COLUMBIA, S.C. – Texas A&M women’s tennis head coach Howard Joffe notched the 100th victory of his career as the ninth-ranked Aggies defeated No. 42 South Carolina, 5-2, on a sunshiny day at the Carolina Tennis Center.
The Aggies improve to 7-3 overall and 1-1 in Southeastern Conference play. Joffe moves to 100-51 in the seventh year of his head coaching career, including 52-13 in his third season at A&M.
South Carolina, which entered the match 9-1 in home matches and riding a four-match win streak, falls to 10-3, 1-1.
All three doubles matches were tightly contested in the early going, with the No. 1 court tied at 5-5 while the scores on the other two courts were neck-and-neck with A&M holding a 5-4 lead at No. 2 and South Carolina holding a 5-4 edge at No. 3.
The A&M tandem of Ines Deheza and Saska Gavrilovska had jumped out to a 5-0 lead against Katerina Popova and Brigit Folland at the No. 2 court, before the South Carolina duo won the next four games to get within 5-4. A&M then went on to win the next three games to close out a rollercoaster 8-4 victory.
The match at No. 1 was on serve before A&M’s Stefania Hristov and Cristina Stancu broke to go up, 7-6 against Elixane Lechemia and Dominika Kanakova. The Aggies then held serve to get the 8-6 victory and clinch the doubles point.
South Carolina’s Meghan Blevins and Caroline Dailey were leading Rutuja Bhosale and Anna Mamalat, 7-6, when the doubles point was decided and the match was stopped.
The Gamecocks gained the momentum early in singles, with easy first-set wins on three courts. A&M eventually won first sets on the remaining three courts. Stefania Hristov overcame the largest hurdle, recovering from a 3-1 deficit against Ximena Siles Luna to win a 6-4 first-set slugfest.
South Carolina tied the team score, 1-1, as Blevins disposed of Mamalat, 6-1, 6-0, at No. 4 singles. The Gamecocks then took the lead, 2-1, after Dailey completed a 6-0, 6-2 victory over Bhosale at No. 6.
Deheza, celebrating her 20th birthday, had gotten off to a slow start against 90th-ranked Popova at second singles, dropping the first set, 6-1. Once the second set began, Deheza never trailed and went on to win, 6-2, 6-0, to tie the score, 2-2.
Hristov soon returned the lead to A&M. Unlike the suspenseful first set, Hristov jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second set against Luna and cruised to a 6-2 win to record the straight-set triumph.
Stancu then clinched the victory. After the senior posted a 6-2 first-set win over Lechemia at the No. 1 court, Lechemia jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the second set. While Gavrilovska was having to go to a third set at No. 3 singles, Stancu chipped away at the deficit and went on to win five consecutive games to take a 6-5 lead. Lechemia forced a tiebreaker, which was tied at 4-4 before Stancu pulled away for the 7-5 win that put the Aggies up, 4-2.
Gavrilovska, ranked 57th, did not drop a game in the opening set against No. 85 Folland, but the Gamecock overcame a 5-3 deficit in second set to win, 7-5, and force a decisive third set. Gavrilovska got back on track and reeled off six consecutive games to shut out Folland for the third set, making the final score, 5-2.
A&M begins a four-match SEC home stand next weekend, taking on No. 31 Kentucky on Friday, March 7 at 4 p.m. and facing No. 8 Vanderbilt, Sunday, March 9 at noon at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center, where the Aggies are 4-0.
Visit AggieAthletics.com for more information on Texas A&M women’s tennis. Aggie fans also can keep up to date with the A&M women’s tennis team on Twitter by following @AggieWTEN or on Facebook at Facebook.com/AggieWomensTennis.
Texas A&M Head Coach Howard Joffe Quotes:
"South Carolina has a motivated, energetic and excellent team. Their current ranking belies how good they are and how good of a victory this was for the Aggies. Today we were able to continue our good play, but unlike Friday (a 4-0 loss at Florida) we were able to sustain the efforts for the entire dual match. If we didn't, we wouldn't have won."
“Reflecting on the 100 wins, I would say that I've gotten thousands of grey hairs and it's likely not to be the best thing for my central nervous system. But I love my job and career and consider myself lucky and privileged to get to do it at Texas A&M, where the university is all class."
No. 9 Texas A&M 5, No. 42 South Carolina 2
Carolina Tennis Complex
March 2, 2014
1. #15 Cristina Stancu (TAMU) def. Elixane Lechemia (SC), 6-2, 7-6 (5)
2. Ines Deheza (TAMU) def. #90 Katerina Popova (SC), 1-6, 6-2, 6-0
3. #57 Saska Gavrilovska (TAMU) def. #85 Brigit Folland (SC), 6-0, 5-7, 6-0
4. Meghan Blevins (SC) def. #118 Anna Mamalat (TAMU), 6-1, 6-0
5. Stefania Hristov (TAMU) def. Ximena Siles Luna (SC), 6-4, 6-2
6. Caroline Dailey (SC) def. Rutuja Bhosale (TAMU), 6-0, 6-2
Doubles (TAMU wins the points)
1. Hristov/Stancu (TAMU) def. Lechemia/Dominika Kanakova (SC), 8-6
2. Deheza/Gavrilovska (TAMU) def. Popova/Folland (SC), 8-4
3. Bhosale/Mamalat (TAMU) vs. Blevins/ Dailey (SC), 6-7 unfinished
Order of finish
Singles: 4, 6, 2, 5, 1, 3
Doubles: 2, 1
Texas A&M: 7-3, 1-1 SEC
South Carolina: 10-3, 1-1 SEC