CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The No. 7 Texas A&M women’s tennis team came back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat No. 3 North Carolina, 4-3, today and record the highest ranked win in school history.
Freshman Saska Gavrilovska led the comeback charge and pulled off what is believed to be the highest ranked singles win by a freshman in program history. The Serbian put the Aggies within 3-2, fighting off two match points and coming through with a heroic 0-6, 6-2, 1-0 (12-10) victory against fifth-ranked Hayley Carter at No. 2 singles. Gavrilovska had lost the first two points of the tiebreaker, and although she never trailed by more than two points, she didn’t take her first lead until 11-10 and then finished the match on the next play.
Another Aggie freshman, Rutuja Bhosale, then knotted the team score at 3-3 as she finished off Tessa Lyons, 6-3, 6-3 at the No. 6 line.
The match came down to the last match standing where Aggie sophomore Ines Deheza, who last year sent the Aggies to the NCAA Championship finals with a crucial last-match-standing three-set victory against UCLA in the semifinals, had come back to force a third set. Deheza had lost her first set, 6-4, to No. 118 Ashley Dai, but won four consecutive games to close out a 6-2 win in the second set. With the ITA experimental scoring rules in effect, the two played a 10-point tiebreaker for the third set. Deheza never trailed, taking her largest lead at 5-2. Dai came back to tie the score at 5-all, but Deheza scored the next three points. Deheza went on to hold a 9-6 advantage when Dai double faulted at match point.
UNC, fielding three nationally ranked doubles teams, began the match by narrowly pulling away at the No. 3 and 2 doubles courts to take a 1-0 lead. At the No. 3 line, the Tar Heels’ 42nd ranked duo of Laura Slater and Kate Vialle when up a break at 4-2, but Gavrilovska and partner Anna Mamalat broke back to put the match on serve with UNC holding a 4-3 lead. Neither side was able to hold serve for the remainder of the contest, and the Tar Heels took the match, 6-4.
At the No. 2 line, UNC’s 12th-ranked duo of Carter and Jamie Loeb won the first four games against Bhosale and Deheza before the Aggie tandem won the next three games to get within 4-3. UNC then won the next two games with Loeb serving an ace to close out the match and clinch the doubles point for the Tar Heels.
In a match between ranked opponents, A&M’s 22nd-ranked pair of Stefania Hristov and Cristina Stancu held a 5-3 lead against No. 10 Whitney Kay and Caroline Price at the No. 1 line, but the match went unfinished once the doubles point was determined.
UNC built a 2-0 lead as Price began singles with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Mamalat at the No. 3 line. Hristov then put the Aggies on the scoreboard as she cruised to a convincing 6-1, 6-0 victory over Vialle at the No. 5 line.
The Tar Heels, who won the first set on four courts, took a 3-1 lead as Loeb, ranked No. 2 in the nation in singles, downed 14th-ranked Stancu, 6-1, 6-0. It would be the final point for the Tar Heels as Gavrilovska began to give the Aggies the momentum.
The Aggies, who last year stunned then-two-time defending national champion and fourth-ranked Florida, 4-3, to post what was then the program’s highest ranked win,
improve to 3-0, while UNC drops its first match and falls to 4-1.
Both teams now head to the 16-team ITA National Indoor Championship, to be held Feb. 7-10, in Charlottesville, Va. The bracket will be announced Wednesday on ITATennis.com.
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:
(On the win): “Obviously it’s hard to be philosophical about the win 15 minutes after getting the best win in school history. The best I can muster up at the moment is that I’m just unbelievably proud of our girls to beat North Carolina, who has the No. 2 and the No. 5 player in the country on their team. We had to play this match at North Carolina, and through one set of lenses this is pretty phenomenal, but when you consider where we were as a team in the fall with unbelievably significant injuries and not really moving per se. What our kids have done in a short space of time goes beyond any reasonable expectation. On that basis, I am super proud of them.”
(On Deheza’s win): “It’s funny because I’m I very casual basketball fan, and they call Robert Horry “Big Shot Bob”, and Ines just has that knack for being cool under the most trying circumstances. That match obviously came down to that final tiebreaker. Ines was up a lot and the young lady played phenomenal to tie it up, yet Ines didn’t flinch. A lot of our school history is owed to Ines Deheza and the Deheza family, because she certainly has come up trumps for us on the biggest stages so to speak.”
(On Gavrilovska): Saska came to Texas A&M with a significant knee injury. There are two words for this win: Dr. (J.P.) Bramhall. Without Dr. Bramhall seeing Saska every week religiously in the fall and taking care of it, it is not possibly to achieve what happened today. The young lady that Saska beat is No. 5 in the nation and has lost two matches in her whole college career. Saska is playing her in front of all these UNC fans and goes down 6-love in the first set. I didn’t get to see the match, but the fact that Saska turned it around and actually won the match is surprising through the lenses I just described, but in the context of the player that I know Saska Gavrilovska is, it is not surprising. Win or lose this match, the most encouraging thing is to see some of our freshmen starting to play and to play well, pain-free, injury-free with three or four months to go this year.”
(On the comebacks after losing so many first sets) “North Carolina is a loaded, stacked team. I thought we acquitted ourselves very well in the doubles, and unfortunately we came up short. My message to the girls going into singles play was can we give the same level of effort and concentration and perform as well as we did in the doubles. If we did that, the results would take care of themselves. Looking from a birds-eye view, we were down 3-1, and yet the critical match in the context of everything was Saska. Saska had faced a team match point. If she loses that, it’s 4-1 with two other matches remaining. But as soon as she won that, Rutuja was up a set and 5-3, and Ines was looking very much like splitting sets. So I felt certainly not very confident but pretty good with our chances.”
(On getting this big win going into the ITA National Team Indoors): “I think just the big thing for us obviously is that we are a young team, so they need to be allowed to enjoy the win. It’s just important for us to remain focused. If we can continue mitigating the injuries and getting more and more mature and practice like we have over the last two weeks, it will take an awful tough team to be able to get us.”
No. 7 Texas A&M 4, No. 3 North Carolina 3
Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center (Indoor)
Chapel Hill, N.C.
February 4, 2014
1. #2 Jamie Loeb (UNC) def. #14 Cristina Stancu (TAMU), 6-1, 6-0
2. Saska Gavrilovska (TAMU) def. #5 Hayley Carter (UNC), 0-6, 6-2, 1-0 (12-10)
3. Caroline Price (UNC) def. Anna Mamalat (TAMU), 6-1, 6-2
4. Ines Deheza (TAMU) def. #118 Ashley Dai (UNC), 4-6, 6-2, 1-0 (10-6)
5. Stefania Hristov (TAMU) def. Kate Vialle (UNC), 6-1, 6-0
6. Rutuja Bhosale (TAMU) def. Tessa Lyons (UNC), 6-3, 6-3
Doubles (UNC wins the point)
1. #22 Hristov/Stancu (TAMU) vs. #10 Kay/Price (UNC), 5-3 unfinished
2. #12 Carter/Loeb (UNC) def. #51 Bhosale/I. Deheza (TAMU), 6-4
3. #42 Laura Slater/Vialle def. Gavrilovska/Mamalat (TAMU), 6-4
Order of finish
Doubles: 3, 2
Singles: 3, 5, 1, 2, 6, 4
Texas A&M: 3-0
North Carolina: 4-1