COLLEGE STATION – Texas A&M and archrival Texas will battle one more time on the tennis courts as conference foes, as the No. 3 seed Aggies will take on the Longhorns in the finals of the Big 12 Tennis Championship, Sunday at noon at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center.
A&M’s 61st-ranked Nazari Urbina came from a set down to defeat 22nd-ranked Nina Secerbegovic of Baylor 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the last match standing today to clinch the Aggies’ grueling 4-3 semifinal victory over the 12th-ranked and second seeded Lady Bears.
The Aggies (18-4) advance to the tournament finals for only the fifth time in the 16-year history of the tournament and for the first time since winning their only title in 2004. They also end a 12-match-losing stretch against Baylor, a streak that also dates back to 2004.
Today’s victory avenged a 5-2 loss earlier this season against the Lady Bears in Waco, Texas, with Urbina and Wen Sun each posting singles victories this go-around, which proved to be the difference.
“The matches were all a battle,” first-year A&M head coach Howard Joffe said. “I am very pleased for Sun at No. 3. She got some revenge on the kid that she had lost to last time. I had a feeling all along in the match that it would come down to Nazari’s match. She lost in three brutal sets to the same kid at Baylor and today came up on the winning side. I am delighted for her and for our kids, because they handled themselves with class and fought hard. They deserved a win like that.”
A&M got off to a strong start in doubles as 38th-ranked Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar and Sun posted their highest ranked win of the season with a convincing 8-2 victory over 13th-ranked Ema Burgic and Secerbegovic at the No. 1 line.
Janelle Cuthbertson and Urbina then secured the doubles point and extended their winning streak to 16 with an 8-6 victory over Megan Horter and Diana Nakic at No. 2. With the doubles point decided, the match at the No. 3 line was stopped with the score tied at 6-6.
“In a normal college match, the doubles point only counts as 1/7 of the score, but is a momentum swinger,” Joffe said. “Certainly for the team that we have this particular year at Texas A&M, it is a critical item because if you look at the scoreboard we were able to win at No. 1, 2 and 3, but just didn’t have the depth to even come close in the other spots on the day. The doubles proved to be critical.”
Sun was first off in singles, giving the Aggies a 2-0 lead after saddling 48th-ranked Sona Novakova a 6-0, 6-1 loss at No. 3. Sun had lost a third-set tiebreaker when the two battled earlier this season.
Baylor then came back with wins at the No. 6 and No. 4 lines to even the score, with Horter handing Sheri Olivier a 6-0, 6-2 loss and Burgic following with a 6-4, 6-2 defeat over Lauren Santacroce at No. 4.
In a match-up of the top two nationally ranked singles players in the conference, No. 8 Sanchez-Quintanar, reeled off eight consecutive games to break away from a 4-4 first-set tie to close out a 6-4, 6-0 victory over 15th-ranked Nakic and put the Aggies ahead 3-2. Sanchez-Quintanar improves to 21-1 in dual matches and 34-5 overall to move into sole possession of third place in the A&M records for most singles victories in a season.
Jordaan Sanford tied the score for the final time with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Cuthbertson at No. 5. The match wrapped up just minutes after the No. 2 court had begun the decisive third set.
The battle at No. 2 began with Secerbegovic going up a break at 4-3 and then holding serve to win the first set, 6-4. Urbina then jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second and went on to win, 6-3. The score was knotted at 3-3 in the third when Urbina broke Secerbegovic’s serve and went on to win the next two games for a 6-3 victory, putting the Aggies in the championship match.
Baylor finishes the season 23-8.
“They played a great match,” head coach Joey Scrivano said. “They just outplayed us at enough positions to win the match. They are a tough team and deserve a ton of credit. They are good. They are just really good.”
“Nina has won so many big matches for us,” Scrivano said. “It is just tough to win them all. She has won a lot more than she has lost. I am proud of her. I am proud of the whole team. They really put it on the line today. We just have to look at this match and see what we could have done better. There is always things you could have done better, so we will take a real hard look at it. It is going to hurt to look at it, but we will get better for it. Now the most important tournament of the whole year is coming up, so we are looking forward to the NCAAs. We would love to make a good run there.”
Just as A&M avenged an earlier loss against the Lady Bears, Texas will be looking to get back at the Aggies after falling to A&M, 4-3, on April 17 in College Station. Urbina also won the last match standing in that contest to clinch the victory and end A&M’s nine-match losing streak against the Horns.
A&M’s last win against Texas in the Big 12 Championship was in the finals of the 2004 tournament to capture the Aggies’ only tournament title.
“There are no holes in Texas’ lineup,” Joffe said. “They have a very, very fine team one through six in singles and one through three in doubles. We would have to play terribly well to be competitive and we absolutely intend to do that. We will have to play very good tennis if we want to win tomorrow.”
Tickets may be purchased at the main entrance to the Mitchell Tennis Center.
No. 19 Texas A&M 4, No. 12 Baylor 3
Big 12 Championship – Semifinal
April 28, 2012
George P. Mitchell Tennis Center
College Station, Texas
1. (#8) Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar (TAMU) def. (#15) Diana Nakic (BU), 6-4, 6-0
2. (#61) Nazari Urbina (TAMU) def. (#22) Nina Secerbegovic (BU), 4-6, 6-3, 6-3
3. (#81) Wen Sun (TAMU) def. (#48) Sona Novakova (BU), 6-0, 6-1
4. Ema Burgic (BU) def. Lauren Santacroce (TAMU), 6-4, 6-2
5. Jordaan Sanford (BU) def. Janelle Cuthbertson (TAMU), 6-4, 6-3
6. Megan Horter (BU) def. Sheri Olivier (TAMU), 6-0, 6-3
Doubles (wins the point)
1. (#38) Sanchez-Quintanar/Sun (TAMU) def. (#13) Burgic/Secerbegovic (BU), 8-2
2. Cuthbertson/Urbina (TAMU) def. Horter/Nakic (BU), 8-6
3. Olivier/Santacroce (TAMU) vs. Nicole Kosakowski/Novakova (BU), 6-6, unfinished
Order of finish
Doubles: 1, 2
Singles: 3, 6, 4, 1, 5, 2*
*- Clinched match
Texas A&M: 18-4