GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Texas A&M was unable to duplicate the thrilling upset it registered last season against Florida as the ninth-ranked Aggies fell to the No. 5 Gators, 4-0, in both teams’ Southeastern Conference season opener this evening at the Ring Tennis Complex.
The match, broadcast on ESPN3 as part of the USTA’s College MatchDay series, began with singles, and the Aggies appeared to have momentum in the early going. A&M, making its first-ever appearance in Gainesville, won the two first sets to be completed and had leads on three other courts. Florida, which entered the match with an all-time 185-1 home record against SEC opponents, then began an impressive comeback, and the teams eventually staked claim to three first sets apiece.
No. 27 Alexandra Cercone put the Gators on the scoreboard, winning four consecutive games to close out a 6-3 first-set win over 57th-ranked Saska Gavrilovska at the No. 3 line and then cruising to a 6-1 second-set victory.
No. 34 Sofie Oyen gave Florida a 2-0 lead as she downed 118th-ranked Anna Mamalat, 6-1, 6-3, at fourth singles. The Gators then went up, 3-0, as 45th-ranked Kourtney Keegan came back to defeat Rutuja Bhosale, 4-6, 6-1, 6-0 at the No. 6 line.
Brianna Morgan, ranked 24th, clinched the 4-0 victory for Florida, overcoming a 5-3 first-set deficit to top Ines Deheza, 7-5, 6-3 at the No. 2 court.
In a battle of top-15 players, A&M’s 15th-ranked Cristina Stancu and Florida’s seventh-ranked Olivia Janowicz had split sets. Stancu had won the first set, 6-2, but Janowicz jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the second set. Stancu reeled off four consecutive games to get within 5-4 before Janowicz closed out the set to force a third. Janowicz held a narrow 2-1 lead in the final set when play was stopped.
A&M’s Stefania Hristov had grinded out a 6-4 first-set win over 76th-ranked Belinda Woolcock and held a 5-2 lead in the second set at the No. 5 line when the match was stopped.
The Aggies, who ended Florida’s 37-match SEC regular-season win streak last year and went on to tie the Gators and Georgia for the SEC championship with a 12-1 conference record, fall to 6-3.
Florida improved to 9-2 as the Gators won their 126th consecutive home match.
Texas A&M’s Howard Joffe will get a second attempt to record the 100th victory of his head coaching career on Sunday as the Aggies take on No. 42 South Carolina in Columbia, S.C. First serve against the Gamecocks is at 12 p.m. (11 a.m. CT) at the Carolina Tennis Center.
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.
Texas A&M Head Coach Howard Joffe Quotes:
“Obviously the kids and myself are disappointed we lost the match. Just sort of looking back on it, we won three of the six first sets, and Ines (Deheza) led 5-3 and had multiple opportunities. I thought we were not just on par with them, but we were actually taking it to them pretty well. There is no question that over time we weakened. When I say weakened, probably in different matches it means different things. It was a combination of things, and the crowd was rather enthusiastic and got their teeth into some of our younger girls. Maybe those were some extraneous factors. The truth is Florida deserves a lot of credit. They fought well.
“Inexperience and youth. We didn’t do a good job of sucking up their charge, and over time I feel like we weakened a little bit. In terms of our ability to play with or to beat a team like this, it’s clear the ability is there, but we are definitely going to need to strengthen in a number of areas as the season goes on. If we do that, it was very encouraging. We played them dead-even for an hour or hour and-a-half. After that it got a little bit ugly.
“(Stefania) Hristov was a few points from winning her match. (Cristina) Stancu was in a third set. Rutuja (Bhosale) lost in a third set, and Ines was up 5-3 in the first set and had multiple chances up 5-4, and (Brianna) Morgan came storming back. So it was closely contested. We needed to be stronger for longer today.”
(On College MatchDay experience)
“More than anything, our kids were very excited to represent Texas A&M, to represent themselves, the university and our team. I think they acquitted themselves well, and definitely we were treated by the ESPN folk and the Florida folk first rate.”
No. 5 Florida 4, No. 9 Texas A&M 0
Alfred Ring Tennis Complex
February 28, 2014
1. #15 Cristina Stancu (TAMU) vs. #7 Olivia Janowicz (UF), 6-2, 4-6, 1-2 unfinished
2. #24 Brianna Morgan (UF) def. Ines Deheza (TAMU), 7-5, 6-3
3. #27 Alex Cercone (UF) def. #57 Saska Gavrilovska (TAMU), 6-3, 6-1
4. #34 Sofie Oyen (UF) def. #118 Anna Mamalat (TAMU), 6-1, 6-3
5. Stefania Hristov (TAMU) vs. #76 Belinda Woolcock (UF), 6-4, 5-2 unfinished
6. #45 Kourtney Keegan (UF) def. Rutuja Bhosale (TAMU), 4-6, 6-1, 6-0
Order of finish
Singles: 3, 4, 6, 2
Texas A&M: 6-3, 0-1 SEC
Florida: 9-2, 1-0 SEC