RANKINGS
·         Texas A&M climbed two spots and enters the SEC tournament No. 8 in the most recent ITA national rankings. The Aggies have been ranked No. 11 or higher every week during the spring, receiving a season-high No. 7 six times.
·         Senior Cristina Stancu, No. 11 in the ITA singles rankings entering the SEC tournament, earned a career-high No. 8 singles ranking last week, making her the second highest ranked individual in A&M history. Two-time All-American Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar holds the school record with a No. 3 ranking.
·         Freshman Saska Gavrilovska, who has been ranked as high as No. 47 in singles, enters the tournament No. 63.
·         In doubles, Stefania Hristov and Stancu climbed seven spots to No. 16 entering the SEC tournament. It is their highest ranking since a No. 8 showing in the ITA fall rankings released in Sept.

PASSING SHOTS
·         Texas A&M, 11-0 in home matches, is 1-1 at neutral sites and 5-4 in away matches.
·         A&M is 12-5 against ranked opponents.
·         The Aggies went a combined 33-20 in SEC singles matches and 19-7 in SEC doubles matches.
·         Cristina Stancu, A&M’s lone senior, is riding a team-leading and a career-high 11-match win streak in singles, as well as a team-leading three-match win streak in doubles with sophomore Stefania Hristov.
·         Stancu, who went 8-0 in SEC, is 29-7 overall and needs one singles victory to reach the 30-win milestone.
·         Saska 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 14-0 when No. 1 singles wins and 8-0 when No. 6 singles wins.
·         The Aggies are 14-0 when winning the doubles point.
·         A&M is 10-0 when No. 2 doubles wins and 8-0 when No. 3 doubles wins.

TEXAS A&M MOST RECENT TEXAS A&M LINEUP

Overall     Dual       SEC

1 Singles:  #11 Cristina Stancu (Sr., Constanta, Romania)           29-7     13-3     8-0
2 Singles: #63 Saska Gavrilovska (Fr., Serbia)      16-7      12-4    7-2
3 Singles:  Rutuja Bhosale (Fr., India)     13-8       9-5        5-3
4 Singles: Stefania Hristov (So., Iasi, Romania)    17-12    12-6    6-4
5 Singles: Anna Mamalat (So., Philadelphia, Pa.)             12-15  5-10     3-4
6 Singles: Jana McCord (Fr., San Diego, Calif.     9-10      3-3      2-3
Others available: Ines Deheza, Mason Strickland

1 Doubles: Hristov/Stancu                      22-8       11-3      7-1
2 Doubles: Bhosale/Mamalat                8-4         7-3        5-3
3 Doubles: Gavrilovska/McCord            2-3         1-2        1-2

TEXAS A&M HEAD COACH HOWARD JOFFE

Howard Joffe (pronounced joff-ee), one of the brightest young collegiate tennis coaches in the country, is 62-15 (.805) in his third season at A&M and 110-53 (.675) 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. It was A&M’s third regular-season conference title in school history and the first since 2003.

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.

RECENT RESULTS
After a thrilling come-from-behind 4-3 victory over No. 29 Ole Miss on Friday, No. 10 Texas A&M celebrated Senior Day and capped a perfect 11-0 regular-season home slate by defeating Mississippi State, 4-0, on Sunday at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center.

The Aggies opened the match by quickly taking commanding leads at Nos. 1 and 2 doubles. The 23rd-ranked A&M duo of Stefania Hristov and Cristina Stancu did not yield a game to Mississippi State’s 56th-ranked team of Alexandra Perper and Naomi Tran en route to an 8-0 victory at the top of the lineup. Minutes later, the tandem of Anna Mamalat and Rutuja Bhosale clinched the doubles point, winning four consecutive games to close out an 8-2 win over Roseline Dion and Timea Guibe.

Only one game on four courts had been completed early in singles play before rain began fall, forcing nearly an hour-and-a half delay. Despite the interruption, the Aggies would continue to ride the momentum once play resumed, eventually claiming five of six first sets.

Hristov completed the perfect sweep on the afternoon. After not surrendering a game in doubles, the sophomore raced to a 6-0, 6-0 win over Ferancova at the No. 4 singles line to give A&M a 2-0 lead.

Gavrilovska, No. 65 in the ITA singles rankings, cruised past Perper, 6-1, 6-2, at the No. 2 line to push the Aggies’ lead to 3-0. The freshman had jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first set and later won the final five games in the second set to secure the victory.

After posting her first conference victory on Friday night, McCord clinched the match against the Bulldogs with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Rosalinda Calderon at the No. 6 line. The freshman used a six-game run, winning the last four of the first set and taking the first two games of the second set to propel her to the victory.

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