No. 4 Aggies Face Tough Challenge at No. 11 Vanderbilt
The Aggies, whose No. 4 ranking is the highest in school history as well as the highest amongst teams in the powerful SEC, are 8-1 overall and 2-0 in league play after defeating No. 43 South Carolina, 5-2, and No. 4 Florida, 4-3, last weekend to open conference play in College Station. The win against the Gators was the biggest win in school history, and it ended Florida's 37-match SEC regular-season win streak. Reigning SEC Player of the Week Nazari Urbina, clinched the monumental win in the last match standing with a come-from-behind 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1 victory over 53rd-ranked Alexandra Cercone at the No. 3 singles line.
Vanderbilt is 9-4 overall, 2-0 in SEC play and riding a four-match win streak after defeating No. 63 LSU, 7-0, and No. 50 Arkansas, 4-3, to open conference play on the road last weekend.
The Commodores are 7-0 all-time against the Aggies in dual matches. Although the teams haven't met in a dual match since 2007, the personnel are somewhat familiar as the teams did face off in a preseason tournament in January. Vanderbilt won four of six singles matches, while A&M took two of three doubles matches.
"We do know their players a bit," A&M second-year head coach Howard Joffe said, "but whatever help that is, at the end the day we are going to have to play very well. Vanderbilt is definitely a team that is very well balanced. All three doubles teams are good and all six singles players are good, and it is evidenced by their high ranking. In fact the kid that is playing somewhere around No. 4 singles has a win over Cristina (Sanchez-Quintanar), who is our No. 1 player, so it definitely is going to be a very tough match."
Sanchez-Quintanar is one of three Aggie players listed in the national singles rankings. The senior All-American is ranked sixth and is 26-4 overall, including 7-1 at the No. 1 line. Her only loss in dual match play was to top-ranked Lauren Embree of Florida. Urbina is ranked 67th with a 3-1 mark at the No. 3 singles line, and junior Cristina Stancu is ranked 83rd with a 5-2 record at No. 2 singles.
Aggie freshman Stefania Hristov is tied with Sanchez-Quintanar for most singles wins in dual matches with a 7-1 record. She is 5-0 at the No. 6 line and 2-2 at No. 5. Fellow freshman Anna Mamalat leads the team with a three-match winning streak and is 3-1 at No. 6.
Hristov and Stancu are ranked 11th in the nation in doubles. They are riding a four-match win streak at the No. 1 line and lead A&M with a 14-5 overall doubles record. The tandem is 5-2 in dual matches, tying freshmen twins Ines and Paula Deheza, who also are 5-2 in dual match play with a 4-1 record at third doubles and 1-0 mark at No. 2.
Vanderbilt, 3-0 in home matches, is led by Lauren Mira, who is ranked 60th in singles and is 7-4 in dual matches. Georgina Sellyn, who upset Sanchez-Quintanar in straight sets in the tournament in January, is ranked 64th and is 7-3 in dual matches, including a 4-0 record at No. 4 singles. Three people have played at the No. 6 line, where the Commodores boast a combined 10-0 mark.
In doubles, Vanderbilt is led by Mira and Courtney Colton, who are ranked 29th in the nation. The Commodores are 7-0 when winning the doubles point.
"Maybe as a coach I'm a little bit guilty of not scouting enough of the opposition, but I'm always more interested in our team," Joffe said. "There is no question that our team since January is much improved and we are starting to play much better tennis. One has to go on the expectation that that is the same for them, that they are also much improved, but at this moment, the Aggies are certainly showing that they are prepared to fight, and on that basis, it's very encouraging."
A&M closes out a two-match road swing at 44th-ranked Kentucky on Sunday at 11 a.m. (CT) in Lexington. The Wildcats are 10-3 overall and 1-1 in SEC play entering a match against Missouri on Friday.
Links to live scoring at the Vanderbilt and Kentucky matches will be available at AggieAthletics.com.
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