DURHAM, N.C. – The Texas A&M women’s tennis team got into the win column and handed Tulsa its first loss with a 5-2 victory today in the opening round of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend at the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center on the Duke University campus.
With the victory, A&M advances to the championship match and will face No. 7 Duke (3-0) Monday at 1 p.m. (CT). The winner advances to the 16-team ITA Team National Indoor Championship, Feb. 18-21 at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va.
“This was a good win for us today,” A&M coach Bobby Kleinecke said. “Tulsa is a good team and they are going to beat a lot of teams this year. I was impressed with their fight, going for their shots both when they were down and when they were up in sets, and I am proud of our team for finding a way to win.”
A&M (1-1) won the doubles point, and except for an easy win at the No. 3 line, the other matches pretty much went down to the wire.
Stephanie Davidson (Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas) and Christi Potgieter (Petrusville, South Africa) dropped the first game at No. 3, but the Aggie duo reeled off the next seven games to take a commanding lead against Bonny Davidson and Samantha Vickers. A&M went on to win 8-2 in a match that lasted just over 30 minutes.
“No. 3 did a great job of taking care of business, never letting up and not letting the other team back in it,” Kleinecke said.
Morgan Frank (Oldsmar, Fla.) and Nazari Urbina (Xalapa, Mexico) had built a 7-4 lead at the No. 2 line, but Tulsa’s Anatasia Erofeeza and Ewa Szatkowska fought off several match points while getting within 7-6. A&M then won the next game to clinch the doubles point for the Aggies.
After being knotted at eight games apiece, the No. 1 doubles match had played one point in a tiebreaker when the match was halted.
“I felt like we were in control of the doubles the whole time as far as score, but we never could put it away,” Kleinecke added. “I give credit to Tulsa for that, because they kept fighting and fighting. That No. 1 team made some great volleys on balls. We played the points perfectly, and they just got the ball back and put it away against us with great reflex volleys.
“Our teams did a really good job of keeping their composure and believing that they were going to come away with the win. Christi (Liles) and Janelle (Cuthbertson) were pretty much up the whole time at No. 1 and then fell down, 8-7. It would have been easy to be discouraged and lose it there, but they brought it back into a tiebreaker before we had to stop the match because we won the doubles point.”
A&M took an early lead in singles after winning the first set on five courts, but things got tighter as the match went on with Tulsa making comebacks on several courts.
“We won five of six first sets and are in control, but we had three or four courts that fell down in the second set,” Kleinecke said. “That is something we have to get better at. You have to be ready to play every point. There is so much parity that every point is important.”
Tulsa, which entered the day with an unblemished 4-0 record, evened the match at 1-1 as Michelle Farley defeated Lauren Santacroce (Spring, Texas), 6-3, 6-1, at No. 6 singles.
Liles (Largo, Fla.) put A&M back in the lead after finishing off Szatkowska at the No. 4 line. Liles had dropped the first two games of the opening set but then reeled off six consecutive games to win the first set. She also lost the first two games of the second set but won the next four games and went on to close out a 6-2, 6-4 straight-set victory.
“Christi was down 2-0 in both sets but really made a great adjustment in her game plan,” Kleinecke said. “Plus she did it early in the match before she had given away a set.”
Frank, ranked No. 102 in the nation, won her first five games against 112th-ranked JoAnne Karaitiana on the No. 2 court en route to a 6-1 first-set victory. Frank went on to build a 4-2 lead in the second set, but Karaitiana came back and tied the set at 4-4. Frank then won the next two sets to get the win and put the Aggies up, 3-1.
“Morgan is so hard to play,” Kleinecke said. “Every ball comes back, and you can get really discouraged with her. She puts herself in position to win the matches, and even though it got tight in the second set, she did a good job. Karaitiana is a good player.”
Although A&M needed one more point to win the match, things got interesting as Tulsa came back to force a third set in each of the three matches still in progress. With the third set tied at 1-1 at the No. 1 line, 17th-ranked Urbina was awarded the victory when Alexandra Kichoutkin was overruled for a fifth time and forced to default.
“It was an unfortunate thing for the match to end that way,” Kleinecke said. “That was an important match. We needed that match to get to four and clinch the match. At the time, Christi (Potgieter) was early in the third set when (Kichoutkin) got her fifth overrule, and it cost her the match.”
With the match already clinched, Davidson retired due to an ankle injury that she had suffered early in the second set but had continued to persevere. Potgieter then closed out the match and picked up the first win of her rookie campaign with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 win over Erofeeza at the No. 3 line.
“It was almost like a three-ring circus,” Kleinecke said about the ending. “On Nazari’s court, there were things going on. On Stephanie’s court there were issues going on, and coaches were getting after it with the umpires. There were a lot of things going on, and I thought Christi did a great job of keeping her composure, keeping the blinders on and just sticking with her plan. I do think it freaked her a little bit in the second set, and she lost her concentration a little bit, but overall it was great for her to come away with the win.
“Stephanie did a great job of battling through an injury. That was a gut check for her and a great lesson for the other girls to see because Stephanie really did a great job of staying out there and not defaulting, because at that time the match was still undecided. I give her big kudos for being mentally tough and being able to fight through that. It was my decision to not play her any more because we have a match tomorrow.”
Duke defeated No. 62 Brown, 6-1, earlier in the day to advance. The Blue Devils are 4-0 all-time against A&M.
“This is going to be a fun match for us,” Kleinecke said. “We wanted to take care of today’s match first, but we also wanted a shot at Duke. The girls are excited to play a top-10 team and get a good measure this early in the season. We know Duke is a tough team. We’ll have to play our best.”
No. 36 Texas A&M 5, No. 34 Tulsa 2
January 30, 2011
Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center
1. (#17) Nazari Urbina (TAMU) def. Alexandra Kichoutkin (TUL), 6-0, 6-7 (5), 1-1, default
2. (#102) Morgan Frank (TAMU) def. (#112) JoAnne Karaitiana (TUL), 6-1, 6-4
3. Christi Potgieter (TAMU) def. Anatasia Erofeeza (TUL), 6-2, 4-6, 6-4
4. Christi Liles (TAMU) def. Ewa Szatkowska (TUL), 6-2, 6-4
5. Samantha Vickers (TUL) def. Stephanie Davidson (TAMU), 4-6, 6-4, 3-1, retired
6. Michelle Farley (TUL) def. Lauren Santacroce (TAMU), 6-3, 6-1
Doubles (Texas A&M wins the point)
1. Janelle Cuthbertson/Liles (TAMU) vs. Karaitiana/Kichoutkin (TUL), 8-8 (1-0), unfinished
2. Frank/Urbina (TAMU) def. Erofeeza/Szatkowska (TUL), 8-6
3. Davidson/Potgieter (TAMU) def. Bonny Davidson/Vickers (TUL), 8-2
Order of finish
Doubles: 3, 2
Singles: 6, 4, 2, 1*, 5, 3
Texas A&M: (1-1)