The win not only snapped the Aggies' three-match losing skid and gave league-leader Texas (13-6, 6-1 Big 12) its first loss in Big 12 Conference play, but it also ended A&M's nine-match losing streak against its biggest rival.
"It feels great. I don't even know what all the history is because I haven't been around, but I know that we are a team that has not beaten Texas for a number of years," first-year A&M coach Howard Joffe said. "Probably the thing that I feel the best about for our kids is that all teams in all sports go through ups and downs during a season. We unfortunately caught some injuries right at the most critical time of the season, and so it was sort of an emotionally big blow for our kids. We've had some very big Big 12 games in the last couple of weeks and haven't had our full lineup and taken some losses that we may ordinarily have taken. It was just a bad time for it to happen. And for them to sort of come out and play Texas, who is ranked No. 6 in the country, it was really a great team effort. Simply stated, I'm delighted and I'm delight for our kids. They deserve it."
The match came down to No. 2 singles, where A&M junior Nazari Urbina clinched the victory for the Aggies by defeating All-American Aeriel Ellis, 6-2, 6-2 to set off the celebration.
"I just tried to play my game," Urbina said. "Basically I was just trying to play aggressive. [Ellis] is a good player. I got to play her last year and I beat her also, so I kind of knew her game and her weaknesses. And today I felt better than last year actually, so it was a good win and I'm glad I got to clinch the match.
"When you come to Texas A&M and you know the rivalry that we have with Texas, it is a goal you have as a tennis player and as an athlete to beat Texas. I'm glad that we beat them, especially this year since it will be the last time that we play them in the Big 12. I'm very happy about it."
With the Aggies celebrating Senior Night in their final home match of the regular season, A&M's two seniors, Sheri Olivier and Lauren Santacroce, appropriately set the tone in doubles to give their team an early edge. The pair was on serve at 3-2 against Texas' Elizabeth Begley and Ellis at the No. 3 line before the Aggie duo reeled off four consecutive games to take a commanding 7-2 lead. The Longhorns fought off one match point and held serve to get within 7-3 before the Aggies secured the 8-3 victory.
"When I talk about a team effort, Lauren Santacroce and Sheri Olivier won their match at No. 3 doubles convincingly," Joffe said. "That absolutely helped us get over the finish line. There is no question that in today's match the doubles point was a critical item."
Texas evened the race for the doubles point as Lina Padegimaite and Noel Scott jumped out to a 4-1 lead en route to an 8-5 victory at the No. 2 line over Urbina and freshman Janine Erasmus, who was in the doubles lineup for the third consecutive match in place of Janelle Cuthbertson, who is out with an injury.
The crucial point came down to the No. 1 line. A&M's 50th-ranked junior tandem of Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar and Wen Sun went up a break at 6-4 against Krista Damico and Cierra Gaytan-Leach. The teams then held serve for the remainder of the contest with Sanchez-Quintanar punctuating the win by acing match point in the 8-5 victory.
Sanchez-Quintanar, the 8th-ranked singles player in the nation, then put A&M ahead, 2-0, at the start of singles as she improved to 7-0 in Big 12 matches with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over 62nd-ranked Damico at the top of the lineup. Sanchez-Quintanar, who fell behind, 3-1 in the opening set before winning 11 consecutive games to close out the match, also improved to 30-5 overall, moving her into a tie for seventh place in the A&M records for most wins in a season.
Begley got the Horns within 2-1 by topping Olivier, 6-3, 6-2 at No. 6, but 83rd-ranked Sun put the Aggies ahead, 3-1, with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Scott at the No. 3 line.
Texas quickly overcame the deficit and tied the score at 3-3 after notching wins at the No. 5 and 4 lines. Padegimaite saddle Erasmus with a 6-1, 6-2 loss at No. 5, and Gaytan-Leach held off Santacroce, 6-3, 7-6 (4) at No. 4 for the equalizer.
With all eyes turning to the No. 2 court, Urbina had jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the second set before Ellis rallied to win the next two games. The comeback was short lived as Ellis hit out on match point, sealing the victory for Urbina and the Aggies, who tallied their biggest win since a 4-3 victory over No. 5 Southern California in 2004, when Joffe was an assistant coach for the Women of Troy.
"The whole team, we've been working hard in our practice and trying to keep improving and playing good tennis," Urbina said, "and today finally all the hard work that we have been putting into practice and workouts, it finally was worth it today."
"Ours was always going to be a team that at the top end of the lineup could play against any of the other teams in the country," Joffe added. "[Nos.] 1, 2, and 3 are awful good and I think played above par, because Texas up high has some very fine players."
The Aggies wrap up the regular season this weekend with a pair of matches in Oklahoma. A&M faces the Oklahoma State Cowgirls on Saturday at 2 p.m. in Stillwater and then takes on the Oklahoma Sooners on Sunday at noon in Norman.
A&M then returns home to host the men's and women's 2012 Big 12 Tennis Championships, April 26-29 at the Mitchell Tennis Center. To purchase tickets in advance, contact the ticket office at 1-888-99-AGGIE or purchase online at AggieAthletics.com.
No. 24 Texas A&M 4, No. 6 Texas 3
April 17, 2012
George P. Mitchell Tennis Center
College Station, Texas
1. (#8) Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar (TAMU) def. (#62) Krista Damico (UT), 6-3, 6-0
2. (#80) Nazari Urbina (TAMU) def. (#30) Aeriel Ellis (UT), 6-2, 6-2
3. (#83) Wen Sun (TAMU) def. Noel Scott (UT), 6-2, 6-0
4. Cierra Gaytan-Leach (UT) def. Lauren Santacroce (TAMU), 6-3, 7-6 (4)
5. Lina Padegimaite (UT) def. Janine Erasmus (TAMU), 6-1, 6-2
6. Elizabeth Begley (UT) def. Sheri Olivier (TAMU), 6-3, 6-2
Doubles (A&M wins the point)
1. (#50) Sanchez-Quintanar/Sun (TAMU) def. Damico/Gaytan-Leach (UT), 8-5
2. (#42) Padegimaite/Scott (UT) def. Erasmus/Urbina (TAMU), 8-5
3. Olivier/Santacroce (TAMU) def. Begley/Ellis (UT), 8-3
Order of finish
Doubles: 3, 2, 1
Singles: 1, 6, 3, 5, 4, 2*
* - Clinched match
Texas A&M: 14-4, 5-2 Big 12
Texas: 13-6, 6-1 Big 12