Aggie Women Advance to Big XII Semifinals

Texas A&M posted a 4-1 quarterfinal victory over Oklahoma State in front of 646 tonight at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center to advance to the Big 12 Women’s Tennis Championship semifinals.

The No. 3-seed Aggies (16-7), who will be making their ninth consecutive appearance in the tournament’s semifinals, now face a rematch against rival Texas on Saturday at 6 p.m. The No. 2-seed Longhorns, who ousted A&M in last year’s semifinals and upended A&M, 5-2, when the teams met earlier this season in College Station, defeated No. 10 seed Kansas State, 4-0, today to advance.

Oklahoma State (12-10), the No. 6 seed, was coming off a 4-1 victory over No. 11 Missouri in the first round. A&M was playing its first match in the tournament after receiving a first-round bye with a No. 3 seed.

“It’s always hard when they’ve had the first round match under their belt, and you haven’t played yet,” A&M coach Bobby Kleinecke said. “That’s always a tough situation.

“Oklahoma State is one of those dangerous teams. The first time we played them we had a 7-0 win, but they are a dangerous team, and they are somebody you have to come out and be ready to play against.”

The Aggies got off to quick start against the Cowgirls, jumping out to a lead on all three doubles courts en route to taking a 1-0 lead. The 45th-ranked duo of Anna Blagodarova (Toronto, Ontario) and Tiffany Clifford (Little Rock, Ark.) defeated Sasha Belova and Jo-Anne Karaitiana, 8-1, at the No. 1 line. It marked the 92nd career victory for both Blagodarova and Clifford, lifting them to a fourth-place tie with Nancy Dingwall (1994-97) in the A&M records.

A&M’s freshman duo, Stephanie Davidson (Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas) and Morgan Frank (Oldsmar, Fla.), followed with an 8-3 victory over Jessica Collins and Maryna Tkachenko at the No. 3 position to extend their winning streak to 10 and clinch the doubles point.

A&M’s Christi Liles (Largo, Fla.) and Elzé Potgieter (Bloemfontein, South Africa) held a 7-3 lead against Jessica Collins and Maryna Tkachenko at the No. 2 line when the point was clinched.

“I was excited that the doubles got off to a good start for us,” Kleinecke said. “It was important that we came in and established the doubles point, because if we had come in a little flat and let them get into the match a little bit, that could have been a problem.”

OSU quickly evened the score at the start of singles as Karaitiana raced to a 6-0, 6-0 win against Blagodarova at No. 3. It would be the only point for the Cowgirls, who had lost the first set on each of the other five courts.

Frank, the Big 12 No. 5 singles champion, played up at the No. 4 spot and still won her 12th match in her last 13 outings with a 6-2, 6-2 win against Belova to give A&M a 2-1 lead.

Davidson put the Aggies ahead, 3-1, with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Jessica Collins at No. 6, and Clifford secured the winning point with a 6-3, 6-3 win against Maryna Tkachenko at the No. 5 line.

Potgieter, ranked No. 103 in singles, had won her first set against Iryna Tkachenko, 6-0, at the No. 1 line, but trailed 4-5 in the second set when Clifford scored the clinching point. Liles had defeated Allen, 7-6 (3) in the first set and held a 3-0 second set lead when play was stopped.

“I love this time of year, the post season, where you’re playing until somebody does win,” Kleinecke said. It changes the complexity of everything just a little bit, and it’s a lot of fun for the players, and it’s their first opportunity at it. You can’t look around and wait for somebody else to be doing it; you have to be the one doing it.”

A&M is 2-6 all-time against the Longhorns in the Big 12 Championships. Texas eliminated A&M in each of the last two years. The rivals did not meet in the 2005 tournament, the year after A&M handed Texas a 4-3 loss for the Aggies’ Big 12 tournament title.

“It’s going to be interesting,” Kleinecke said about the match-up. “Anytime Texas A&M and Texas play, it’s going to be interesting, so we’re excited about the second chance, and we’re going to be out here playing.”

Texas A&M 4, Oklahoma State 1
1. (#103) Elzé Potgieter (A&M) vs. Iryna Tkachenko (OSU), DNF
2. Christi Liles (A&M) vs. Yawna Allen (OSU), DNF
3. Jo-Anne Karaitiana (OSU) def. Anna Blagodarova (A&M), 6-0, 6-0
4. Morgan Frank (A&M) def. Sasha Belova (OSU), 6-2, 6-2
5. Tiffany Clifford (A&M) def. Maryna Tkachenko (OSU), 6-3, 6-3
6. Stephanie Davidson (A&M) def. Jessica Collins (OSU), 6-1, 6-3

Doubles (A&M wins the point)
1. Blagodarova/Clifford/ (A&M) def. Belova/Karaitiana (OSU), 8-1
2. Liles/Potgieter (A&M) vs. Allen/I. Tkachenko (OSU) 6-3, DNF
3. Davidson/Frank (A&M) def. Collins/M. Tkachenko (OSU), 8-3

Order of finish (D1, D3, S3, S4, S6, S, S)

George P. Mitchell Tennis Complex (Attendance: 646)
Team records:  Texas A&M (16-7); OSU (12-10)

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