BATON ROUGE, La.- The Texas A&M women’s tennis team battled for more than four hours to defeat non-conference rival and 34th-ranked LSU, 6-1, in the Tigers’ home opener today at the W.T. “Dub” Robinson Tennis Stadium.
The final score was not indicative of how close the match was, as three singles matches were decided in three sets, and two of those matches included tiebreakers that were won by the minimum two points.
“This was a lot closer match than the 6-1 score,” A&M coach Bobby Kleinecke said. “This was a typical LSU-A&M match where anything can happen and neither team is going to give up. We take a lot of pride in coming away with this win.”
A&M won the doubles point, winning on all three courts. Tiffany Clifford (Little Rock, Ark.) and Christi Liles (Largo, Fla.) gave the Aggies a boost by cruising to an 8-2 victory over 30th-ranked Mykala Hedberg and Slaten Spencer at the No. 1 line.
“That was pretty much flawless doubles,” Kleinecke said. “That is a good team that was in the rankings, but Tiffany and Christi did a great job of keeping pressure on them and never letting up.”
The Aggie freshman duo of Stephanie Davidson (Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas) and Morgan Frank (Oldsmar, Fla.) then pulled away from Nicole Kantor and Tiffany Tucker at No. 3, winning four straight games to close out an 8-3 victory to clinch the point.
A&M’s Anna Blagodarova (Toronto, Ontario) and Michelle Sammons (Durban, South Africa) dropped their first three games to Megan Falcon and Hannah Robinson but rallied for an 8-6 victory at the No. 2 line to improve to 11-0 overall and 4-0 in dual matches. In addition, Blagodarova notched her 88th career doubles victory to move into a tie for sixth in the A&M all-time career records.
“At No. 2, we were down 3-0, and we kept clawing and fighting and scrapping back,” Kleinecke said. “At the end we just gave ourselves a chance to be able to win, and that is what happens.”
Frank improved to 4-0 in singles after racing to a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Robinson at the No. 5 line and giving the Aggies a 2-0 lead.
Falcon, ranked eighth in the nation in singles, earned LSU’s only point with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Elze Potgieter at the No. 1 court. Liles then gave A&M a 3-1 cushion with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Kanter at No. 4.
Although A&M had won the first set on each of the remaining courts, LSU had come back to win the second set and force the Aggies into thirds sets at Nos. 2, 3, and 6. Clifford would be the one to clinch the winning point for the Aggies, holding off Tucker, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, at the No. 3 line.
“(LSU) just didn’t give up,” Kleinecke said. ”I don’t think our players expected them to give up, but sometimes you just get afraid to close it out and to keep going for your shot. That is the difference. You give a good team an opportunity, and they are going to take advantage of it. We were pushed, and it was up there for grabs..I knew anything could happen.”
Blagodarova had won her first set, 6-4, against Hedberg at No. 2, but Hedberg came from behind to tie the second set at 6-all and force a tirebreaker. Hedberg then held off Blagodarova, 9-7, in the tiebreaker to force a third set. The two were tied at 5-5 before Blagodarova reeled off two consecutive games to get the win in a match that lasted 2 hours and 50 minutes.
Sammons and Spencer battled for nearly three hours before Sammons brought the contest to a close. Sammons won the first set, 6-1, but Spencer jumped out to a 3-0 lead en route to a 6-4 second-set victory. The two battled to a 6-6 tie in the third set and then were tied at 6-all in the tiebreaker before Sammons scored consecutive points to end the match.
“I thought for 80 percent of the match we really dominated, and then we got a little bit afraid to close it out at the very end,” Kleinecke said. “That is something we are going to have to get a handle on and correct.”
The victory was the Aggies’ fourth consecutive against LSU.
“We’ve been here and lost some matches that we should have won,” Kleinecke said. “Today I’m so happy we came away with (the victory) because for 80 percent of the match, we were dominating.”
A&M returns to action Saturday, taking on No. 35 TCU in Fort Worth. First serve is at noon at the Bayard H. Friedman Tennis Center.
“TCU is always a tough out,” Kleinecke said. “They came down to our place last year and we beat them and then we beat them at NCAAs, and they weren’t too happy about that. They are going to be after us just like LSU was. It is another fun college tennis match.”
No. 27 Texas A&M 6, No. 34 LSU 1
1. (#8) Megan Falcon (LSU) def. Elze Potgieter (A&M), 6-3, 6-1
2. Anna Blagodarova (A&M) def. Mykala Hedberg (LSU), 6-4, 6-7 (7), 7-5
3. Tiffany Clifford (A&M) def. Tiffany Tucker (LSU), 6-3, 5-7, 6-4
4. Christi Liles (A&M) def. Nicole Kantor (LSU), 6-1, 6-2
5. Morgan Frank (A&M) def. Hannah Robinson (LSU), 6-1, 6-0
6. Michelle Sammons (A&M) def. Slaten Spencer (LSU), 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (6)
Doubles (A&M wins the point)
1. Clifford/Liles (A&M) def. (#30) Hedberg/Spencer (LSU), 8-2
2. Blagodarova/Sammons (A&M) def. Falcon/Robinson (LSU), 8-6
3. Stephanie Davidson/Frank (A&M) def. Kantor/Tucker (LSU), 8-3
Order of finish (D1, D3, D2, S5, S1, S4, S3*, S2, S6)
W.T. “Dub” Robinson Tennis Stadium (Attendance: n/a)
Team records: Texas A&M (4-0); LSU (3-2)