The 11th-ranked and second-seeded Texas A&M men’s tennis team cruised to a 4-1 win over seventh-seeded Nebraska in the quarterfinals of the 2009 Big 12 Conference Tennis Championships held Friday afternoon at the Headington Family Tennis Center on the campus of the University of Oklahoma.
The Aggies (15-7) have now reached the tournament semifinals for the second year in a row. After claiming the doubles point for the first time in the last three matches, A&M went on to win five of its first six sets in singles to hold a comfortable lead over the Cornhuskers (16-10).
The All-American doubles tandem of seventh-ranked Conor Pollock (San Antonio, Texas) and Austin Krajicek (Brandon, Fla.) dispatched Nebraska’s Christopher Aumueller and Calin Paar by a count of 8-2 at the top of the lineup followed by an 8-3 victory courtesy of sophomore Alexey Grigorov (Moscow, Russia) and freshman Colin Hoover (Victoria, Texas) over Benedikt Lindheim and Francois Van Impe at the No. 2 position.
“Overall, I thought we played fairly well in doubles and that’s a good sign,” Texas A&M head coach Steve Denton said. “In our previous matches, we were playing better doubles, but we weren’t necessarily winning the doubles point. We are continuing to get better and our guys did a good job of playing aggressive and under control.”
Junior Marcus Lunt (San Antonio, Texas) and sophomore Wil Spencer (Ponce de Leon, Fla.) quickly built the Aggies’ lead to 3-0 with straight-set victories at the No. 5 and No. 3 lines respectively. Spencer, ranked No. 42 nationally in the Campbell/ITA rankings, is playing some of his best tennis of the season having won five of his last six meetings versus Big 12 opponents.
A&M battled windy conditions throughout the match, but didn’t have to wait too long to find the fourth and deciding point over the Huskers. For the third time this season, Colin Hoover clinched the match victory for the Aggies by winning his second-set tiebreaker over Nebraska’s Renato Melo, 6-1, 7-6 (5).
“I just stayed focused on the match and played it one point at a time,” Hoover said. “I was down in the tiebreaker, but I’ve never been one to give up. I’ve had the same situation happen to me this year, so it was just another comeback. It was a good win. You never want to play in the wind, but it was an advantage for me. I’ve played in these conditions growing up (in Victoria, Texas) and it’s definitely a challenge.”
The Aggies improved their series lead to 15-1 against Nebraska and have won 10 of their last 12 since spring break. They also raised their all-time record to 17-9 in Big 12 postseason play.
“The conditions were pretty difficult for us today,” Denton said. “I thought our players handled the adversity pretty well, especially since you have to tone your game down a little bit and be conservative. The conditions can really dictate your play, but we were able to win most of our first sets in singles and carry forward from there. If you win the first set, you have a huge psychological advantage, especially in the wind. We were able to stay on top of Nebraska to get to four.”
A&M will take on third-seeded and 15th-ranked Texas (18-5) in the semifinals tomorrow at noon (CT). The Aggies edged the Longhorns, 4-3, in the State Farm Lone Star Showdown on April 16. UT defeated sixth-seeded and host Oklahoma (12-10) by a score of 4-0 in quarterfinal action on Friday.
“We should play better tomorrow after getting acclimated to the conditions today,” Denton said “We want to continue to do well in this tournament and carry the momentum we’ve had as of late. Everyone is hitting the ball well and I expect us to play a really good match no matter who we play tomorrow. More than half of the battle is having a good frame of mind and hitting the ball well. If we can do those two things, then I like our chances.”