Texas A&M dominates Virginia, earns first NCAA quarterfinals appearance
URBANA, Ill. -- No. 3-seeded Texas A&M will make its first appearance in the NCAA championship quarterfinals after defeating No. 14-seed Virginia 5-0 in the Round of 16 on Friday at the Kahn Outdoor Tennis Complex.
The Aggies, who improve to 24-3 to tie the 2004 squad for the most wins in school history, will play either No. 6-seed-Miami or No. 11-seed Northwestern on Sunday in the quarterfinals.
“It feels really great, not even looking at the content of the match per se, but just the fact that it is the first time we have managed to get to the [quarterfinals] and get a win at the final site,” A&M second-year head coach Howard Joffe said. “I’m just really happy for each person as an individual, I’m happy for our group and I’m obviously very happy for the university, because it is a great thing for Texas A&M athletics.”
A&M was playing in the Round of 16 for the second time in school history, having made its only other appearance in 2004. Virginia (19-10) was making its third consecutive NCAA Round of 16 appearance, with both teams were aiming to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time. The match marked the third time the teams met, with A&M having defeated the Cavaliers in the two previous meetings earlier this season.
The match began with A&M twin sisters Ines and Paula Deheza giving the Aggies the early advantage in the race for the doubles point as they broke away from a 2-2 tie to defeat Maria Fucillo and Li Xi 8-3 at the No. 3 line. It was the eighth consecutive victory for the Aggie duo, which improved to 18-5 in dual matches.
A&M clinched the doubles point at the No. 1 line, but it wasn’t easy. The Aggies’ 18th-ranked pair of Stefania Hristov and Cristina Stancu was up a break at 7-6 with triple match point against Stephanie Nauta and Erin Vierra. The Cavaliers fought back to break A&M and even the match at seven. A&M broke back to go up 8-7 and then held to win 9-7 to put the Aggies ahead 1-0.
A&M’s 49th-ranked team of Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar and Wen Sun had jumped out to a 4-1 lead and were winning 7-4 against Julia Elbaba and Hana Tomljanovic at No. 2 when play was stopped.
“It was definitely a strange match because at the very beginning we were a little bit down and then we got in some commanding positions only to sort of falter,” Joffe said. “We had three match points at 7-6 for Stancu and Hristov, but we were able to sort of not let it freak us out and get going. The doubles point absolutely helped a lot.”
A&M had the momentum early in singles, winning the first set on five of six courts. However, three of six matches had gone to a third set when the overall victory was clinched.
“Every team that is here has just competed so much that there is a certain amount of parity,” Joffe said. “So the thing that I was really proud about [Friday was] I didn’t see us beating them in all six positions easy, but when the clock was stopped we had won four of the courts in singles and Anna [Mamalat] was up on her court. That’s very good when a lot of the matches were nip and tuck.”
Ines Deheza gave the Aggies a 2-0 lead after cruising to a 6-2, 6-1 victory against Xi at the No. 4 line. With the win, she improved to 14-1 with her last 15 decisions.
Nazari Urbina, ranked No. 52 in singles, gave the Aggies a 3-0 lead and posted the 99th win of her four-year singles career with a 6-3, 6-4 victory against Tomljanovic at the No. 3 line.
Although A&M built the 3-0 lead, Virginia was holding its own on the remaining four courts. Nauta, ranked 78th, had earned a split with 68th-ranked Stancu at No 2 and Caryssa Peretz also had forced a third set against Hristov at No. 6. In addition, A&M’s Anna Mamalat had made a nice comeback at No. 5 against Vierra to force a third set.
Meanwhile, fourth-ranked Sanchez-Quintanar had battled to a hard-fought 7-5 first-set victory against 12th-ranked Elbaba at the No. 1 line. After pulling off the first-set win, Sanchez-Quintanar took command in the second set, jumping out to a 5-0 lead.