Kleinecke's Crew Wins Season Opener

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COLLEGE STATION, Texas- The 25th-ranked Texas A&M women’s tennis team opened its spring season in convincing fashion, defeating both Texas State and Houston by identical 7-0 scores today at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center.

“We walked into today’s match with the theme of taking no prisoners,” A&M coach Bobby Kleinecke said. “We wanted to take care of everything and go out there and control from the first game on. I’m proud of the fight everyone showed while taking care of their courts.“

The Aggies breezed through the doubles matches against the Bobcats in the morning match, taking less than 45 minutes to notch wins on all three courts. Senior Tiffany Clifford (Little Rock, Ark.) and freshman Christi Liles (Largo, Fla.) were unbeatable at the No. 1 line, shutting down Lainy Chafitz and Andrea Giraldo, 8-0.

Senior Anna Blagodarova (Toronto, Ontario) and sophomore Michelle Sammons (Durban, South Africa) clinched the doubles point for the Aggies with an 8-2 victory over Ashley Ellis and Ali Gulida at the No. 2 line. Christina Amo (Fort Worth, Texas), who transferred from Texas State, and senior Marisa Druss (Austin, Texas) completed the sweep for the Aggies with an 8-3 win against Natalie McLeod and Sumarie Muller at the No. 3 line.

“I felt really good in the doubles,” Kleinecke said. “We have been working hard on just being steady and not trying to be flashy when we don’t need to be. We played a great three doubles matches, and it carried over into the singles.”

The Aggies cruised in the singles matches, winning in straight sets on five courts. Freshman Morgan Frank (Oldsmar, Fla.), who joined the team in January, didn’t drop a game as she routed Gulida, 6-0, 6-0, at the No. 4 line to put A&M up, 2-0.

“Morgan really stepped it up a lot,” Kleinecke said. “I feel like she is going to be a very smart and competitive player, and we are going to see her best in matches. Right now we are still testing her out to see exactly where she belongs.”

Blagodarova got an easy 6-1, 6-0 win against Giraldo at No. 1, and Druss defeated Muller, 6-3, 6-1, at No. 5 to clinch the match for A&M. Liles finished off Ellis, 6-1, 6-3 at No. 2, and Sammons notched a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Chafitz at No. 3 to put A&M ahead, 6-0.

The only suspense of the match occurred on Court 6, where Amo dropped her first set, 6-2, to Jennifer Nowland but came from behind to take the second set, 6-4. With the overall match already determined, the two played a 10-point tiebreaker. Amo jumped out to a 5-0 lead and never looked back in the 10-1 win to complete the shutout against her former school.

“It was good for her to work through some adversity,” Kleinecke said about the former Bobcat. “She just kept fighting and fighting and did great under pressure at the end when that match was on the line.”

The Aggies came back later in the afternoon and once again dominated the doubles by taking all three matches against Houston. The freshman duo of Stephanie Davidson (Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas) and Frank trounced Isabella Glinska and Vicky Simpson, 8-0, at the No. 3 line. Blagodarova and Sammons secured the doubles point, as they followed with an 8-3 win against Leila Salek and Lynley Wasson on Court 2.

Clifford and Liles were tied at 4-4 with Lucy Forward and Jordan McCombs before the Aggie pair began to pull away at the No. 1 line. Clifford and Liles went on to an 8-5 win to keep the Aggies undefeated in doubles matches.

Frank continued her torrid pace in singles, extending her game-winning streak to 24 after smoking Neila Starratt, 6-0, 6-0, at the No. 5 spot. Liles put A&M up 3-0 against the Cougars with a 6-3, 6-3 victory against Forward at No. 2. Sammons then clinched the match with a 6-3, 6-3 win against Joanna Kocprzyk at the No. 4 line.

“The match was exactly what I felt we were going to have,” Kleinecke said. “I knew that Houston was a tough team in the sense that they got every ball back. They did not beat themselves. They don’t hit the ball real hard, and that is an adjustment you have to make. It is tougher to come away with the win because you don’t get any pace from the other side to help you with your pace, but I felt like we competed very well.”

The Aggies had clinched the victory before Blagodarova and Salek had completed their first set at Court 1. Salek had led 4-1 in the opening set, but Blagodarova came back to take a 6-5 lead. Salek evened the set at 6-6 to force a tiebreaker, which Blagodarova easily won, 7-2. Blagodarova then cruised to a 6-1 second-set win to complete the straight-set victory and give the Aggies a 5-0 lead.

