The Texas A&M women’s’ tennis team returns to action on Sunday, taking on the University of South Florida Bulls in Tampa. First serve is slated for 10 a.m. (11 a.m. ET) at the USF Varsity Tennis Courts.
“I think this is going to be a battle,” said Bobby Kleinecke, who is nine wins shy of recording the 400th victory is his 25-year tenure as head coach of the Aggies. “Whoever plays better is the one who is going to come away with the win. It is important for us to get back on that winning side, and this is going to be a big match for us.”
The Aggies, ranked No. 36 in this week’s ITA national rankings, are 3-3 after going 2-1 last weekend in Las Vegas. A&M defeated No. 56 San Diego, 6-1, and No. 41 Fresno State, 7-0, but then fell to No. 50 UNLV, 4-3, in a match that went down to the wire.
Highlights from the weekend included senior Elzé Potgieter picking up her 82nd career singles victory to move into a tie with former Aggie standout Julie Beahm for 10th in the A&M career record books. Potgieter’s next victory will tie her with former All-American Jessica Roland for ninth place. Potgieter, ranked a career-high No. 33, is likely to face 26th-ranked Irene Rehberger when the Aggies take on the Bulls.
Also last weekend, freshman Nazari Urbina went 3-0 after moving to the No. 2 singles line for the first time, and junior Morgan Frank ran her singles winning streak to five and enters the match against the Bulls tied with Potgieter and Urbina for the most wins on the team at 5-1.
In doubles, junior Stephanie Davidson remained undefeated in dual matches, improving to 6-0 after she and partner Sheri Olivier went 3-0 in Vegas and helped the Aggies win their fourth consecutive doubles point.
The match at USF is a homecoming of sorts for two Aggie Floridians raised in Tampa suburbs: juniors Christi Liles and Frank, who hail from Largo and Oldsmar, Fla., respectively.
The Bulls are 4-2, including 3-0 at home, and climbed to No. 29 in the ITA rankings after defeating both North Carolina State and Memphis last weekend. USF was slated to play Central Florida in Orlando on Wednesday, but the match was canceled due to rain.
Rehberger is the Bulls’ only ranked singles player. She and partner Melissa Koning are No. 15 in the doubles rankings with their only two losses coming against top-10 ranked opponents.
“They are looking for the same thing we are, to come away with another ranked win,” Kleinecke said. “They have a win against Florida State, who was up pretty high at the beginning of the year. I’ve looked all up and down their lineup, and I don’t see any weaknesses.
“They play a tough schedule. That is how you make the NCAA tournament this day and time, and you have to play a tough schedule to do it. It’s all about having quality wins, getting your ranking up and getting into the tournament. So at this time of the year, every ranked win you can get is a good win,”
The Aggies are 5-0 all-time against USF. Last year, then No. 30 A&M defeated the 68th-ranked Bulls, 5-2, in College Station. The Aggies swept the doubles matches and then completed three straight-set victories to jump out to a 4-0 lead and clinch the win. Both of USF’s points came in super tiebreakers that were decided by the minimum two points.
“I know we played really well against them last year and that was at our place,” Kleinecke said. “They are going to remember that, and it will give them a little bit more fire here, so we need to be ready for everything they’ve got.“
The contest at USF is the Aggies’ seventh consecutive match played away from home. A&M continues its road swing at TCU on March 6 before playing its home opener on March 9 against SMU.
Live scoring of all A&M women’s tennis matches is available at AggieAthletics.com.