Texas wins Big 12 Championship
Longhorns capture first conference tournament since 2005
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Cierra Gaytan-Leach punctuated a come-from-behind, three-set win with a service ace, as fourth-seeded Texas (17-7) collected the doubles point and three singles wins to seal a 4-2 win against third-seeded host Texas A&M (18-5) on Sunday in the finals of the 2012 Big 12 Championship.
Texas claims its eighth Big 12 Championship -- its first since 2005 -- and the first for seventh-year head coach Patty Fendick-McCain, who has led the Horns to the finals of the Big 12 Championship in each of her seven seasons in Austin. Texas becomes just the second fourth-seeded team to win the Big 12 Championship. Oklahoma State was the last No. 4 seed to win the event in 2003.
Texas sophomore Elizabeth Begley was selected as the Big 12 Championship’s Most Outstanding Performer after going 3-0 in singles play without dropping a set. Begley completed the regular season with a 9-0 mark against conference foes and improved that mark to 12-0 with her victories this weekend against Oklahoma State’s Isabela Miro, Texas Tech’s Nikki Sanders and Texas A&M’s Sheri Olivier.
The Horns won matches at the first and second doubles matches to assume a 1-0 lead before adding wins from Begley, freshman Lina Padegimaite and the clincher from Cierra Gaytan-Leach to seal the victory, which was punctuated by a Gaytan-Leach ace on match point.
At second doubles, UT’s Krista Damico and Gaytan-Leach led off by breaking the 16-match winning streak of A&M’s Janelle Cuthbertson and Nazari Urbina. UT raced out to a 5-0 lead behind three service breaks. A&M closed within 5-2, but Texas cruised to an 8-3 win. Texas’ Begley and Aeriel Ellis held a 5-3 lead against the Aggies’ Sheri Olivier and Lauren Santacroce at third doubles, but the Aggies claimed the next three games to assume a 6-5 lead. Texas held serve to even the match at six games apiece, but A&M held and broke the Horns in the final game to take an 8-6 win.
Texas’ Padegimaite and Noel Scott broke the Aggies’ Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar and Wen Sun to take a 4-3 lead at first doubles. UT held serve and broke once more for a 6-3 lead. Both teams held serve the rest of the way, and A&M failed to put a final Scott serve in play, as UT claimed the match, 8-4 to nail down the doubles point.
Begley made short work of A&M’s Olivier at sixth singles, as she posted a 6-0, 6-1 win to push the Texas lead to 2-0. Padegimaite, who joined Begley to finish 9-0 in conference play, remained undefeated against league foes, as she notched a 6-0, 6-2 win over A&M’s Santacroce at fourth singles to extend the Longhorns’ lead to 3-0.
Texas A&M responded with a victory at first singles, where the Aggies’ eighth-ranked Sanchez-Quintanar topped UT’s Ellis, 6-0, 6-1. A&M pulled within 3-2 when the Aggies’ 81st-ranked Sun defeated UT’s Scott by a 6-1, 6-0 count at third singles.
At fifth singles, which proved to be the clinching point, Gaytan-Leach broke for a 3-2 first-set lead over the Aggies’ Cuthbertson. But, Cuthbertson held serve twice and broke Gaytan-Leach as many times to take the first set, 6-3. Gaytan-Leach broke for a 5-2 second-set lead before Cuthbertson broke Gaytan-Leach and held serve to close within 5-4. However, Gaytan-Leach held serve to close out the second set, 6-4.
At 1-all in the third set, Gaytan-Leach broke Cuthbertson’s serve before holding serve, breaking Cuthbertson and holding once more for a 5-1 lead. Cuthbertson held serve in the following game, but at match point in the following game, Gaytan-Leach swatted an emphatic ace to finish off the Horns’ 4-2 title-winning victory over the Aggies.
Damico and Urbina were engaged in a match at second singles that had the makings of a classic before the match was called when Gaytan-Leach nailed down the match-clinching point. Neither Damico nor Urbina held serve in the first set’s opening eight games before Damico held serve for a 5-4 lead. Damico managed to hold serve for the first time in the match to close out the first set, 6-4. Damico broke Urbina to tie the second set at three before holding serve for a 4-3 lead. Urbina held serve and broke Damico for a 5-4 lead when Gaytan-Leach’s match became final.
Texas and Texas A&M had met just 12 days prior to Sunday’s Big 12 Championship finals. The Aggies dealt the Longhorns a 4-3 defeat on April 17 in College Station. Texas and Texas A&M each tied with Baylor for second place in the final Big 12 Conference standings. Baylor, who had claimed the second seed in a tiebreaker, fell to A&M in Saturday’s semifinals, while Texas defeated top-seeded Texas Tech on Saturday to set up Sunday’s title match between the Longhorns and the Aggies.