A&M, which had posted the highest ranked win in program history when it upset the then-No. 3 Tar Heels, 4-3, on Feb. 4 in Chapel Hill, N.C., ends its season 21-7 after making its second consecutive and third overall Sweet 16 appearance. UNC improves to 27-5 and advances to take on No. 2 seed Alabama in the quarterfinals on Saturday.
“Obviously this brings our season to an end, and so it is inherently disappointing,” A&M head coach Howard Joffe said. “And yet when I look at how our girls handled themselves, how they competed given the set of circumstances – more than anything Ines’ (Deheza) knees would not allow her to play today -- they acquitted themselves really well. I was very, very proud of them. We had a match point for the doubles point. If we win that, certainly we have a chance to win the match. So yes, disappointing, but I couldn’t be more pleased with the way our girls went about their work. You have to give North Carolina credit. They are a highly ranked team for a reason. They are very good.”
Due to rain and wet court conditions at the University of Georgia in Athens, the match was moved to the indoor courts in Atlanta.
After splitting matches at the Nos. 2 and 3 lines, the doubles point came down to a thrilling battle between UNC’s third-ranked Jamie Loeb and Hayley Carter and A&M’s 14th-ranked Stefania Hristov and Cristina Stancu at No. 1. The Tar Heels had jumped out to a 5-1 lead before A&M reeled off five consecutive games to go up, 6-5, and put the match back on serve. The match remained on serve, forcing a tiebreaker.
A&M held a 4-2 lead in the tiebreaker before UNC won three straight points to take its first lead, 5-4. A&M countered by winning the next two points, putting the Aggies at match point, 6-5, but UNC answered with two quick points to put the Tar Heels at match point, 7-6. A&M tied the score at 7-7, but UNC won the next point to go up 8-7. A&M was unable to come back this time as a lob shot by the Aggies went long, giving the Tar Heels the match and a 1-0 lead.
A&M’s Rutuja Bhosale and Anna Mamalat had been the first pair off in doubles, winning their fifth consecutive match and improving to 10-0 at the No. 3 line. After going up a break, 4-2, against Laura Slater and Kate Vialle, the Aggie duo then won four of the next five games to close out an 8-3 victory.
UNC quickly evened the race for the doubles point as 13th-ranked Whitney Kay and Caroline Price pulled away from a 2-2 tie with Ines Deheza and Saska Gavrilovska at No. 2. The Tar Heels won six consecutive games to finish out an 8-2 victory, leading into the dramatic finish at the No. 1 line.
UNC carried the momentum into singles, winning each of the first four sets to be completed. Kay went on to give the Tar Heels a 2-0 lead after finishing off Hristov, 6-2, 6-2 at the No. 4 line. UNC went on to build a 3-0 lead as Tessa Lyons topped Mason Strickland, 6-1, 6-1 at No. 6.
UNC had already won the two singles matches before the first sets were completed at the Nos. 2 and 3 lines. Gavrilovska and Bhosale would eventually pull away for A&M’s only two first-set victories, with Gavrilovska downing fifth-ranked Carter, 7-6 (6) at No. 2, and Bhosale defeating 59th-ranked Price 7-6 (1) at No. 3. The two freshmen were unable to complete their matches before Loeb, the No. 1 ranked singles player in the nation, defeated 10th-ranked Stancu, 6-1, 6-3 at the No. 1 line, clinching the 4-0 victory for the Tar Heels. It was Stancu’s first loss after having won a career-best 15 consecutive matches, a streak which began on Feb. 9.
The No. 4 court also went unfinished with Mamalat holding a 4-1 second-set lead against Ashley Dai when play was stopped. Dai had won the first set, 6-4.
Stancu and Gavrilovska will stay in Athens to compete in the NCAA Singles Championship beginning Wednesday, May 21. Stancu, the lone senior on the A&M squad, also will compete in the NCAA Doubles Championship with Hristov.
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 Facebook.com/AggieWomensTennis.
No. 7 North Carolina 4, No. 9 Texas A&M 0
NCAA Championship – Round of 16
Ken Byers Tennis Complex (Indoors), Atlanta, Ga.
1. #1 Jamie Loeb (UNC) def. #10 Cristina Stancu (A&M), 6-1, 6-3
2. #5 Hayley Carter (UNC) vs. #56 Saska Gavrilovska (A&M), 6-7 (6), 0-1 unfinished
3. #59 Caroline Price (UNC) vs. Rutuja Bhosale (A&M), 6-7 (1), 0-0 unfinished
4. Whitney Kay (UNC) def. Stefania Hristov (A&M), 6-2, 6-2
5. #105 Ashley Dai (UNC) vs. Anna Mamalat (A&M), 6-4, 1-4 unfinished
6. Tessa Lyons (UNC) def. Mason Strickland (A&M), 6-1, 6-1
Doubles (UNC wins the point)
1. #3 Carter/Loeb (UNC) def. #14 Hristov/Stancu (A&M), 8-7 (7)
2. #13 Kay/Price (UNC) def. #79 Deheza/Gavrilovska (A&M), 8-2
3. Bhosale/Mamalat (A&M) def. #55 Laura Slater/Kate Vialle (UNC), 8-3
Order of finish
Doubles: 3, 2, 1
Singles: 4, 6, 1
Texas A&M: 21-7
North Carolina: 27-5