URBANA, Ill. – No. 3 seed Texas A&M, which had reached the NCAA round of 16 only once in school history before this season, has reach the championship match and will face Stanford for the national title after a thrilling 4-3 victory over No. 7 UCLA Monday at the Kahn Outdoor Tennis Complex.
The Aggies overcame a 3-1 deficit and won the last match standing to defeat the Bruins, who were making their third consecutive appearance in the NCAA semifinals and finished runner-up last year.
The match came down to No. 4 singles, where Aggie freshman Ines Deheza had won her first set, 6-4, against Chanelle Van Nguyen. The second set came down to a marathon tiebreaker in which Deheza fought off several set points and had match point at 7-6 before eventually falling, 11-9.
Deheza broke and then went up 2-0 to open the third set before Van Nguyen got on a roll and won four consecutive games to go up 4-2. Van Nguyen was up 40-love in the next game when Deheza rallied and won the game to get within 4-3. Deheza held serve to tie the set at 4-4, and continued a run of 10 straight points into the next game. Deheza was at game point when Van Nguyen began to cramp and was unable to serve in the allotted time frame and therefore was issued a point penalty, giving the game and a 5-4 lead to Deheza.
Deheza was up triple match point in the next game, and despite Van Nguyen hobbling in severe pain, the Bruin scored two points before Deheza clinched the historic win.
The Bruins began the match by winning the doubles point to take a 1-0 lead. The 25th-ranked duo of Robin Anderson and Skyler Morton defeated A&M’s 18th-ranked Stefania Hristov and Cristina Stancu, 8-5 at the No. 1 line.
Catherine Harrison and Kyle McPhillips followed with a 9-7 victory over twins Ines and Paula Deheza at No. 3 to clinch the point for the Bruins, snapping the Deheza’s nine-match winning streak. It also marked the first time A&M had lost a doubles match in this year’s NCAA tournament.
Fourth-ranked Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar began singles by pulling off the highest ranked win in her career and knotting the team score at 1-1 with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over third-ranked Anderson at the No. 1 line.
UCLA went up 2-1, as Harrison defeated Anna Mamalat, 6-4, 6-2 at the No. 5 line, and the Bruins widened the margin to 3-1 as McPhillips came back to defeat Stancu, 2-6, 6-0, 6-1 at the No. 2 court.
Hristov won a clutch tiebreaker at No. 6 en route to defeating Courtney Dolehide, 7-6 (5), 6-1 to put A&M within 3-2, and Aggie senior Nazari Urbina won her 101st career singles match with a 6-4, 6-2 win against Pamela Montez at No. 3 to tie the score at 3-3 and send all eyes to Deheza’s court.
Texas A&M Head Coach Howard Joffe
I’ve seen a lot in my playing and coaching days, but this is just incredible. This match, aside from the fact of the larger context of the match, we were 3-1 down. Then suddenly it’s 3-all and Ines (Deheza) is up a set. Then Ines saves three set points and has a team match point only to lose it. It is kind of cruel and unusual punishment. In the third set, Ines gets 2-love up, gets 4-2 down, 40-love down on what I would call the bad side - the wind is hitting the other way. And at that point, I don’t know that you give us any chance, and Ines plays like…I guess just in sports, once you feel like you are done the pressure goes off. It allowed Ines just to start hitting her shots and the next thing you know, the match turns. It is not an awful shame competitively, but it is an awful shame the way the match ended (with Van Nguyen cramping). I would give a ton of credit to Chanelle Van Nguyen, because she is a great lady. It is just very, very cruel and unusual way for the match to end, and she fought like an absolute animal and deserves a ton of credit.
(On the team’s resiliency)
Our team is a strange arrangement: three seniors and four freshmen. Part of the job of the coaching is to manage that. The (Deheza) twins, Ines and Paula are actually first-semester freshmen. Ines is an awful good player, but you saw her go through the whole myriad of emotions. If I was Sigmund Freud, I might have a guess of what got her back in the match, but truly, truly, truly she is a really, really strong kid, and I have the utmost respect.
(On the wind)
It is interesting because in College Station there is never a day when the wind isn’t 15-20 miles an hour, and I really thought it would be very advantageous to us and yet UCLA handled it magnificently in the doubles. I give our kids great credit, but we handled it poorly relatively to them, so I don’t know that it helped or hindered. It certainly afforded an advantage. UCLA did an awful good job with the wind.
(On if A&M is the underdog in the championship match)
At this stage, I think the biggest thing is to turn it around. In other words get the kids some food and to get out there and have our nine spots, our six singles players and our three doubles teams as fresh as can be and ready to go. I’m sure Stanford had a few licks put on them with the Florida match. Again, I always say this and I learned this in watching our football team at Texas A&M: none of the conjecture and hype is worth a damn thing. It is always a performance-based sport. So tomorrow if we play better than Stanford, we will win the title, and if they play better than us, then they will win.
Texas A&M Freshman Ines Deheza
(On mentality after not getting match point in the tiebreaker)
It was really hard for me. I had a match point and I couldn’t close the match then, and she won that set. And after that, I was up in the third set and she came back and she was up 4-2, 40-love up, and at that point I thought, ‘OK, Ines you have to change your game or you are going to lose in five minutes.’ And also my coach helped me a lot and the girls. They were there all the time and cheered for me. I’m glad I have those teammates.
(Keeping focused when opponent is hurting)
She got cramps, but I was 40-love up, three match points, I lost two points and I was like, ‘Oh god.’ She is hurt but it is difficult for you to keep playing, because you know she is not going to run good. I was trying to play safe, and that is how I lost those two points. I looked at my coach and he told me, ‘you’ve got to be aggressive here or you are going lose.’ So that is what I tried to do, and well, it worked out.
(On being a freshman)
I wasn’t expecting anything like this when I came here in January. I clinched the match in the semifinals of the NCAAs, no. This is a great experience for me. I know that this is going to help me a lot, and I will try to take advantage of this.
1. #4 Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar (TAMU) def. #3 Robin Anderson (UCLA), 6-1, 6-3
2. #20 Kyle McPhillips (UCLA) def. #68 Cristina Stancu (TAMU), 2-6, 6-0, 6-1
3. #52 Nazari Urbina (TAMU) def. Pamela Montez (UCLA), 6-4, 6-2
4. Ines Deheza (TAMU) def. Chanelle Van Nguyen (UCLA), 6-3, 6-7 (9), 6-4
5. #93 Catherine Harrison (UCLA) def. Anna Mamalat (TAMU), 6-4, 6-2
6. Stefania Hristov (TAMU) def. Courtney Dolehide (UCLA), 7-6 (5), 6-1
Doubles (UCLA wins the point)
1. #25 Anderson/Skylar Morton (UCLA) def. #18 Hristov/Stancu (TAMU), 8-5
2. #49 Sanchez-Quintanar/Wen Sun (TAMU) vs. #38 Dolehide/Montez (UCLA), 4-7 unfinished
3. Harrison/McPhillips (UCLA) def. I. Deheza/Paula Deheza (TAMU), 9-7
Order of finish
Doubles: 1, 3
Singles: 1, 5, 2, 6, 3, 4
Texas A&M: 26-3