COLLEGE STATION -- The Texas A&M women’s tennis team made a late rally but came up short in the last match standing, allowing No. 24 Notre Dame to escape with a 4-3 victory today at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center.
“This is a tough loss,” A&M coach Bobby Kleinecke said. “We’ve got to compete at all nine positions for us to have shots at winning matches against good teams. They are not going to give you anything, and you can’t give anything up easy.”
A&M lost all three doubles matches for only the second time this season. A&M’s Tiffany Clifford and Christi Liles jumped out to a 2-0 lead against the top-ranked doubles team in the nation, Brook Buck and Kelcy Tefft, at the No. 1 line. The Irish cut the lead to 2-1, but trailed 40-love in the next game. A&M however could not finish out the game, and Notre Dame broke back to tie the match at 2-2. The match was tied for a second time at 3-all before the Irish won the next five games to win the match.
After winning four consecutive games to jump out to a 4-1 lead, Notre Dame’s Kali Krisik and Kristen Rafael went on to defeat Anna Blagodarova and Michelle Sammons, 8-3, at the No. 2 line to clinch the doubles point and give the Irish a 1-0 lead.
At the No. 3 line, A&M’s Stephanie Davidson and Morgan Frank came back from a 5-2 deficit against 50th-ranked Cosmina Ciobanu and Colleen Rielley and eventually tied the match at 7-7. With the overall point already decided, a tiebreaker was played. Notre Dame jumped out to a 4-0 lead en route to a 7-2 win.
“The disappointing thing is I felt like the tell-tale part of this match was in the doubles,” Kleinecke said. “I felt like at No. 1 and 2 doubles, we just kind of gave them away. No. 3 did a good job of fighting through and giving themselves a chance to win, but matches that are even like this, you have to be competing on every court or it’s an uphill battle.”
In singles, Sammons had overcome a 5-1 first-set deficit and tied the score at 5-all against Rafael at the No. 6 line, when Rafael had to default after suffering an ankle injury.
“Michelle did a good job of fighting back and getting us on the board, fighting back and tying it at 5-all,” Kleinecke said. “It is unfortunate for them that they had the ankle injury, but Michelle had actually gained some control of that match.”
The Irish quickly regained the lead with straight-set victories at the No. 1 and No. 3 lines. Tefft, ranked No. 38, won 10 consecutive games to defeat 76th-ranked Elze Potgieter, 6-3, 6-0, at the No. 1line, and Rielley defeated Clifford 6-1, 6-3, on the No. 5 court.
“Giving away No. 1 singles as easily as we did and giving away No. 4 hurt us,” Kleinecke said.
Frank put the Aggies within 3-2 with a 7-5, 6-2 win against Krisik at No. 5. Frank had trailed, 5-4, in the first set when she rallied to win the set and then took control of the second set by winning the first three games.
Liles lost her first set, 6-3, to 105th-ranked Ciobanu at No. 3 and trailed 2-1 in the second set before making a huge comeback to keep the Aggies alive. Tied at 3-3 in the second, Liles won 10 consecutive games to take the match, 3-6, 6-3, 6-0, and tie the overall team score at 3-all.
“(Frank and Liles) have been solid for us all year long,” Kleinecke said. “They are two feisty individuals who compete very well.
“I commend ourselves for putting ourselves in the situation where we tied it back at 3-all, but we dug too many holes and gave away some matches that it just made it a tougher deal for ourselves than it needed to be.”
Down to the last match standing, Blagodarova and Buck were tied at 3-all in the third set at the No. 2 line. Buck, who won the second set, 6-2, after dropping the first set by the identical score, had trailed 3-1 in the third but reeled off five consecutive games to clinch the winning point for the Irish.
“Brook is a very solid player,” Kleinecke said. “She is very seasoned, and she has been in that situation before. Anna played one of the best first sets that I have seen her play. In the second set, we were back just banging balls instead of trying to work the point a little bit better. And then we get into the third, get up 3-1, had an overrule. I don’t know that it really hurt us, but it definitely stopped the momentum, and then we lost some points in a row right after that. It’s a tough deal.”
With the loss, A&M drops to 8-5. Notre Dame won its fourth consecutive match to improve to 11-7.
A&M returns to the Mitchell Tennis Center and Big 12 Conference play Friday as A&M hosts Nebraska. First serve is at 4:30 p.m.
Live scoring of the match will be available at AggieAthletics.com.
No. 24 Notre Dame 4, No. 27 Texas A&M 3
1. (#38) Kelcy Tefft (ND) def. (#76) Elze Potgieter (A&M), 6-3, 6-0
2. Brook Buck (ND) def. Anna Blagodarova (A&M), 2-6, 6-2, 6-3
3. Christi Liles (A&M) def. (#105) Cosmina Ciobanu (ND), 3-6, 6-3, 6-0
4. Colleen Rielley (ND) def. Tiffany Clifford (A&M), 6-1, 6-3
5. Morgan Frank (A&M) def. (#114) Kali Krisik (ND), 7-5, 6-2
6. Michelle Sammons (A&M) def. Kristen Rafael (ND), 5-5, default
Doubles (ND wins the point)
1. (#1) Buck/Tefft (ND) def. Clifford/Liles (A&M), 8-3
2. Krisik/Rafael (ND) def. Blagodarova/Sammons (A&M), 8-3
3. (#50) Ciobanu/Rielley (ND) def. Stephanie Davidson/Frank (A&M), 8-7 (3)
Order of finish (D1, D2, D3, S6, S1, S4, S5, S3, S2*)
George P. Mitchell Tennis Center (Attendance: 507)
Team records: Texas A&M (8-5); Notre Dame (11-7)
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