STARKVILLE, Mississippi -- Fourth-ranked Texas A&M is set to make its first-ever appearance in the SEC Women’s Tennis Championship on Friday, taking on 19th-ranked and No. 7 seed Auburn at 2 p.m. at Mississippi State’s A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre. The Aggies, SEC regular season tri-champions with second-ranked Florida and third-ranked Georgia, are the No. 2 seed after a drawing was held to determine the top three seeds.
"One great value to being a member of the SEC is the opportunity it has afforded us to compete against the nation's best in the regular season and now again with the conference tournament,” A&M head coach Howard Joffe said. “We fully expect to be challenged, and our ladies are excited and ready to be in the thick of such formidable opposition."
Tournament Schedule (national ranking in parentheses):
Friday, April 19 - Quarterfinals
8:00 a.m. No. 1 Georgia (3) vs. No. 9 Ole Miss (39)
11:00 a.m. No. 4 Alabama (8) vs. No. 5 Tennessee (29)
2:00 p.m. No. 2 Texas A&M (4) vs. Auburn (19)
5:00 p.m. No. 3 Florida vs. Vanderbilt (18) or LSU (64)
Saturday, April 20 – Semifinals
10:00 a.m. Georgia/Ole Miss winner vs. Alabama/Tennessee winner
2:00 p.m. Texas A&M/Auburn winner vs. Florida/Vanderbilt-LSU winner
Sunday, April 21 – Finals
1:00 p.m. Championship
Live scoring links of the A&M matches will be available at AggieAthletics.com.
The Aggies, winners in each of their last five matches, captured the school’s first regular season SEC championship in any sport after going 12-1 in conference matches. It is the program’s first regular season conference title since winning its only Big 12 Conference regular season title in 2003. A&M, whose only conference tournament title came at the 2004 Big 12 Championship, enters its first SEC tournament 20-2 overall, marking the first time A&M has reached the 20-win milestone since the Aggies went 21-7 in 2007. The Aggies are 19-2 against ranked opponents with six of those wins coming against teams ranked in the top 15.
Joffe has directed the Aggies to a 39-8 (.830) record in his two seasons at the helm. During his tenure, A&M has set program records for highest team national ranking (No. 3), highest singles ranking (No. 3 Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar), highest doubles ranking (No. 7 Stefania Hristov/Cristina Stancu) and most consecutive wins with 13 in 2012 and tied in 2013. In addition, Joffe’s Aggies pulled off the biggest win in program history earlier this year as the Aggies defeated then-No. 4 Florida, 4-3, in College Station. It was the Gators’ first regular season SEC loss since 2009, and it snapped their 45-match overall win streak against SEC opponents.
Aggie senior All-American Sanchez-Quintanar enters the tournament with a No. 4 national singles ranking and a 35-6 overall record, including 22-4 against ranked opponents. She is 16-3 in dual matches, all at the No. 1 line, and she went 9-3 in SEC matches. Sanchez-Quintanar needs one more win to move into a tie for third place in the A&M records for most singles victories in a season.
In doubles, Sanchez-Quintanar is No. 43 in the nation with senior partner Wen Sun. The two have won seven of their last eight matches to improve to 9-6 in dual matches, having gone 7-3 in SEC matches.
Senior Nazari Urbina is ranked 71st in the nation in singles and finished the regular season 9-1 in SEC contests. The SEC Player of the Week on March 6, Urbina went 9-1 in SEC singles matches, going 7-0 at the No. 3 line and 2-1 at No. 2. She enters the tournament 16-7 overall, including 5-0 against ranked opponents, and she is 10-4 in dual matches. Her 96-31 career singles record ranks fourth in A&M records for most wins in a career.
Junior Cristina Stancu is No. ranked No. 73 in singles with a 13-5 record in dual matches. She is 10-5 at No. 2 singles and 3-0 at No. 3 and went 7-4 in SEC matches. Stancu, the SEC Player of the Week on Feb. 13, and freshman partner Stefania Hristov enter the tournament No. 16 in the nation in doubles with a 17-9 overall record. They are 8-6 in dual matches, all at the No. 1 line.
Freshman Ines Deheza has been a stronghold for the Aggies in the middle of the lineup, where she went 9-0 in SEC matches, including 1-0 at No. 3 line and 8-0 at No. 4. She is 12-3 in all dual matches and ended the regular season riding a team-best 11-match win streak. The Bolivia native also leads A&M in doubles wins with a 15-6 record in dual matches, including a team-best 10-2 mark in SEC play. Deheza is 11-5 with twin sister Paula Deheza at the No. 3 line, including 9-2 in conference play. They enter the tournament having won each of their last three matches.
Sun went 6-4 in SEC matches, going 2-2 at No. 4 and then shifting to the No. 5 position, where she went 4-2. She has won seven of her last nine matches.
Hristov, a two-time SEC Freshman of the Week honoree, is 11-1 in dual matches at the No. 6 court, and freshman Anna Mamalat is 6-3. Hristov, who also has seen action at No. 5, is 21-11 overall and went 7-4 in SEC matches, while Mamalat went 5-2 in conference play and is 12-12 overall.
Auburn boasts the 11th-ranked doubles team in the nation in Pleun Burgmans and Plamena Kurteva. In addition, the Tigers’ Jen Pfeifler and Jackie Kasler are No. 37. Burgmans is the team’s only ranked singles player, coming in at No. 23.
Texas A&M is 3-0 in the all-time series against Auburn (13-10), including a 4-0 victory over the Tigers on April 5 in College Station.
In the most recent meeting, Burgmans and Kurteva defeated Hristov and Stancu, 8-5, at the No. 1 line, but A&M got wins on the other two courts to capture the doubles point. Sanchez-Quintanar, Stancu and Ines Deheza got straight-set singles victories at the Nos. 1, 3 and 4 courts, respectively, to lead A&M to the shutout.
Auburn is coming off a 4-3 victory over Arkansas today in the second round of the SEC tournament. Auburn, which won two of three doubles matches, got a 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5) win from No. 3 singles player Michala Kucharova in the last match standing to clinch the team.