The remaining two matches were decided by a 10-point tiebreaker, with the Aggies winning both to secure the shutout. Davidson won her first set, 6-3, against Simpson at No. 6, but Simpson came back to take the second set, 6-4. With the tiebreaker tied at 8-all, Davidson won the next two points to clinch the win.

At the No. 3 line, Clifford and Wasson split the first two sets with Clifford taking the first set, 6-2. Wasson came back from a 5-4 deficit to tie the second set at 6-6 and force a tiebreaker. Wasson jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the tiebreaker en route to a 7-3 win. She went on to take a 3-1 lead in the super tiebreaker before Clifford rallied and took the lead at 4-3. Clifford never trailed the remainder of the match, taking the tiebreaker, 10-6.

“That is going to pay off,” Kleinecke said about the tiebreakers. “You need to get into situations that are going to help you. That is what we are trying to do at this time of the year is to learn as much as we can so that when you are called upon to win the team match, you are there. You’ve got that experience.”

The Aggies played both matches without Elze’ Potgieter, who led the Aggies with 28 singles victories last year. The sophomore is in Estonia competing for South Africa in the prestigious Fed Cup.

“The whole lineup was changed without her,” Kleinecke said. “Elze would have been up at No. 1, but this was a day where we wanted to get a lot of people playing and different people in. That was a goal, and we were able to do that.”

Potgieter will be back next week when the Aggies begin a six-match road swing. The first stop will be at Rice on Wednesday. First serve against the Owls is at 1:30 p.m. at Jake Hess Tennis Stadium in Houston.

“Rice is a talented team,” Kleinecke said. “It is a team where you’ve got to be ready to play. They hit the ball more than Houston does, so I think we’ll be a little bit more comfortable in that area. They are going to be a good team, and it will be a good test for us again.”

No. 25 Texas A&M 7, Texas State 0

Singles

1. Anna Blagodarova (A&M) def. Andrea Giraldo (TSU), 6-1, 6-0

2. Christi Liles (A&M) def. Ashley Ellis (TSU), 6-1, 6-3

3. Michelle Sammons (A&M) def. Lainy Chafitz (TSU), 6-3, 6-1

4. Morgan Frank (A&M) def. Ali Gulida (TSU), 6-0, 6-0

5. Marisa Druss (A&M) def. Sumarie Muller (TSU), 6-3, 6-1

6. Christina Amo (A&M) def. Jennifer Nowland (TSU), 2-6, 6-4, 1-0 (1)

Doubles

1. Tiffany Clifford/Liles (A&M) def. Chafitz/Giraldo (TSU), 8-0

2. Blagodarova/Sammons (A&M) def. Ellis/Gulida (TSU), 8-2

3. Amo/Druss (A&M) def. Natalie McLeod/Muller (TSU), 8-3

Order of finish (D1, D2, D3, S4, S1, S5*, S2, S3, S6)

*Clinched match

George P. Mitchell Tennis Center (Attendance: 405)

Team records: Texas A&M (1-0); Texas State (1-2)

No. 25 Texas A&M 7, Houston 0

Singles

1. Anna Blagodarova (A&M) def. Leila Salek (UH), 7-6 (2), 6-1

2. Christi Liles (A&M) def. Lucy Forward (UH), 6-3, 6-3

3. Tiffany Clifford (A&M) def. Lynley Wasson (UH), 6-2, 6-7 (3), 1-0 (6)

4. Michelle Sammons (A&M) def. Joanna Kacprzyk (UH), 6-3, 6-3

5. Morgan Frank (A&M) def. Neila Starratt (UH), 6-0, 6-0

6. Stephanie Davidson (A&M) def. Vicky Simpson (UH), 6-3, 4-6, 1-0 (8)

Doubles

1. Clifford/Liles (A&M) def. Forward/Jordan McCombs (UH), 8-5

2. Blagodarova/Sammons (A&M) def. Salek/Wasson (UH), 8-3

3. Davidson/Frank (A&M) def. Isabella Glinska/Simpson (UH), 8-0

Order of finish (D3, D2, D1, S5, S2, S4*, S1, S6, S3)

*Clinched match

George P. Mitchell Tennis Center (Attendance: 714)

Team records: Texas A&M (2-0); Houston (1-1)