After a long, grueling battle last night, the Texas A&M women’s tennis team had a tough time getting in sync this morning and fell to No. 32 Illinois, 4-2, in a consolation match of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend at the Clemson Indoor Tennis Center.
“From the start, even from the warm-up, I felt like we were just not there,” A&M coach Bobby Kleinecke said. “I know it was tough coming back from last night’s match and being ready to play today. I just felt like we have to lay it out there a lot more. I told the team that last night I felt like they played like a top-20 team. Today they played like a No. 37 team.”
In the first-ever meeting between the two programs, Illinois won two of the three doubles matches to take a 1-0 lead going into singles. Leigh Finnegan and Rachael White gave the Fighting Illini the early edge with an 8-5 victory over Christi Liles and Elzé Potgieter at the No. 1 line.
A&M’s Stephanie Davidson and Morgan Frank evened the doubles score with a win at No. 2. The Aggie duo broke serve to take a 7-6 lead and then held for an 8-6 victory against Chelcie Abajian and Marisa Lambropoulos.
The doubles point came down to the No. 3 line, where Illinois’ Megan Fudge and Breanne Smutko broke serve to take a 4-3 lead over A&M’s Stephanie Davidson and Nazari Urbina. Illinois would break again to build a 7-4 lead and then held serve to finish off the 8-4 win and clinch the point.
Potgieter tied the score with a straight-set victory at No. 1 singles. The senior, who is ranked No. 88 in the nation and posted a career-best straight-set victory over No. 9 Josipa Bek of Clemson in Saturday’s season opener, knocked off her second consecutive higher ranked opponent, defeating No. 33 Rachael White, 6-2, 6-3. It was Potgieter’s 79th career win to move her within three wins of moving into A&M’s top 10 for career singles victories.
“Mentally Elzé is prepared to give her best shot this year,” Kleinecke said. “She has grown as a player. She has grown mature-wise, and she knows what to expect. She was ready for this. She was a little tired after last night, laying it all out, and she just talked about in our meeting that she had to fake it and let her opponent know that she wasn’t tired. She was prepared and ready go.“
Frank defeated Fudge, 6-2, 6-2 at No. 2 singles to give A&M a 2-1 lead before Smutko finished off a 7-6 (5), 6-4 win against Santacroce at the No. 4 line to knot the score at 2-2.
Abajian regained the lead for the Fighting Illini, holding off 117th-ranked Urbina, 6-3, 7-5 at the No. 3 line, and Lambropoulos clinched the win with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Davidson at No. 5.
It was the first win of the season for the Fighting Illini, who improve to 1-3.
“As far as Illinois goes, this was a match they needed,” Kleinecke said. “They had lost three close matches, and they needed a win for themselves. They wanted it more than we did today, and I give them kudos for that of being 0-3 and finding a way to still find a way to get themselves up and want it more. That is something we have to learn a little bit more of.”
The Aggies (0-2) will attempt to get into the win column when they return to action on Sunday, Feb. 7 to take on No. 28 LSU. Match time has been changed to 11 a.m. at Dub Robinson Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.
Live scoring of the match will be available at AggieAthletics.com.
(32) Illinois 4, (37) Texas A&M 2
January 31, 2010
Clemson Indoor Tennis Center
1. (#88) Elzé Potgieter (TAMU) def. (#33) Rachael White (ILL), 6-2, 6-3
2. Morgan Frank (TAMU) def. Megan Fudge (ILL), 6-2, 6-2
3. Chelcie Abajian (ILL) def. (#117) Nazari Urbina (TAMU), 6-3, 7-5
4. Breanne Smutko (ILL) def. (#118) Lauren Santacroce (TAMU), 7-6 (5), 6-4
5. Marisa Lambropoulos (ILL) def. Sheri Olivier (TAMU), 6-2, 6-2
6. Stephanie Davidson (TAMU) vs. Amy Allin (ILL), 4-5 DNF
Doubles (Illinois wins the point)
1. Leigh Finnegan/White (ILL) def. Christi Liles/Potgieter (TAMU), 8-5
2. Stephanie Davidson/Frank (TAMU) def. Abajian/Lambropoulos (ILL), 8-6
3. Fudge/Smutko (ILL) def. Olivier/Urbina (TAMU), 8-4
Order of finish
Doubles: 1, 2, 3
Singles: 1, 2, 4, 3, 5*
Texas A&M: 0-2