A&M falls to No. 14 Clemson in 4-3 heartbreaker

The Texas A&M women’s tennis team took No. 14 Clemson in to the wire but fell in a tiebreaker in the last match standing in a 4-3 season-opening loss at the Clemson Indoor Tennis Center.

A&M won the doubles point and was at match point at 3-1 when Clemson rallied for the come-from-behind victory to improve to 4-0 and advance to the second round of the ITA Kick-Off tournament.

“We knew Clemson was a good team, that they were not going to give us anything and that we were going to have to take everything,” A&M coach Bobby Kleinecke said. “For 95 percent of the match that’s what we did.”

Clemson took an early advantage in the doubles as Ian Hadziselimovic and Keri Wong defeated A&M’s Christi Liles and Elzé Potgieter, 8-3 at the No. 1 line. It would be the only doubles win for the Tigers as A&M was in command on the other two courts after winning the first 11 games combined.

A&M’s Stephanie Davidson and Morgan Frank jumped out to a 6-0 lead against Nelly Ciolkowski and Laurianne Henry at the No. 2 line and went on to win, 8-3.

Sheri Olivier and Nazari Urbina then clinched the doubles point for the Aggies. The A&M duo, which had jumped out to a 5-0 lead against Stefi Balda and Josipa Bek, went on to an 8-3 victory to put the Aggies up 1-0.

Clemson knotted the match at 1-1 as Nelly Ciolkowski, ranked No. 61, began singles by downing No. 118 Lauren Santacroce, 6-3, 6-1 at No. 4.

Urbina, ranked No. 117 in singles and making her Aggie debut in a dual match, put the Aggies up, 2-1, with a 6-3, 6-2 win against 113th-ranked Hadziselimovic at the No. 3 line.

Potgieter then pulled off the highest ranked win of her career to put A&M up 3-1. The senior, ranked No. 88 in singles, won the first set against ninth-ranked Bek, 7-5 at the No. 1 line but trailed 3-1 in the second set. Potgieter, whose previous highest ranked win was against 11th-ranked Melanie Gloria of Fresno State on Feb. 24, 2008, then won five of the next six games to win 6-4.

The turning point was at the No. 2 line where Wong had won the first set against Frank, 6-3, but Frank blazed to a 6-0 second-set win to force a third set. Frank trailed 2-0 in the final set before reeling off five straight games to go up 5-2. She was at match point, 40-30, when Wong scored the next three points to win the game and keep the Tigers alive. Wong went on to win the next two games to tie the set at 5-5, but Frank broke serve to go up 6-5. Wong broke back to force a tiebreaker, and after falling behind 2-0, went on to win 7-3 and move Clemson within 3-2.

Clemson tied the score at 3-3 as Balda defeated Davidson 7-5, 6-3 at No. 6, to force the match to come down to the No. 5 line, where Henry had won the first set, 7-5, but Olivier won the second set 6-3 to force a third set. Olivier went on to build a 5-2 lead when Henry rallied to win the next four games. Olivier broke serve to tie the score at 6-6 and force a tiebreaker. She built a 4-1 lead, but Balda won the next six points to win the match and send the Tigers to the second round.

“When Clemson got down in the two matches in the third, they were more aggressive, and they just took the match from us,” Kleinecke said. “I told the girls that if they laid everything out on the line that we are going to walk away from this and be able to learn from it no matter which way it went, whether we won or loss.

“I’m extremely proud of them. They gave everything they had tonight. We came up just a little bit short. If they (play like) that every match, we are going to be fine throughout the season.”

A&M has a short turnaround as the Aggies face No. 31 Illinois (0-3) in a consolation match Sunday at 8 a.m. (CT). The Fighting Illini fell to No. 20 Mississippi, 4-2, in the other first-round match at Clemson.

Clemson and Mississippi will meet at 1 p.m., with the winner earning a berth into the 16-team ITA National Women’s Team Indoor Championships, Feb. 12-15 in Madison, Wis.

(14) Clemson 4, (37) Texas A&M 3
January 30, 2010
Clemson Indoor Tennis Center
Clemson, S.C.
Attendance: n/a
1. (#88) Elzé Potgieter (TAMU) def. (#9) Josipa Bek (CLEM), 7-5, 6-4
2. Keri Wong (CLEM) def. Morgan Frank (TAMU), 6-3, 0-6, 7-6 (3)
3. (#117) Nazari Urbina (TAMU) def. (#113) Ina Hadziselimovic (CLEM), 6-3, 6-2
4. (#61) Nelly Ciolkowski (CLEM) def. (#118) Lauren Santacroce (TAMU), 6-3, 6-1
5. Laurianne Henry (CLEM) def. Sheri Olivier (TAMU), 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (4)
6. Stefi Balda (CLEM) def. Stephanie Davidson (TAMU), 7-5, 6-3

Doubles (TAMU wins the point)
1. Hadziselimovic/Wong (CLEM) def. Christi Liles/Potgieter (TAMU), 8-3
2. Stephanie Davidson/Frank (TAMU) def. Ciolkowski/Henry (CLEM), 8-3
3. Olivier/Urbina (TAMU) def. Balda/Bek (CLEM), 8-3

Order of finish
Doubles: 1, 2, 3
Singles: 4, 3, 1, 2, 6, 5*
*Clinched match

Team records
Texas A&M: 0-1
Clemson: 4-0

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