The NCAA runner-up last year, 10th-seeded A&M will be making its third overall appearance in the Sweet 16 since the bracket went to a 64-team format and will face seventh-seeded North Carolina at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga., on Thursday, May 15. The last time the two teams met, A&M stunned the then-third-ranked Tar Heels, 4-3, on Feb. 4 in Chapel Hill, N.C., marking the highest ranked win in A&M history.
Today’s victory marked the 17th consecutive home victory for the Aggies, who improve to 21-6 overall and complete their 2014 home slate 13-0. The Longhorns end their season 13-13.
A&M took the early edge in the pursuit for the doubles point as Rutuja Bhosale and Anna Mamalat won three consecutive games to pull away for an 8-4 victory over Juliana Gajic and Lina Padegimaite at the No. 3 line. It was the fifth straight win for the Aggie tandem, which improved to 10-0 at No. 3.
The remaining two courts would come down to a tiebreaker, with Texas fighting off a match point at the No. 1 court and tying the score at 7-7, while the Aggies were fighting off a match point at the No. 2 line to also tie the score at 7-all.
A&M’s 14th-ranked duo of Stefania Hristov and Cristina Stancu had jumped out to a 3-0 lead against Breaunna Addison and Elizabeth Begley at No. 1, but the Texas tandem quickly put the match back on serve at 3-2. The teams stayed on serve, with Texas fighting off one match point to hold serve and tie the match at 7-7 and force a tiebreaker. A&M jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the tiebreaker and went on to win, 7-2.
A&M’s Ines Deheza and Saska Gavrilovska had fought off one match point and held serve to tie Ratnika Batra and Neda Koprcina, 7-7, at the No. 2 line. The tiebreaker was knotted at 5-5 when A&M clinched the point at No. 1 and play was stopped.
A&M, which entered the match 16-0 this season when winning the doubles point, took a 2-0 lead at the start of singles as Hristov cruised to a 6-1, 6-3 over Horn at the No. 5 line. The Aggie sophomore won the final five games of the first set and went on to win eight consecutive games overall after taking the first three games of the second set en route to the victory.
The Longhorns quickly evened the match at 2-2 after Bhosale fell to Koprcina, 6-3, 6-2, at the No. 4 line and 84th-ranked Deheza was upset by 119th-ranked Begley 6-3, 6-0, at the No. 2 line.
Hours before she was scheduled to receive her diploma at a graduation ceremony across the street at Reed Arena, 10th-ranked Stancu won her 15th consecutive match and put the Maroon and White ahead, 3-2, with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over 12th-ranked Addison. It was the highest ranked win of the season for the Aggies’ lone senior, who improved to 33-7 overall to move into a tie for fifth in the A&M all-time records for wins in a season.
In the win, Stancu handed Addison her first first-set loss since March 16, and two of the Longhorns’ last three losses have come at the hands of Stancu, who also defeated Addison in straight sets at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships on Feb. 9.
Needing a win on one of the two remaining courts, Mamalat’s late streak propelled the Aggies into the Sweet 16. After posting a first set victory and holding serve through the first five games of the second set with Padegimaite at the No. 6 line, the Aggie sophomore ran off four straight games to win 6-4, 6-3 to clinch the victory.
Texas A&M Head Coach Howard Joffe Quotes:
“More than anything I’ve got to credit our kids with showing a lot of character. We definitely are running on fumes in terms of injuries and all sorts of a concoction of woes, and yet we were able to pull it out. I know it wasn’t our best performance in terms of tennis. I think the layoff since the SEC Tournament was evidenced today. When a match is getting close, our nerves are more raw than they are during the season when you’re just a little more used to the stress and the pressure. In spite of all of that, our girls sucked it up and competed greatly. I couldn’t be more delighted. It’s a big win for us. Texas is a very good team. I’ve got to give them credit. They fought us really hard. We had a big lead in two out of the three doubles, and they came the whole way back. They did a good job and I’m thrilled to be moving on.”
On doubles play:
“I hate to do, as I say in Vegas, the two-team parlays. The odds are never good in a two-team parlay, but I didn’t want today to be the day that I lost that. This is not to take away from Texas and the fact that they fought so well, but more than anything I think our nerves were really raw and when we had opportunities to put them away, we actually weren’t able to. At the two doubles we were down some but then got up and got in a position where I really felt like we were going to run away with it and stumbled over ourselves. Of course in the one doubles, [Cristina] Stancu and [Stefania] Hristov are an established veteran team – three-love up, two breaks, and a ton of chances. I think the nerves a little bit got the better of us, but again when push comes to shove they’re an awful tough group.”
“Once we’d lost those two matches, it was two-all maybe for a moment, then Stancu won. The match was very tenuous. [Anna] Mamalat at six was up, but it was as close as you could be to not being even. And then, of course, Saska [Gavrilovska] had just split sets. The thing I’m really proud of – Saska is a freshman. She splits sets, it’s a big disappointment, I’m sure. It’s a lot of stress on her, and then when the clock gets stopped, she leads 2-love and game point in the final set. She’s a tenacious little stinker.”
On Mamalat’s drop shots:
“I obviously was over on that side and saw the entire match. That’s a play that Anna does. She’s very, very good at that. She’s got a very good set of hands. That’s a play she probably won eight out of eight times going for the drop shot today. It’s something she does regularly. She’s just got a peculiar knack for feeling that. The part that helps her is when she goes to the one-hand slice. It throws the other kid off balance for sure. They’re not expecting a drop shot. They’re expecting her to hit two hands flat, deep, hard, so they’re far back in the court which sort of sets that shot up.”
On Stancu’s performance:
“What an unbelievable performance. She really is a fighter personified. She is never out of a match. In this case, I think their first game may have lasted about 12 minutes. She lost the game and then oh, by the way, reeled off six in a row. She’s as ferocious and as tough as they get. The victory is owed as much to her as anyone.”
No. 9 Texas A&M 4, No. 23 Texas 2
NCAA Championship – Second Round
Mitchell Tennis Center, College Station, Texas
May 10, 2014
1. #10 Cristina Stancu (A&M) def. #12 Breaunna Addison (UT) 6-2, 6-3
2. #119 Elizabeth Begley (UT) def. #84 Ines Deheza (A&M) 6-3, 6-0
3. #56 Saska Gavrilovska (A&M) vs. Ratnika Batra (UT) 6-2, 3-6, 2-0 unfinished
4. Neda Koprcina (UT) def. Rutuja Bhosale (A&M) 6-3, 6-2
5. Stefania Hristov (A&M) def. Pippa Horn (UT) 6-1, 6-3
6. Anna Mamalat (A&M) def. Lina Padegimaite (UT) 6-4, 6-3
Doubles (A&M wins the point)
1. #14 Hristov/Stancu (A&M) def. Addison/Begley (UT), 8-7 (2)
2. #79 Deheza/Gavrilovska (A&M) vs. Batra/Koprcina (UT), 7-7 unfinished
3. Bhosale/Mamalat (A&M) def. Juliana Gajic/Padegimaite (UT), 8-4
Order of finish
Doubles: 3, 1
Singles: 5, 4, 2, 1, 6
Texas A&M: 21-6
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