URBANA, Ill. – No. 3-seeded Texas A&M will make its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Championship quarterfinals after defeating No. 14 seed Virginia, 5-0, in the round of 16 today at the Kahn Outdoor Tennis Complex.
The Aggies, who improve to 24-3 to tie the 2004 squad for the most wins in school history, will play either No. 6 seed Miami or No. 11 seed Northwestern, Sunday at 4 p.m. in the quarterfinals.
“It feels really great, not even looking at the content of the match per se, but just the fact that it is the first time we have managed to get to the Elite Eight and get a win at the final site,” A&M second-year head coach Howard Joffe said. “I’m just really happy for each person as an individual, I’m happy for our group, and I’m obviously very happy for the university, because it is a great thing for Texas A&M athletics.”
A&M was playing in the round of 16 for only the second time in school history, having made its only other appearance in 2004. Virginia (19-10) was making its third consecutive NCAA Round of 16 appearance, and both teams were aiming to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time. The match marked the third time the teams had ever met, with A&M having defeated the Cavaliers in the two previous meetings earlier this season.
The match began with A&M twin sisters Ines and Paula Deheza giving the Aggies the early advantage in the race for the doubles point as they broke away from a 2-2 tie to defeat Maria Fucillo and Li Xi, 8-3, at the No. 3 line. It was the eighth consecutive victory for the Aggie duo, which improves to 18-5 in dual matches.
A&M clinched the doubles point at the No. 1 line, but it wasn’t easy. The Aggies’ 18th-ranked pair of Stefania Hristov and Cristina Stancu was up a break at 7-6 with triple match point against Stephanie Nauta and Erin Vierra. The Cavaliers fought back to break A&M and even the match at 7-7. A&M broke back to go up, 8-7, and then held to win, 9-7, to put the Aggies ahead, 1-0.
A&M’s 49th-ranked team of Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar and Wen Sun had jumped out to a 4-1 lead and were winning 7-4 against Julia Elbaba and Hana Tomljanovic at No. 2 when play was stopped.
“It was definitely a strange match because at the very beginning we were a little bit down and then we got in some commanding positions only to sort of falter,” Joffe said. “We had three match points at 7-6 for Stancu and Hristov, but we were able to sort of not let it freak us out and get going. The doubles point absolutely helped a lot.”
A&M had the momentum early in singles, winning the first set on five of six courts. However, three of six matches had gone to a third set when the overall victory was clinched.
“Every team that is here has just competed so much that there is a certain amount of parity,” Joffe said. “So the thing that I was really proud about today, I didn’t see us beating them in all six positions easy, but when the clock was stopped, we had won four of the courts in singles, and Anna [Mamalat] was up on her court. That’s very good when a lot of the matches were nip and tuck.”
Ines Deheza gave the Aggies a 2-0 lead after cruising to a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Xi at the No. 4 line. With the win, the freshman improved to 14-1 over her last 15 decisions.
Nazari Urbina, ranked No. 52 in the nation in singles, gave the Aggies a 3-0 lead and posted the 99th win of her four-year singles career with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Tomljanovic at the No. 3 line.
Although A&M built the 3-0 lead, Virginia was holding its own on the remaining four courts. Nauta, ranked 78th, had earned a split with 68th-ranked Stancu at No 2, and Caryssa Peretz also had forced a third set against Hristov at No. 6. In addition, A&M’s Anna Mamalat had made a nice comeback at No. 5 against Vierra to force a third set.
Meanwhile, fourth-ranked Sanchez-Quintanar had battled to a hard-fought 7-5 first-set victory over 12th-ranked Elbaba at the No. 1 line. After pulling off the first-set win, Sanchez-Quintanar took command in the second set, jumping out to a 5-0 lead.
A&M eventually gained the lead on all of the remaining courts. Stancu and Sanchez-Quintanar were both at match point on their respective courts, and in a bang-bang finish, Stancu topped Nauta, 6-4, 2-6, 6-1, and Sanchez-Quintanar defeated Elbaba, 7-5, 6-2, for the 5-0 victory, sending the Aggies to the next round.
After dropping her first set, 6-2, Mamalat, playing the No. 5 line for only the second time this season, won her second set, 6-2, and led, 4-1, in the third set against Vierra. In addition Hristov was up, 6-1, 3-6, 5-2, over Peretz at No. 6.
“It was a great job for Anna,” Joffe added. “I’m so happy for her. She got a well-deserved opportunity, and she really did a great job. In the context of the match, a lot of the matches had split. The fact that Anna had lost the first and she was able to split, gives the team a little bit more insurance, so I’m really proud of her and her effort.”
A&M is 4-2 in the all-time series against Miami. The teams last met in 2002, with A&M winning its third consecutive match against the Hurricanes.
Northwestern holds a 6-1 lead in the series against the Aggies and has won the last five meetings, including the most recent in 2005. A&M has never faced either team in the NCAA tournament.
Live scoring of the NCAA Championship matches is available at http://www.fightingillini.com/ncaatennis2013/livestats.html
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: http://www.facebook.com/?ref=tn_tnmn#!/pages/Aggie-Womens-Tennis/143874782434654
No. 3 Texas A&M 5, No. 14 Virginia 0
NCAA Championship, Round of 16
Kahn Outdoor Tennis Complex, Urbana, Ill.
May 17, 2013
1. #4 Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar (TAMU) def.. #12 Julia Elbaba (UVA), 7-5, 6-2
2. #68 Cristina Stancu (TAMU) def. #78 Stephanie Nauta (UVA), 6-4, 2-6, 6-2
3. #52 Nazari Urbina (TAMU) def. Hana Tomljanovic (UVA), 6-3, 6-4
4. Ines Deheza (TAMU) def. Li Xi (UVA), 6-2, 6-1
5. Anna Mamalat (TAMU) vs. Erin Vierra (UVA), 2-6, 6-2, 4-1 unfinished
6. Stefania Hristov (TAMU) vs. Caryssa Peretz (UVA), 6-1, 3-6, 5-2 unfinished
Doubles (Texas A&M wins the point)
1. #18 Hristov/Stancu (TAMU) def. Nauta/Vierra (UVA), 9-7
2. Sanchez-Quintanar/Wen Sun (TAMU) vs. Elbaba/Tomljanovic (UVA), 7-4 unfinished
3. I. Deheza/Paula Deheza (TAMU) def. Maria Fuccillo/Xi (UVA), 8-3
Order of finish
Doubles: 3, 1
Singles: 4, 3, 2, 1
Texas A&M: 24-3