A&M Women Take on OSU in Big 12 Quarterfinals

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COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- The Texas A&M women’s tennis team is the No. 3 seed at the 2008 Big 12 Women's Tennis Championships and will open play Friday at 6 p.m. at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center in College Station. By finishing in the top four in the final Big 12 regular-season standings, the Aggies received a bye in the first round and will face No. 6 seed Oklahoma State, which defeated No. 11 seed Missouri, 4-1, in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

For the second straight year, the Aggies went 9-2 during the Big 12 regular season and earned the No. 3 seed. They are 15-7 overall and ranked 31st nationally.

This marks the fourth time overall that A&M has appeared as the No. 3 seed. Last year the Aggies tied Colorado for third place in the Big 12 but were awarded the No. 3 seed by virtue of their regular season victory against the Buffs. A&M advanced to the semifinals of the Championship before being eliminated by No. 2 seed Texas.

In the 1997 inaugural Big 12 Championship, the No. 3-seed Aggies advanced to the finals, where they fell to top-seeded Texas. A&M, 16-10 all-time at the Big 12 Championship, also earned the No. 3 seed in 2000 and was eliminated by NO. 2 seed Baylor in the semifinals.

A&M Hosts Big 12 Championships — Texas A&M's George P. Mitchell Tennis Center will serve as the host site of the 2008 Big 12 Men's and Women's Tennis Championships. This is the third time A&M has hosted the event since the beginning of the Big 12 in 1996-97.

A&M first hosted the Big 12 Championships in 1999. The Aggies were the No. 4 seed and were ousted by No. 5 Baylor, 5-2, in the quarterfinals.

In 2002, A&M entered as the No. 2 seed and reached the finals after defeating No. 4 Oklahoma, 4-2, in the quarterfinals and No. 3 Kansas, 4-2, in the semifinals. In the championship match, A&M fell to No. 1 Texas, 5-0.

The Mitchell Tennis Center has also served as the host site for the 2002 and 2005 NCAA Men's Tennis Championships and will host the NCAA Men's and Women's Tennis Championships next year.

Live scoring of all matches at the Big 12 Men's and Women's Tennis Championships matches will be available at AggieAthletics.com.

The Road to A Championship — All 12 Big 12 women's teams participate in the single-elimination Big 12 Women's Tennis Championship, which takes place Thursday, April 24 through Sunday, April 27 at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center in College Station, Texas.

The top four seeds earn a first-round bye. Baylor, the two-time defending tournament champion, earned the No. 1 seed for the fourth time after going a perfect 11-0 in the regular season. Texas is the No. 2 seed, and Colorado is the No. 4 seed.

The No. 5-12 seeds opened championship play Thursday.

The following is the complete women’s tournament schedule:

Thursday, April 24 — First Round Matches
Match - Teams Results/
Time Court
M1 No. 9 Texas Tech def. No. 8 Oklahoma 4-1 GS
M2 No. 5 Kansas def. No. 12 Iowa State 4-0 SC
M3 No. 10 Kansas State def. No. 7 Nebraska 4-3 GS
M4 No. 6 Oklahoma State def. No. 11 Missouri 4-1. SC

Friday, April 25 — Quarterfinal Matches
M5 No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 9 Texas Tech 9 a.m. SC
M6 No. 4 Colorado vs. No. 5 Kansas 12 p.m. GS
M7 No. 2 Texas vs. No. 10 Kansas State 3 p.m. GS
M8 No. 3 Texas A&M vs. No. 6 Oklahoma State 6 p.m. SC

Saturday, April 26 — Semifinal Matches
M9 Winner of M5 vs. Winner of M6 12 p.m. SC
M10 Winner of M7 vs. Winner of M8, 6 p.m. SC

Sunday, April 27— Championship Match
M11 Winner of M9 vs. Winner of M10 1 p.m. TBD

Matches will be played on either the Grandstand (GS) courts or the Stadium Courts (SC) and will be stopped immediately when a team reaches four points.
The tournament champion receives an automatic bid to the 2008 NCAA Women’s Tennis Championship.
Texas leads the league with seven tournament titles (1997-2002, 2005). Baylor (2006, 2007), Oklahoma State (2003) and Texas A&M (2004) are the only other teams to possess a Big 12 Championship trophy.

