COLLEGE STATION, Texas - The 13th-ranked Texas A&M women's tennis team punched its ticket to the ITA National Team Indoor Championships with a 4-0 victory over No. 30 Arizona in the championship match of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend today at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center.
The Aggies (2-0) handed Arizona (3-1) its first loss of the season to advance and join 14 other Kick-Off Weekend winners and host Virginia at the prestigious tournament, Feb. 8-11 at the Boar's Head Sports Club in Charlottesville, Va.
"More than anything I'm really excited for the girls on the team, for Mark (Weaver, Texas A&M assistant coach) and interestingly enough for myself, because none of us have ever made it to the round of 16 of the National Indoors," A&M second-year head coach Howard Joffe said. "Even though it is super early in the season, it is a nice achievement and it is something to enjoy a little bit."
A&M, which picks up its first-ever victory over the Wildcats in the four-match all-time series, will be making its first trip to the National Team Indoors since 2005, four years before the ITA Kick-Off Weekend was created to serve as a qualifier, mimicking the NCAA Championship first and second rounds.
The Aggies, who lost the doubles point in the season opener against North Texas on Saturday, won two of three doubles matches to take an early 1-0 lead against the Wildcats. Senior Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar and freshman Ines Deheza gave A&M the early advantage, cruising to an 8-1 victory over Shayne Austin and Lacey Smyth at the No. 2 line. Arizona would even the race for the doubles point as Akilah James and Susan McRann won seven consecutive games to top seniors Wen Sun and Nazari Urbina, 8-3, at the No. 3 position.
Freshman Stefania Hristov and junior Cristina Stancu, whose No. 7 national doubles ranking is the highest in Texas A&M history, clinched the point to give the Aggies the lead, pulling away for an 8-4 victory over Inge Hendrikx and Kim Stubbe at the No. 1 line.
"Our girls definitely played with more passion and energy in the doubles today," Joffe said. "I don't know that we played a ton better but certainly with a little bit more focus and commitment."
After a close start in singles, A&M won the first set on five of six courts to continue to build on its momentum.
"The matches were sort of all hotly contested, but when one looked at the scoreboards, we sort of were winning five out of the six matches or won them very, very handedly," Joffe said. "It does speak to the depth of our team."
Stancu, ranked 45th in the nation in singles, broke serve to take a 4-3 first-set lead against Stubbe at the No. 2 court. It was all the junior transfer from Maryland needed as she went on to win the set, 6-4. Stancu then raced to a 6-0 second-set win to give the Aggies a 2-0 lead.
Sanchez-Quintanar, whose No. 3 singles ranking is the highest in A&M history, got a break to put her match against Smyth back on serve at 2-2 at No. 1. Sanchez-Quintanar then won the next four games to win the set. She went on to take the second set, 6-1, to put A&M ahead, 3-0.
Hristov, who put A&M on the scoreboard and was first off in the Aggies' season-opening 4-1 victory against North Texas on Saturday, closed out today's victory. After winning the first set, 6-1, against Austin at No. 6, the freshman found herself down a break, 5-4, in the second set. Hristov fought back to take a 6-5 lead and was at match point before Austin fought back and tied the set at 6-6 to force a tiebreaker. Hristov held a narrow 4-3 lead in the tiebreaker before winning three of the next four points to clinch the victory.
Deheza held a 6-4, 5-1 lead over McRann at No. 5, and Urbina also was leading Laura Oldham, 6-2, 3-1 at No. 3 when play was stopped. James was the only player to pick up a first-set win for the Wildcats and was leading 82nd-ranked Sun, 6-1, 5-2, when Hristov clinched the A&M victory.
"It was a hard-fought win, and I'm very pleased with the results," Joffe said. "Now we'll get a day or two off and then get back to work to see if we can prepare to take on some of the stalwart, big-name schools at the University of Virginia in two weeks."
Other teams that have qualified for National Indoors as of press time are No. 8 North Carolina, No. 9 Miami, No. 11 Texas, No. 12 Virginia, No. 14 Northwestern, No. 16 Michigan and No. 17 Nebraska. For complete/updated results from other sites, go to ITATennis.com
In the College Station consolation match earlier in the day, No. 54 North Texas rebounded from its season-opening loss to the Aggies and upended No. 41 Minnesota, 4-3.
No. 13 Texas A&M 4, No. 30 Arizona 0
ITA Kick-Off Weekend (Championship)
January 27, 2013
George P. Mitchell Tennis Center
College Station, Texas
1. (#3) Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar (TAMU) def. Lacey Smyth (UA), 6-2, 6-1
2. (#45) Cristina Stancu (TAMU) def. Kim Stubbe (UA), 6-4, 6-0
3. Nazari Urbina (TAMU) vs. Laura Oldham (UA) 6-2, 3-1 unfinished
4. (#82) Wen Sun (TAMU) vs. Akilah James (UA), 1-6, 2-5 unfinished
5. Ines Deheza (TAMU) vs. Susan McRann (UA), 6-4, 5-1 unfinished
6. Stefania Hristov (TAMU) def. Shayne Austin (UA), 6-2, 7-6 (4)
Doubles (Texas A&M wins the point)
1. (#7) Hristov/Stancu (TAMU) def. Inge Hendrikx/Stubbe (UA), 8-4
2. Sanchez-Quintanar/I. Deheza (TAMU) def. Austin/Smyth (UA), 8-1
3. James/McRann (UA) def. Sun/Urbina (TAMU), 8-3
Order of finish
Doubles: 2, 3, 1
Singles: 2, 1, 6
Texas A&M: 2-0