COLLEGE STATION, Texas - No. 13 Texas A&M takes on several of the top teams in the country this weekend as the Aggies compete at the ITA National Women's Team Indoor Championship, hosted by the University of Virginia at the Boar's Head Sports Club in Charlottesville, Va.
The Aggies (2-0) face eighth-ranked and No. 6 seed North Carolina Friday at 2:30 p.m. (CT) in the first round of the 16-team tournament with the winner advancing to the quarterfinals to take on the winner between fourth-ranked and No. 4 seed USC and the 12th-ranked Cavaliers.
No. 3 Duke, No. 9 Alabama, No. 14 Northwestern and No. 15 Baylor also are in A&M's half of the draw, while No. 2 UCLA, No. 6 Georgia, No. 7 Cal, No. No. 10 Miami, No. 11 Texas, No. 16 Michigan, No. 17 Nebraska and No. 21 Vanderbilt will be battling it out in the other half of the bracket. The championship match is slated for Monday.
"An event chock-full of top teams is daunting on one hand but also offers us many opportunities to see where we are at the moment," A&M second-year head coach Howard Joffe said. "Our group has really picked it up over the past few weeks, and I am excited to see us compete again."
The Aggies have not played since punching their ticket to the prestigious tournament by defeating No. 54 North Texas and No. 30 Arizona in the season-opening ITA Kick-Off Weekend, Jan. 26-27, at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center in College Station.
Senior Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar, whose school-record No. 3 singles ranking is the highest among all competitors in the tournament, leads the Aggies with a 21-3 overall singles record, including 2-0 in dual matches. Junior Cristina Stancu, a transfer from Maryland, is ranked No. 45 in singles with a 2-0 dual match record and an 11-6 overall mark. Senior Wen Sun also is listed in the singles ranking, coming in at No. 82.
Although currently unranked, senior Nazari Urbina, A&M's first three-time participant at the NCAA Singles Championship, is 86-27 in her career, ranking 10th in the records for most wins. She needs only two more victories to move into a tie for ninth place with former A&M All-American Kim Labuschagne.
Freshman Stefania Hristov, who earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors following the opening weekend, and freshman Ines Deheza, who joined the team in January, have added much-needed strength at the Aggies' No. 5 and 6 singles positions. Hristov is 2-0 at the No. 6 line, while Deheza is 1-0 at No. 5, giving Texas A&M a combined 7-0 mark in singles.
In doubles, Hristov and Stancu are ranked seventh in the nation, marking the highest ranked doubles team in A&M history. The Romanian duo is 2-0 in spring matches and 11-3 overall.
North Carolina is 5-0, including three wins against ranked opponents. Most recently, the Tar Heels defeated No. 16 Michigan, 5-2, on Feb. 3 in Chapel Hill, N.C.
UNC boasts seven ranked singles players, including Gina Suarez-Malaguti (No. 11), Whitney Kay (21), Zoe De Bruycker (No. 28) and Caroline Price (No. 36) all in the top 40. The Tar Heels also have a pair of nationally ranked doubles teams: eighth-ranked Ashley Dai and Kay and No. 51 Tessa Lyons and Lauren McHale.
"UNC has a top team with ranked players in virtually every spot," Joffe said. "I know the Aggie ladies are excited for this opportunity and realize that we will need to perform well tomorrow."
Live scoring of all matches will be available at itatennis.com. 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: http://www.facebook.com/?ref=tn_tnmn#!/pages/Aggie-Womens-Tennis/143874782434654