A&M’s Conference Tournament History — Texas A&M is 16-10 all-time in the 11-year history of the Big 12 Women's Tennis Championship. Last year, the No. 3-seeded Aggies defeated No. 6 Oklahoma, 4-0, in the quarterfinals but fell in the semifinals for the third consecutive year after dropping a 4-3 decision to No. 2 Texas.
The Aggies captured their only Big 12 Championship trophy in 2004 in Norman, Okla. The championship match between No. 1 Texas and No. 2 Texas A&M was decided in the last match standing, where A&M's Helga Vieira came through with the deciding victory, defeating Katie Ruckert, 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-4 at No. 2 singles to give the Aggies a 4-3 victory. It was sweet revenge for A&M as the Longhorns had won the last match standing when the two teams met in College Station during the regular season to decide the regular-season title and the No. 1 seed.
A&M had reached the finals three times prior to the 2004 season, losing to Texas in both the 1997 and 2002 championship matches and falling to No. 4 seed Oklahoma State, 4-1, in the 2003 tournament held in Kansas City, Mo. In the inaugural 1997 Big 12 Championship, the third-seeded Aggies and the Longhorns met in a conference finals for a fifth consecutive year. The match lasted nearly seven hours before the Aggies fell, 5-4.
In 1998, the 5th-seeded Aggies fell to eventual champion Texas in the semifinals by the score of 5-0. The No. 4-seed Aggies were eliminated at home by the Baylor Bears, 5-2, in the quarterfinals of the 1999 tournament. In 2000, it again was the Bears eliminating the Aggies. Baylor topped third-seeded A&M in the semifinals, 5-3. A&M was eliminated by eventual champion Texas, 4-0, in the semifinals of the 2001 tournament.
A&M also hosted the 2002 tournament and fell to the six-time tournament-champion Longhorns, 5-0, in the championship match.
The Aggies advanced to the finals of the former Southwest Conference Championships each of the last four years it existed. Each of the finals pitted the Aggies against the Longhorns. The Aggies' only SWC tournament championship was in 1986, before the league recognized both a regular season and a tournament champion.

A&M vs. Oklahoma State — A&M is 13-9 all-time against Oklahoma State, including 7-0 sweep against the Cowgirls in Stillwater on March 15. Although the Cowgirls had the benefit of playing at home, they were at an immediate disadvantage. Because of injuries, OSU was unable to field a team at No. 3 doubles and also had to default at No. 6 singles. With the default, A&M had to win only one doubles match to take the early lead. Tiffany Clifford and Christi Liles quickly clinched the opening point with an 8-3 victory over Yawna Allen and Iryna Tkachenko at the No. 1 line.
OSU prevented the sweep as Sasha Belova and JoAnne Karaitiana topped Anna Blagodarova and Michelle Sammons, 8-5, at the No. 2 spot.
A&M dominated in singles, winning in straight sets on all five courts. The Aggies, who were immediately awarded a point at the start of singles because of the default at No. 6, quickly widened their lead to 3-0 courtesy of Blagodarova, who snapped a five-match losing skid. The senior jumped out to a first-set 4-0 lead against Allen en route to 6-1, 6-3 victory at the No. 2 line.
Clifford then clinched the winning point for the Aggies. After trailing Belova 4-3 in the first set at the No. 4 line Clifford won the next three games to come from behind and close out the set. Clifford led the entire second set and gave up only one game to give the Aggies a 4-0 lead.
Morgan Frank (Oldsmar, Fla.) used a five-game run to overcome a 3-1 first-set deficit and take the opener against Maryna Tkachenko at the No. 5 line. Frank never trailed in the second set as she finished the match with a 6-3, 6-2 victory and put the Aggies up, 5-0.
Elzé Potgieter, celebrating her 20th birthday, capped the singles sweep and the shutout. The sophomore, ranked No. 95 in the nation, broke away from a 3-3 tie against Iryna Tkachenko to win the first set, 6-3, at the No. 1 line. Tkachenko won the first three games in the second set and was up 4-1 when Potgieter reeled off four consecutive games to take a 5-4 lead. Tkachenko evened the score at 5-all, but Potgieter answered by winning the next two games to finish off the Cowgirls.
A&M and OSU have met only once at the Big 12 Tennis Championship. In the finals of the 2003 tournament, No. 4-seeded OSU defeated No. 2 seed A&M, 4-1, in Kansas City, Mo.

Aggies Capture Big 12 Individual Titles — Texas A&M’s Anna Blagodarova is the Big 12 No. 3 singles champion, and Aggie teammate Morgan Frank is the Big 12 No. 5 singles champion, according to the conference’s regular season records released today. In addition, Frank and doubles partner Stephanie Davidson are the Big 12 No. 3 doubles champions after going 11-0 in conference matches.
Individual Big 12 champions are crowned for each of the six singles positions and all three doubles flights based on the number of conference wins during the regular season. A player must have competed in at least six matches at a set position to qualify for a conference title. In addition, wins at higher positions count toward the record in which an athlete has played a minimum of six matches.
This marks the third singles title for Blagodarova (Toronto, Ontario), who also was the No. 3 singles champion in 2006 and the No. 4 champion in 2005. The senior, who also was the Big 12 No. 3 doubles co-champion in 2007, went 7-2 at the No. 3 line this season and also was credited for two victories at the No. 2 line for a combined and league-best 9-2 record.
Blagodarova is 20-15 overall this season and ranks third in the A&M records with a 98-49 career singles record.
Only a freshman, Frank (Oldsmar, Fla.) went 8-1 at the No. 5 singles line and also picked up two victories at the No. 4 line for a combined 10-1 conference record. Frank joined the Aggies in January and went 17-4 in all dual matches, including a win against 81st-ranked Jana Bielikova of Baylor, which helped Frank earn Big 12 Player of the Week honors on April 7.
Frank and Davidson, a freshman from Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas, went a perfect 11-0 in Big 12 matches at the No. 3 doubles line. They enter the Big 12 Championships with an 18-2 overall record and riding a nine-match winning streak. Winners of 12 of their last 13 matches, the duo’s last loss was in a tiebreaker to then-50th-ranked Cosmina Ciobanu and Colleen Rielley of Notre Dame on March 22.
A&M and Baylor tied for the most individual titles. Baylor also earned two singles titles, including a co-championship, and one doubles title.

