KANSAS CITY, Mo.- Texas A&M and Texas once again battled down to the last match standing, and in the second consecutive meeting, Texas walked away with a 4-3 victory.
When the two teams met earlier this season, the victor would, for all practical purposes, be assured of a share of the Big 12 Conference regular-season title with Baylor. This time, an appearance in the finals of the Big 12 Championship was at stake, with the winner between the No. 2 seed Longhorns and the No. 3 seed Aggies advancing to face the Lady Bears for the tournament championship title Sunday at the Plaza Tennis Center.
“It was another tough result from Texas,” a disappointed A&M coach Bobby Kleinecke said. “You lay it all out there again. I didn’t think we played as well as we did the last time, but you have to give credit to Texas. They came up with the shots when they needed them.”
A&M, which was making its eighth consecutive appearance in the tournament semifinals, took an early lead after winning the first two doubles matches to be completed. A&M’s Anna Lubinsky and Nicki Mechem won four consecutive games to cap an 8-3 victory against Ristine Olson and Courtney Zauft at the No. 2 line.
The point was decided at the No. 3 line, where Anna Blagodarova and Michelle Sammons overcame a 4-1 deficit and rallied to win five straight games to close out an 8-5 victory over Stephanie Davison and Jane Pringle.
The No. 1 doubles court was knotted at 6-all when the doubles point was decided.
The Longhorns won the first set in four singles matches, including a crucial comeback by Zauft at the No. 3 line, which swung the momentum back to Texas and eventually proved to be the difference in the match.
Texas quickly tied the score at 1-1 as Olson defeated Tiffany Clifford, 6-1, 6-3, at No. 5 singles. Blagodarova, however, put the Aggies back on top with a 6-2, 6-2 win against Petra Dizdar at No. 3.
Davison evened the score at 2-all by defeating Sarah Foster, 6-4, 6-2 at No. 2, but Mechem, A&M’s all-time career leader in both singles and doubles victories, finished off Sarah Lancaster, 6-2, 6-3, at the No. 6 line to put the Aggies ahead, 3-2.
In a battle of ranked opponents, 34th-ranked Vanja Corovic of Texas tied the team score for the third time, holding off Lubinsky, 6-4, 7-5 at the No. 1 line. It was Corovic who had clinched the winning point in the last match standing against the Aggies during the regular season, downing Lubinsky, 7-4, in a third-set tiebreaker.
With the score tied at 3-3, the match came down to the No. 3 line. Zauft, ranked No. 118, fell behind 5-2 in the first set against 108th-ranked Elze Potgieter, but rallied to win five straight games and the set. Zauft never trailed in the second set, defeating Potgieter, 6-4, to send the Longhorns to the championship match.
“Probably the key match was No. 3, where we had a 5-2 lead in the first set and ended up losing the first set,” Kleinecke said. “That whole match takes a completely different turn if that doesn’t happen, but we lost three other matches other than that. You have to deal with that.”
Texas (14-8), which eliminated A&M in the semifinals for the second consecutive year, advances to the championship match for the 10th time in the 11-year history of the tournament and will be aiming for its eighth tournament championship title.
The Aggies (20-6) now await the announcement of the 64-team NCAA Championship field, which will be made Tuesday at between 1:30-2 p.m. on ESPNEWS. A&M, which fell to Baylor in Waco in the second round of the 2006 NCAA tournament, is expecting to make its eighth consecutive appearance in the postseason tournament.
No. 37 Texas 4, No. 24 Texas A&M 3
Big 12 Women’s Tennis Championship semifinal
1. (#34) Vanja Corovic (UT) def. (#24) Anna Lubinsky (A&M), 6-4, 7-5
2. Stephanie Davison (UT) def. Sarah Foster (A&M), 6-4, 6-2
3. (#118) Courtney Zauft (UT) def. (#108) Elze Potgieter (A&M), 7-5, 6-4
4. Anna Blagodarova (A&M) def. Petra Dizdar (UT), 6-2, 6-2
5. Ristine Olson (UT) def. Tiffany Clifford (A&M), 6-1, 6-3
6. Nicki Mechem (A&M) def. Sarah Lancaster (UT), 6-2, 6-3
Doubles (A&M wins the point)
1. (#34) Clifford/Foster (A&M) vs. Corovic/Milic (UT), DNF
2. (#45) Lubinsky/Mechem (A&M) def. Olson/Zauft (UT), 8-3
3. Blagodarova/Michelle Sammons (A&M) def. Davison/Jane Pringle (UT), 8-5
Order of finish (D2, D3, S5, S4, S2, S6, S1, S3*)
Plaza Tennis Center (Attendance: N/A)
Team records: Texas A&M (20-6); Texas (14-8)
Texas advances to championship match, faces Baylor Sunday at 1 p.m.
• Mechem is 30-5 in doubles, ranking sixth in the A&M season records for most wins.
• Lubinsky is 29-5 in doubles, tying for seventh in the A&M season records for most wins.