"I know our group is bitterly disappointed at the loss,” A&M head coach Howard Joffe said, “and yet I couldn't be more proud of the individual and collective efforts of the Aggies."
The Aggies, who handed Florida its only SEC regular season loss and snapped the Gators’ then-45-match overall win streak against SEC opponents with a 4-3 victory on March 3 in College Station, fall to 21-3 and now await the announcement of the NCAA 64-team tournament field on April 30.
Florida, which tied A&M and Georgia for the SEC regular season title with a 12-1 conference record, improves to 21-2 and advances to the championship match for the 24th time in the 26-year history of the tournament.
"Florida played with great determination and was able to come back against us after we won the doubles point,” Joffe said. “I know that with a few days of rest and some time to focus on the studies, we will be fresh to prepare and then perform our best for the NCAA tournament."
SEC-newcomer Texas A&M entered the second-ever meeting between the two programs riding a six-match win streak. In addition, the Aggies boasted a 15-0 record when winning the doubles point. Although the Aggies got off to a promising start by winning the doubles point against the Gators, both notable streaks would come to an end.
Florida won the first doubles match to be completed with an 8-2 victory at the No. 1 line. The 22nd-ranked duo of Lauren Embree and Sofie Oyen jumped out to a 4-0 lead, and A&M’s 43rd-ranked Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar and Wen Sun, playing the No. 1 line for only the fourth time this season, were unable to overcome the deficit.
At the No. 2 court, A&M’s 16th-ranked Stefania Hristov and Cristina Stancu went up a break in the opening game against Alexandra Cercone and Caroline Hitimana and kept the lead throughout the match. After the first game, both teams held serve until A&M broke a second time to win the match, 8-5.
The point came down to the No. 3 line where A&M twins Ines and Paula Deheza battled game-for-game against Florida’s Danielle Collins and Brianna Morgan. The match stayed on serve until the Aggies broke to go up 4-3. A&M later went up another break at 7-4 with Paula serving for the match. The Gators were on the verge of breaking, but A&M got the score back to deuce. Florida hit long to put A&M at match point, but the Gators stayed alive as A&M hit into the net. Florida netted on the next play to put A&M at match point for the second time. Florida then hit long as the Dehezas won the match, 8-4, to clinch the doubles point for the fourth consecutive match and extend their win streak to five.
Florida, which entered the match 4-2 when dropping the doubles point, quickly gained momentum at the start of singles. With a lineup that featured four nationally ranked singles players, the Gators won the first set on four courts.
Olivia Janowicz evened the score at 1-1, with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Aggie freshman Anna Mamalat, who moved up to the No. 5 line for the first time after posting a 6-3 dual match record at No. 6.
The Gators then took the lead, 2-1, after 15th-ranked Oyen pulled away from 73rd-ranked Stancu, 6-3, 6-2 at No. 2. Florida widened the margin to 3-1 as top-ranked Embree topped fourth-ranked Sanchez-Quintanar, 6-2, 6-1, at the No. 1 court. It marked Embree’s 18th consecutive singles victory and her 36th straight victory in a dual match.
The Aggies continued to put up a fight on the remaining three courts, which all went to a third set.
Ines Deheza, who enter the match riding a team-best 11-match win streak in singles, had her hands full at the No. 4 line, where 95th-ranked Morgan had dropped the opening frame, 6-1, but won the first four games of the second set en route to a 6-4 win to force a third set. Morgan then took command, winning the final set, 6-0, to clinch the victory for the Gators.
A&M’s 71st-ranked Narzari Urbina and 54th-rancked Cercone were locked 3-3 in the final set when Morgan clinched the fourth point for the Gators and play was stopped. Urbina had won the first set, 6-3, and Cercone had taken the second set, 6-2, to force the third set.
Although the No. 6 line was the first to complete a first set at the start of singles, Hristov continued to battle after dropping the opener, 6-1, to 120th-ranked Danielle Collins. Hristov forced a tiebreaker in the second set and scored four consecutive points to close out a 7-4 victory and command a third set. Collins had jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the final set, but Hristov stayed alive by winning four consecutive games to tie the score at 5-5. After exchanging games, the two were about to begin a tiebreaker when Florida won its fourth point and play was stopped.
Florida aims to when its fourth consecutive tournament title when the Gators face No. 1 seed and third-ranked Georgia in the championship match Sunday at 1 p.m.
Aggie fans can keep up to date on 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
No. 2 Florida 4, No. 4 Texas A&M 1
SEC Women’s Tennis Championship - Semifinal
A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre, Starkville, Miss.
April 20, 2013
1. #1 Lauren Embree (UF) def. #4 Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar (TAMU), 6-2, 6-1
2. #15 Sofie Oyen (UF) def. #73 Cristina Stancu (TAMU), 6-3, 6-2
3. #71 Nazari Urbina (TAMU) vs. #54 Alexandra Cercone (UF), 6-3, 2-6, 3-3 unfinished
4. #95 Brianna Morgan (UF) def. Ines Deheza (TAMU), 1-6, 6-4, 6-0
5. Olivia Janowicz (UF) def. Anna Mamalat (TAMU), 6-2, 6-2
6. Stefania Hristov (TAMU) vs. #120 Danielle Collins (UF), 1-6, 7-6 (4), 6-6 unfinished
Doubles (Texas A&M wins the point)
1. #22 Embree/Oyen (UF) def. #43 Sanchez-Quintanar/Sun (TAMU), 8-2
2. #16 Hristov/Stancu (TAMU) def. Cercone/Caroline Hitimana (UF), 8-5
3. I. Deheza/Paula Deheza (TAMU) def. Collins/Morgan (UF), 8-4
Order of finish
Doubles: 1, 2, 3
Singles: 5, 2, 1, 4
Texas A&M: 21-3
Tournament Schedule/Results (national ranking in parentheses)
Wednesday, April 17 – First Round
No. 12 Mississippi State def. No. 13 Missouri (56), 4-2
No. 14 LSU (64) def. No. 11 Kentucky (42), 4-2
Thursday, April 18 – Second Round
No. 9 Ole Miss def. No. 8 South Carolina, 4-3
No. 5 Tennessee def. No. 12 Mississippi State, 4-0
No. 7 Auburn def. No. 10 Arkansas, 4-3
No. 6 Vanderbilt def. No. 14 LSU, 4-0
Friday, April 19 - Quarterfinals
No. 1 Georgia (3) def. No. 9 Ole Miss (39), 4-0
No. 4 Alabama (8) def. No. 5 Tennessee (29), 4-3
No. 2 Texas A&M (4) def. No. 7 Auburn (19), 4-0
No. 3 Florida (2) def. No. 6 Vanderbilt (18), 4-3
Saturday, April 20 – Semifinals
No. 1 Georgia (3) def. No. 4 Alabama (8), 4-2
No. 3 Florida (2) def. No. 2 Texas A&M (4), 4-1
Sunday, April 21 – Finals
1:00 p.m. No. 1 Georgia (3) vs. No. 3 Florida (2)