STARKVILLE, Miss. – Fourth-ranked and No. 2 seed Texas A&M opened the Southeastern Conference Women’s Tennis Championship with a 4-0 quarterfinal victory over 19th-ranked and No. 7 seed Auburn today at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre on the Mississippi State campus.
With the win, Texas A&M (21-2) wins its sixth consecutive match and advances to the semifinals to face the winner between second-ranked and No. 3 seed Florida and No. 6 seed and 18th-ranked Vanderbilt Saturday at 2 p.m.
"The 4-0 score line today belies the ferocious battle that took place at Pitts Tennis Centre today," A&M head coach Howard Joffe said. “Auburn's players showed every bit as much heart as they did skill in turning around an almost hopeless circumstance to pushing us to the limit. Our ladies will need to quickly turn their focus to our rematch with Florida or Vanderbilt, which will no doubt again ask some character questions of us."
Texas A&M appeared to be in control of the match after winning the doubles point and taking the first set on five of six singles courts. But after falling behind, 3-0, Auburn (18-8) made a run as the four remaining singles matches would go to a third set.
The match began with A&M’s 15th-ranked duo of Stefania Hristov and Cristina Stancu playing the No. 2 doubles line for the first time against an SEC opponent. They built a 4-1 lead against Emily Flickinger and Jackie Kasler, but the Auburn duo came back to tie the score at 4-4. A&M went on to win the next three games to go up, 7-4, but Auburn fought back once again to get within 7-6 before the Aggies closed out the 8-6 victory.
Auburn evened the race for the doubles point, never trailing in an 8-6 victory at the No. 1 line. No. 11 Pleun Burgmans and Plamena Kurteva built a 4-1 lead before A&M’s 43rd-ranked Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar and Wen Sun fought back to tie the score at 5-5. The Aggies’ comeback ended there as Auburn went on to close out an 8-6 win.
The point came down to the No. 3 court where A&M’s Ines and Paula Deheza built a 7-4 lead and had match point against Jen Pfeifler and Paulina Schippers. The Tigers fought back to win the game and get within 7-5. A&M had two match points in the next game, but once again Auburn came from behind to win the game, cutting the lead to 7-5 before A&M won the next game to win the match and give the Aggies a 1-0 lead.
A&M, which entered the match 14-0 when winning the doubles point, won the first set on five of six singles courts. Hristov improved to 12-1 at the No. 6 line and gave the Aggies a 2-0 lead after cruising to a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Kurteva at the No. 6 line. Nazari Urbina followed with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Michala Kucharova at the No. 3 line to put A&M ahead, 3-0.
Despite the lead, the momentum quickly shifted to Auburn’s favor as the remaining four matches would go to a third set. The Tigers held commanding leads on two courts and A&M had only a one-game lead on another court before Stancu clinched the win with a 6-1, 5-7, 6-1 victory over Flickinger at the No. 2 line.
Sanchez-Quintanar, ranked No. 4 in the nation in singles, had won her first set, 6-2, against 23rd-ranked Burgmans at the No. 1 line, but Burgmans came back to win a tiebreaker in the second set, 8-6, to force a third set. Burgmans led the third set, 5-1, and after fighting off two match points, Sanchez-Quintanar had tied the game in progress, 40-40, when Stancu clinched her match and play was stopped.
Ines Deheza, who entered singles play riding an 11-match win streak, had dropped her first set, 6-2, to Pfeifler but fought off three match points and came back from a 5-3 deficit to win the second set, 7-5, and force a third set. Pfeifler lead the third set, 5-2, when play was stopped.
Sun had taken her first set, 6-1, over Kasler at No. 5, but Kasler pulled away for a 6-4 win in the second set. Wen held a narrow 3-2 lead in the third set when the team victory was decided.
The Aggies, who are aiming for their first regular season conference championship since winning the Big 12 Conference regular season title in 2003, tied both Georgia and Florida for the regular season title with 12-1 records. Earlier this season, A&M handed then-No. 4 Florida its only SEC loss, winning 4-3 in College Station to mark the biggest win in program history. It was the Gators’ first regular season SEC loss since 2009, and it snapped their 45-match overall win streak against SEC opponents. A&M also defeated possible semifinalist opponent Vanderbilt, 4-3, in Nashville.
Aggie fans can keep up to date on 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. 4 Texas A&M 4, No. 19 Auburn 0
April 19, 2013
A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre
1. #4 Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar (TAMU) vs. #23 Pleun Burgmans (AU), 6-2, 5-7 (6), 1-5 unfinished
2. #73 Cristina Stancu (TAMU) def. Emily Flickinger (AU), 6-1, 5-7, 6-1
3. #71 Nazari Urbina (TAMU) def. Michala Kucharova (AU), 6-4, 6-2
4. Ines Deheza (TAMU) vs. Jen Pfeifer (AU), 2-6, 4-6, 2-5 unfinished
5. Wen Sun (TAMU) vs. Jackie Kasler (AU), 6-1, 4-6, 3-2 unfinished
6. Stefania Hristov (TAMU) def. Plamena Kurteva (AU), 6-1, 6-1
Doubles (Texas A&M wins the point)
1. #11 Burgmans/Kurteva (AU) def. #43 Sanchez-Quintanar/Sun (TAMU), 8-6
2. #16 Hristov/Stancu (TAMU) def. Flickinger/Kasler (AU), 8-6
3. I. Deheza/Paula Deheza (TAMU) vs. Pfeifler/Schippers (AU), 8-5
Order of finish
Doubles: 2, 1, 3
Singles: 6, 3, 2
Texas A&M: 21-2
Tournament Schedule/Results (national ranking in parentheses)
Wednesday, April 17 – First Round
No. 12 Mississippi State def. No. 13 Missouri (56), 4-2
No. 14 LSU (64) def. No. 11 Kentucky, 4-2
Thursday, April 18 – Second Round
No. 9 Ole Miss def. No. 8 South Carolina, 4-3
No. 5 Tennessee def. No. 12 Mississippi State, 4-0
No. 7 Auburn def. No. 10 Arkansas, 4-3
No. 6 Vanderbilt def. No. 14 LSU, 4-0
Friday, April 19 - Quarterfinals
No. 1 Georgia (3) def. No. 9 Ole Miss (39), 4-0
No. 4 Alabama (8) def. No. 5 Tennessee (29), 4-3
No. 2 Texas A&M (4) def. No. 7 Auburn (19), 4-0
No. 3 Florida vs. No. 6 Vanderbilt (18), in progress
Saturday, April 20 – Semifinals
10:00 a.m. No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 Alabama
2:00 p.m. No. 2 Texas A&M vs. No. 3 Florida (2) /No. 6 Vanderbilt (18) winner
Sunday, April 21 – Finals
1:00 p.m. Championship