STARKVILLE, Miss. – Second-ranked and No. 3 seed Florida avenged a Southeastern Conference regular-season loss to fourth-ranked and No. 2 seed Texas A&M with a 4-1 victory in the semifinals of the SEC Women’s Tennis Championship today at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre on the Mississippi State campus.
"I know our group is bitterly disappointed at the loss,” A&M head coach Howard Joffe said, “and yet I couldn't be more proud of the individual and collective efforts of the Aggies."
The Aggies, who handed Florida its only SEC regular season loss and snapped the Gators’ then-45-match overall win streak against SEC opponents with a 4-3 victory on March 3 in College Station, fall to 21-3 and now await the announcement of the NCAA 64-team tournament field on April 30.
Florida, which tied A&M and Georgia for the SEC regular season title with a 12-1 conference record, improves to 21-2 and advances to the championship match for the 24th time in the 26-year history of the tournament.
"Florida played with great determination and was able to come back against us after we won the doubles point,” Joffe said. “I know that with a few days of rest and some time to focus on the studies, we will be fresh to prepare and then perform our best for the NCAA tournament."
SEC-newcomer Texas A&M entered the second-ever meeting between the two programs riding a six-match win streak. In addition, the Aggies boasted a 15-0 record when winning the doubles point. Although the Aggies got off to a promising start by winning the doubles point against the Gators, both notable streaks would come to an end.
Florida won the first doubles match to be completed with an 8-2 victory at the No. 1 line. The 22nd-ranked duo of Lauren Embree and Sofie Oyen jumped out to a 4-0 lead, and A&M’s 43rd-ranked Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar and Wen Sun, playing the No. 1 line for only the fourth time this season, were unable to overcome the deficit.
At the No. 2 court, A&M’s 16th-ranked Stefania Hristov and Cristina Stancu went up a break in the opening game against Alexandra Cercone and Caroline Hitimana and kept the lead throughout the match. After the first game, both teams held serve until A&M broke a second time to win the match, 8-5.
The point came down to the No. 3 line where A&M twins Ines and Paula Deheza battled game-for-game against Florida’s Danielle Collins and Brianna Morgan. The match stayed on serve until the Aggies broke to go up 4-3. A&M later went up another break at 7-4 with Paula serving for the match. The Gators were on the verge of breaking, but A&M got the score back to deuce. Florida hit long to put A&M at match point, but the Gators stayed alive as A&M hit into the net. Florida netted on the next play to put A&M at match point for the second time. Florida then hit long as the Dehezas won the match, 8-4, to clinch the doubles point for the fourth consecutive match and extend their win streak to five.
Florida, which entered the match 4-2 when dropping the doubles point, quickly gained momentum at the start of singles. With a lineup that featured four nationally ranked singles players, the Gators won the first set on four courts.
Olivia Janowicz evened the score at 1-1, with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Aggie freshman Anna Mamalat, who moved up to the No. 5 line for the first time after posting a 6-3 dual match record at No. 6.
The Gators then took the lead, 2-1, after 15th-ranked Oyen pulled away from 73rd-ranked Stancu, 6-3, 6-2 at No. 2. Florida widened the margin to 3-1 as top-ranked Embree topped fourth-ranked Sanchez-Quintanar, 6-2, 6-1, at the No. 1 court. It marked Embree’s 18th consecutive singles victory and her 36th straight victory in a dual match.
The Aggies continued to put up a fight on the remaining three courts, which all went to a third set.
Ines Deheza, who enter the match riding a team-best 11-match win streak in singles, had her hands full at the No. 4 line, where 95th-ranked Morgan had dropped the opening frame, 6-1, but won the first four games of the second set en route to a 6-4 win to force a third set. Morgan then took command, winning the final set, 6-0, to clinch the victory for the Gators.
A&M’s 71st-ranked Narzari Urbina and 54th-rancked Cercone were locked 3-3 in the final set when Morgan clinched the fourth point for the Gators and play was stopped. Urbina had won the first set, 6-3, and Cercone had taken the second set, 6-2, to force the third set.
Although the No. 6 line was the first to complete a first set at the start of singles, Hristov continued to battle after dropping the opener, 6-1, to 120th-ranked Danielle Collins. Hristov forced a tiebreaker in the second set and scored four consecutive points to close out a 7-4 victory and command a third set. Collins had jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the final set, but Hristov stayed alive by winning four consecutive games to tie the score at 5-5. After exchanging games, the two were about to begin a tiebreaker when Florida won its fourth point and play was stopped.
Florida aims to when its fourth consecutive tournament title when the Gators face No. 1 seed and third-ranked Georgia in the championship match Sunday at 1 p.m.
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. 2 Florida 4, No. 4 Texas A&M 1
SEC Women’s Tennis Championship - Semifinal
A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre, Starkville, Miss.
April 20, 2013
1. #1 Lauren Embree (UF) def. #4 Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar (TAMU), 6-2, 6-1
2. #15 Sofie Oyen (UF) def. #73 Cristina Stancu (TAMU), 6-3, 6-2
3. #71 Nazari Urbina (TAMU) vs. #54 Alexandra Cercone (UF), 6-3, 2-6, 3-3 unfinished
4. #95 Brianna Morgan (UF) def. Ines Deheza (TAMU), 1-6, 6-4, 6-0
5. Olivia Janowicz (UF) def. Anna Mamalat (TAMU), 6-2, 6-2
6. Stefania Hristov (TAMU) vs. #120 Danielle Collins (UF), 1-6, 7-6 (4), 6-6 unfinished
Doubles (Texas A&M wins the point)
1. #22 Embree/Oyen (UF) def. #43 Sanchez-Quintanar/Sun (TAMU), 8-2
2. #16 Hristov/Stancu (TAMU) def. Cercone/Caroline Hitimana (UF), 8-5
3. I. Deheza/Paula Deheza (TAMU) def. Collins/Morgan (UF), 8-4
Order of finish
Doubles: 1, 2, 3
Singles: 5, 2, 1, 4
Texas A&M: 21-3
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 (42), 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 (2) def. No. 6 Vanderbilt (18), 4-3
Saturday, April 20 – Semifinals
No. 1 Georgia (3) def. No. 4 Alabama (8), 4-2
No. 3 Florida (2) def. No. 2 Texas A&M (4), 4-1
Sunday, April 21 – Finals
1:00 p.m. No. 1 Georgia (3) vs. No. 3 Florida (2)