No. 4 seed Texas A&M opened the Big 12 Women’s Tennis Championship with a 4-2 victory over No. 5 seed Oklahoma in quarterfinal action today at the Penick-Allison Tennis Center on the University of Texas campus.
The Aggies (14-8) won the doubles point and posted straight-set wins at the top three singles positions to clinch the victory and advance to the semifinals, where A&M will take on No. 1 ranked, top-seeded and four-time defending tournament champion Baylor Saturday at 3 p.m.
Christi Liles (Largo, Fla.) and Sheri Olivier (Topeka, Kan.) got the Aggies off to a quick start in doubles, jumping out to a 4-1 lead against Kristina Radan and Marie-Pier Huet at the No. 3 line. Up 4-2, the Aggie duo went on another four-game run to finish off the Sooner pair, 8-2.
In a battle of ranked teams, A&M’s 35th-ranked tandem of Elzé Potgieter (Bloemfontein, South Africa) and Nazari Urbina (Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico) dropped the first two games against No. 38 Ana-Marie Constantinescu and Teona Tsertsvadze at the No. 1 line but then reeled off seven consecutive games. Oklahoma got within 7-5 before A&M finished off the match, 8-5, to give the Aggies a 1-0 lead.
Stephanie Davidson (Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas) and Morgan Frank (Oldsmar, Fla.) had come back from a 5-2 deficit and got within 5-4 against Tara Eckel and Maria Kalashnikova at No. 2 doubles when the match was stopped.
“I was very pleased with the doubles,” A&M coach Bobby Kleinecke said. “We wanted to come out aggressive, and I felt like we did that, especially at No. 1 and 3. Oklahoma played very well the first two games at No. 1, and then after that we really stepped it up, and I was proud of them for that.
“No. 3 doubles, we were more aggressive from the start, and that was the difference in the match. At No. 2, we started out a little bit down and then really kind of climbed back in there. This time of the year, that is what you need to do when (the doubles matches are) stopping after someone wins two; you’ve got to keep fighting even if you are down. I was very pleased with the doubles.”
Oklahoma (18-6) had taken a 2-1 lead at the start of singles after Radan defeated Lauren Santacroce (Spring, Texas), 6-1, 6-0, at No. 5 singles, and Eckel downed Liles, 6-1, 6-1, at No. 6, but A&M came roaring back with the straight-set victories at Nos. 1, 2 and 3.
Potgieter cruised to a 6-2, 6-1 win against Huet at No. 2 to post her 90th career singles victory and move her within two wins of tying for fifth place in the A&M all-time records.
With the team score tied at 2-2, Urbina, a freshman who typically plays the No. 2 line for the Aggies but was playing No. 1 for only the second time in her career, notched a 6-3, 6-4 win against Constantinescu to return the lead to A&M, 3-2. It was Urbina’s eighth consecutive win and her 31st singles win overall, tying her for fourth in the A&M career records for most victories in a season.
“We made that switch at 1 and 2, and I felt like this was the time for Nazari to step up, and she has been. That’s a great win that she had,” Kleinecke said. “At No. 2, Elzé did what she needed to do to win the match. She is a very unselfish player, and player No. 2 was completely fine with her.”
Frank secured the winning point for the Aggies with a 6-2, 6-3 win against Tsertsvadze at No. 3. Frank reeled off four consecutive games to cap the first set and was holding a 4-3 second-set lead when she won two straight games to close out the match.
“Morgan was a little tired in the match and she had that ankle sprain in the doubles, but she was fairly in control (of the match), and it was just a matter of taking care of it,” Kleinecke said. “I thought Nos. 1, 2 and 3 did an excellent job.”
Olivier was trailing Kalashnikova, 7-6 (3), 4-1, at No. 4 singles when the Frank posted the winning point.
“Oklahoma fought hard just like we knew they would,” Kleinecke said. “They are a good team and they’ve had a great season, and we are happy with this win.”
It was the Aggies’ 15 consecutive win against the Sooners, who have not defeated A&M since 1999. A&M now leads the all-time series, 20-4, including 5-0 in Big 12 Championship matches.
A&M advances to the semifinals for the 11th consecutive year and the 13th time overall. The Aggies are 1-3 against the Lady Bears in the 14-year history of the Big 12 tournament, including 0-2 when meeting in the semifinals. The last time the two teams met in the tournament was 2005 in Austin. Baylor, the No. 1 seed, topped A&M, 4-1 in the semifinals.
Earlier this season, A&M fell to Baylor, 6-1, in Waco, Texas. Urbina picked up the only point for the Aggies with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over 18th-ranked Nina Secerbegovic at the No. 2 line. It marked the highest ranked win by an A&M player in a dual match this season.
“We’ll see what happens. Baylor is an excellent team,” Kleinecke said. “They have excellent players all up and down their lineup. They can take people out and still not lose anything. We are kind of banged up a little bit, but we are going to come out here and we are going to give them a heck of a fight.”
The winner of the semifinal tilt will advance to the championship match, to be played Sunday at 1 p.m.
Live scoring of the match will be available at AggieAthletics.com
No. 37 Texas A&M 4, No. 39 Oklahoma 2
Big 12 Championships, Quarterfinals
April 30, 2010
Penick-Allison Tennis Center Austin, Texas
1. (#47) Nazari Urbina (TAMU) def. (#97) Ana-Maria Constantinescu (OU), 6-3, 6-4
2. (#60) Elzé Potgieter (TAMU) def. Marie-Pier Huet (OU), 6-2, 6-1
3. (#101) Morgan Frank (TAMU) def. Teona Tsertsvadze (OU), 6-2, 6-3
4. Sheri Olivier (TAMU) vs. Maria Kalashnikova (OU), 6-7 (3), 1-4, unfinished
5. Kristina Radan (OU) def. Lauren Santacroce (TAMU), 6-1, 6-0
6. Tara Eckel (OU) def. Christi Liles (TAMU), 6-1, 6-1
Doubles (A&M wins the point)
1. (#35) Potgieter/Urbina (TAMU) def. (#38) Constantinescu/Tsertsvadze (OU), 8-5
2. Stephanie Davidson/Frank (TAMU) vs. Eckel/Kalashnikova (OU), 4-5, unfinished
3. Liles/Olivier (TAMU) def. Huet/Radan (OU), 8-2
Order of finish
Doubles: 3, 1
Singles: 5, 6, 2, 1, 3*
Texas A&M: 14-8