2008 Big 12 Individual Champions
No. 1 Singles: Zuzana Zemenova, Baylor (10-0)
No. 2 Singles: Courtney Zauft, Texas (9-2)
No. 3 Singles: Anna Blagodarova, Texas A&M (9-2)
No. 4 Singles: Veera Nurmi, Colorado (9-2) and Jana Bielikova, Baylor (9-0)
No. 5 Singles: Morgan Frank, Texas A&M (10-1)
No. 6 Singles: Franziska Jendrian, Colorado (9-2)

No. 1 Doubles: Jana Albers/Imke Reimers, Nebraska (8-3)
No. 2 Doubles: Taylor Ormond/Jelena Stanivuk, Baylor (8-2)
No. 3 Doubles: Stephanie Davidson/Morgan Frank, Texas A&M (11-0)

A&M Coach Bobby Kleinecke — Two-time Big 12 Coach of the Year Bobby Kleinecke enters the Big 12 Tournament with a 372-240(.605) record in his 23rd season at the helm of the Aggies, including a 105-27 (.795) record in Big 12 regular-season matches. In 1986, Kleinecke's inaugural season of his college coaching career and at A&M, he led the Aggies to the Southwest Conference title and was named the SWC Coach of the Year. In 1996, he was voted the SWC Coach of the Year and in 2002, Kleinecke was honored as the Wilson/ITA Coach of the Year in the Southwest Region after leading A&M to a record-23 wins. In 2003, A&M tied for its first regular-season title as the Aggies and Baylor went 9-2. In 2004, Kleinecke's team captured its first Big 12 tournament championship, advanced to the NCAA Round of 16 and finished the season with a record 24 victories. Under Kleinecke's leadership, the Aggies have made 13 NCAA appearances, including the last eight consecutive years.

Aggies Have Double Vision — A&M has won the crucial doubles point in 17 of 22 matches, including 10 of 11 Big 12 matches. The Aggies are 13-4 when winning the doubles point. The No. 3 line is the winningest position with a 20-2 record, including an 18-2 mark by freshmen Stephanie Davidson and Morgan Frank.
A&M dropped its only Big 12 doubles point in the final match of the regular season as Texas Tech won at the No. 1 and No. 2 lines.

Blagodarova Climbing the Charts — Senior Anna Blagodarova boasts a 98-49 career record in singles, ranking third in the A&M records. Only Nicki Mechem (2003-04, 06-07) and Anna Lubinsky (2004-07) have posted more with 113 and 109, respectively.
Blagodarova and doubles partner Tiffany Clifford each have 91 career doubles victories, ranking fifth in the A&M doubles records. They need one more win to tie Nancy Dingwall (1994-97) for fourth place.

Liles Leads the Way — Freshman Christi Liles leads the Aggies in overall singles wins, as well as victories in dual matches only. Liles is 28-7 overall, including 18-4 in dual matches. She has played the last nine matches at the No. 2 singles line where she is 9-2 overall.
Liles, who is currently riding a team-leading five-match winning streak, is tied with eight others for ninth place in the singles season total victories records. One more victory will put her in a tie for eighth place with Helga Vieira, who had 29 wins in 2003-04.

In the Rankings — A&M is ranked No. 31 in the ITA national rankings released April 22. The Aggies have been ranked as high as No. 25 (March 4) during the regular season and as low as No. 34 (Feb. 20).
Sophomore Elzé Potgieter is listed No. 103 in the national singles rankings. She was ranked as high as No. 75 on April 1. Her biggest win was against 11th-ranked Melanie Gloria of Fresno State, 6-1, 6-4, on Feb. 24 in Las Vegas.
A&M's doubles team of Anna Blagodarova and Tiffany Clifford is currently ranked No. 45 in the nation. The pair broke into the rankings on April 15, coming in at No. 59. They are 11-5 overall, including 5-4 at the No. 1 line. Their biggest win was against second-ranked Lenko Broosova and Zuzana Zemenova of Baylor, 8-5, on April 2 in Waco.

Looking Ahead to the NCAA Selections — The Aggies are expecting to make their ninth consecutive and 14th overall appearance in the NCAA Championships when the 64-team field is announced between 1-1:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 29 on ESPNews. ESPNews is located on DirecTV channel 207/DishNetwork channel 142. In addition, the ESPNews audio signal is available on the ESPNews channel on XM Radio and SIRIUS Radio.

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