COLLEGE STATION, Texas – No. 3 Texas A&M made a late charge after a near-three hour weather delay but came up short in a 4-2 loss to No. 5 Georgia today at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center.
The Aggies (15-2, 8-1 SEC) were riding a record-tying 13-match win streak and were the only undefeated in the Southeastern Conference entering the match, but Georgia (15-2, 8-1 SEC) put an end to it as the Bulldogs won their sixth consecutive match and put themselves in a four-way logjam for first place in the overall SEC standings with the Aggies, Alabama and Florida.
The Bulldogs took the lead after winning two of the three doubles matches. In a top-10 matchup, fourth-ranked Kate Fuller and Silvia Garcia gave Georgia the early edge with an 8-2 victory over seventh-ranked Stefania Hristov and Cristina Stancu at the No. 1 line.
A&M then evened the race for the point at the No. 2 court, where the Aggies’ 72nd-ranked tandem of Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar and Wen Sun won the first four games against 59th-ranked Lauren Herring and Maho Kowase en route to an 8-3 win.
The point would be decided at the No. 3 court, where the score was tied, 5-5, when the second match ended. Georgia’s Lilly Kimbell and Mia King then won the next three games against A&M twins Ines and Paula Deheza to win, 8-5, and give the Bulldogs the lead.
Aggie freshman Anna Mamalat evened the score at the start of singles. The Philadelphia native jumped out to a 5-0 lead against Kimbell at No. 6 and went on to win the first set, 6-1. The second set was on serve at 4-4 when Mamalat won the next two games to close out the win.
Georgia followed with consecutive ranked wins at No. 2 and 3 singles to build a 3-1 lead. Kowase, ranked 18th, finished off 68th-ranked Stancu, 6-2, 6-2 at the No. 2 court, and in a showdown of top-10 players, eighth-ranked Herring downed No. 5 Sanchez-Quintanar, 6-2, 6-4.
With three closely contested matches still on, lightning moved into the area, causing a 30-minute delay. Just as the players began warming up to resume action, lightning was detected once again, forcing the courts and stands to be cleared. Shortly thereafter, rain began to fall, and the delay stretched to 2 hours, 45 minutes.
A&M’s Nazari Urbina had won her first set against Silvia Garcia, 6-3, at the No. 3 line but trailed the second set 4-3 when play was stopped. Ines Deheza also held a lead when the delay began, having won the first set against Fuller, 7-6 (3) and leading the second set 3-2 at the No. 4 line. At court 5, King held a 2-0 lead in the third set against Hristov after splitting the first two sets, 6-1, 4-6.
When play finally resumed, Deheza notched her seventh consecutive victory and improved to 6-0 in SEC singles matches after winning three consecutive games to finish off Fuller 6-2 in the second set, putting A&M within 3-2.
Hristov had come back to take a 4-3 lead in the third set at No. 5, but King rallied to win the next three games to get the win and secure the victory for the Bulldogs.
Urbina and Garcia were tied at 4-4 in the third when the match was clinched. Georgia improves to 8-0 in the all-time series against the Aggies.
A&M returns to action Wednesday with a non-conference match against former Big 12 foe Baylor. First serve is slated for 5 p.m. in Waco.
The Aggies close out the home portion of the regular season with a pair of matches next weekend. A&M hosts No. 22 Auburn Friday at 5 p.m. and hosts No. 8 Alabama, Sunday at noon. A&M’s three seniors – Sanchez-Quintanar, Sun and Urbina – will be recognized prior to the start of the match against the Crimson Tide.
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
Texas A&M Head Coach Howard Joffe Quotes:
(on the loss):
“It is very disappointing for our group to lose such a tough match. It is never nice to lose, so in that sense it is very disappointing. That part aside, I thought Georgia played with passion, with skill and were hungry. Georgia took it to us. Our ladies did an unbelievable job of battling and battling, and when push came to shove in the last 10 to 15 minutes, the match got really interesting. A few points go a different way with Stefania up 4-3 in the third set and I feel like we might have even pulled it out. In that respect, I am super proud of the team. The whole object of the exercise here is to keep getting better and improving so that come the NCAAs we are playing our best. But all of that sort of rhetoric, which happens to be true, of course doesn’t cover the fact that at the base level we were undefeated in the SEC, and it is a very difficult loss.”
(on the quality of play after the delay):
“Overall if you analyze it, we were down 3-1 in matches, and down 2-love in the third set in one of them and down in another set, so just sort of the weight of stress on 18- and 19-year old young ladies is rather big. So I was more than delighted with just how they stuck to the task and got after it after the 3-hour delay. They played awful well, and at the end of the day, the young lady, Mia King of Georgia, played close to flawless tennis in the last four games and that is why Georgia got us today.”
(on Georgia become a rival):
“If you go back in the history books leaving aside the SEC, I don’t think A&M has ever beaten Georgia, so I don’t want to credit us yet with being rivals of anyone. And yet at a minimum we have definitely grabbed Georgia’s attention that we are a serious tennis team and a force to be reckoned with. So I’m quite certain if we face them again this year, our ladies will be excited to have another opportunity.”
(on the more than usual questioned calls):
“At the end of the day, the querying of calls and line calls and such does speak to a match where both sides desperately want to win. On a casual Sunday afternoon hit-around, there is not much arguing. Just to be unambiguous and clear, the match was definitely not won or lost by either team in any of the matches because of line calls. The fact is the University of Georgia played just a little bit better than us and deserved to get the win in the end.”
(on the wins at No. 6 and No. 4)
“It is sort of a weird one. Anna Mamalat has been in and out of the lineup and she has done very well in practice this week and so she got the proverbial nod. Anna played an exceptionally good match against obviously a good player from Georgia who is a native Texan, so it was a nice win for Anna. Ines did a good job. Again, Ines is a freshman and she is going up against a wily coyote in Kate Fuller who is a very experienced player, so that is a very good win for her. Most definitely good wins. I know that Stefania last year had beaten the young lady that she played today in an ITF junior tournament, so all of these things are very, very, very close. There is never a ton of consolation in getting beat, but it is obvious that we have a team with a lot of toughness and a team that is very skilled, because it took Georgia’s sort of best effort. We were right there.”
(on Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar’s loss)
“One of the things that Cristina needs to realize and our fans need to realize is I think Cristina’s record last year at No. 1 singles was something like 24-1 and this year she has gotten beat two or three times all year. That is not only highly unusual but highly remarkable. While it is really shocking, it is one of those things that you just can’t always count on Barry Bonds hitting the home run even though we get accustomed to it. Just in talking to Cristina, I don’t think she played her best match, but the one thing about Cristina Sanchez, she never shortchanges anyone on the effort, and she gave it a darn good effort. Lauren Herring obviously played very, very well. “