No. 10 Texas A&M Holds off No. 15 Baylor, 4-3

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COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M sophomore Ines Deheza dropped her first set in singles but came back win the next two to defeat Victoria Kisialeva in the last match standing and give the 10th-ranked Aggies a 4-3 victory over No. 15 Baylor at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center.

It was the third top-20 victory for the Aggies, who overcame the blustery conditions to improve to 6-2 heading into Southeastern Conference play at No. 5 Florida next Friday, Feb. 28 in Gainesville, Fla.

“More than anything, at this stage of the season I would hope (tonight’s match) has given the team as a collective group some confidence, because it is another good win for us,” said A&M head coach Howard Joffe, who registered the 99th victory of his seven-year head coaching career. “But more than anything, matches against, in the case of Baylor and Texas, in-state rivals, they are big matches. More than confidence, the experience, especially for a relatively young group with four freshmen and four sophomores, these are the type of matches that hopefully will serve us well as the stress starts to build later on in the season.”

The Aggie duo of Rutuja Bhosale and Anna Mamalat began doubles by winning the first five games against Baylor’s Ema Burgic and Kiah Generette at the No. 3 line. The Aggie duo then held a comfortable 7-1 lead when the Bears hit long to end the match, 8-1.

Deheza and Saska Gavrilovska clinched the doubles point, giving the Aggies a 1-0 lead. With their match tied at 4-4, the A&M tandem won the next four games to win, 8-4, against Baylor’s Jordaan Stanford and Alex Leatu, who struggled with the wind and double faulted on each of the last two points of the match.

Kisialeva and Blaire Shankle had fought off one match point to get within 7-4 against 22nd-ranked Stefania Hristov and Cristina Stancu at the No. 1 court, but the contest was halted once the doubles point was decided.

After seemingly easy victories in doubles, the singles matches were much more closely contested, with each team capturing three first sets.

“The thing that was interesting to me was I felt like in the doubles we seemed to handle the wind okay,” Joffe said. “The doubles was tentatively, eerily easy, and yet in the singles, it was obvious to me that Baylor handled it and was more used to the conditions. Whether that is through good application, I don’t know. I know they didn’t go to the national indoors, so they have been playing in Waco in the wind for a couple of weeks now. We’ve had a few days practice, and none of the days have been nearly as ferocious wind-wise as what tonight was.”

Bhosale would have the quickest match of the night and gave the Aggies a 2-0 lead as she disposed of Megan Horter, 6-2, 6-1 at the No. 6 line.

Burgic put the Bears within 2-1, handing 47th-ranked Gavrilovska a 6-3, 6-1 setback at No. 2. Sanford then knotted the team score at 2-2, defeating Hristov, 6-3, 6-2, at No. 4 singles.

In a match-up of ranked players at No. 1 singles, No. 19 Stancu appeared in control after winning her first set, 6-2, and building a 5-0 second-set lead against 59th-ranked Generette. Generette, however, fought off a total of four match points to get within 5-4 before Stancu completed the 6-2, 6-4 straight-set victory to put A&M ahead, 3-2.

The final two matches were decided in three sets. Shankle tied the team score at 3-3 after coming back to defeat 103rd-ranked Mamalat, 3-6, 6-3, 6-0, at the No. 5 line, leaving it up to Deheza and Kisialeva to determine the overall winner.

Kisialeva had reeled off five consecutive games to win the first set, 6-3, but Deheza didn’t drop a game to win the second set, 6-0, and force a decisive third set. Deheza never trailed in the final frame and built a 5-1 lead en route to a 6-2 victory.

“Ines has won, in the three semesters she’s been here, so many critical big matches, last-man standing,” Joffe said. “I was on the other side so I didn’t get to see her first set. It looked like she was leading for a while and then lost a run of games, but from Coach (Mark) Weaver told me, she was able to perhaps play with greater margins and not go for as much, and in the next two sets she lost two games. Ines is definitely one of the toughest young ladies that I’ve ever met, because she can perform when the lights are shining.”

It was A&M’s fourth consecutive victory against Baylor, which falls to 8-3. The teams will face a rematch in Waco on March 19.

For now, the Aggies turn their focus to the Florida match. A&M stunned the then-No. 4 Gators, 4-3, last year in College Station and went on to tie Florida and Georgia for the regular-season SEC title.

“Florida has a very fine team, obviously as their ranking suggests, but so do we,” Joffe said. “Our group has done a very good job since the national indoors of preparing for this match. Today was probably as unfavorable conditions as possible to perform well. What we have to do to beat Florida, obviously we need to perform well. We just need to get a good week of practice, and I’m quite certain we have the talent and the players that are capable of getting it done.”

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No. 10 Texas A&M 4, No. 15 Baylor 3

George P. Mitchell Tennis Center

February 20, 2014

1. #19 Cristina Stancu (TAMU) def. #59 Kiah Generette (BU), 6-2, 6-4

2. Ema Burgic (BU) def. #47 Saska Gavrilovska (TAMU), 6-3, 6-1

3. Ines Deheza (TAMU) def. Victoria Kisialeva (BU), 3-6, 6-0, 6-2

4. Jordaan Sanford (BU) def. Stefania Hristov (TAMU), 6-3, 6-2

5. Blair Shankle (BU) def. Anna Mamalat (TAMU), 3-6, 6-3, 6-0

6. Rutuja Bhosale (TAMU) def. Megan Horter (BU), 6-2, 6-1

Doubles (TAMU wins the point)
1. #22 Hristov/Stancu (TAMU) vs. Kisialeva/Shankle (BU), 7-4 unfinished

2. Deheza/Gavrilovska (TAMU) def. Alex Leatu (BU), 8-4

3. Bhosale/Mamalat (TAMU) def. Burgic/Generette (BU), 8-1

Order of finish

Singles: 6, 2, 4, 1, 5, 3

Doubles: 3, 2

Team records

Texas A&M: 6-2

Baylor: 8-3