COLLEGE STATION, TX -- Texas A&M junior Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar has guaranteed herself All-America honors from the Intercollegiate Tennis Association after being named the No. 7 seed in the NCAA Singles Championship 64-player field, announced today by the NCAA.
Teammate Nazari Urbina also was selected to compete in the singles tournament as an at-large entry and will be making her third consecutive appearance. In addition, Sanchez-Quintanar and Wen Sun are an at-large selection into the 32-team NCAA Doubles Championship.
“Individually for each of the three girls, it is a fantastic accomplishment and I’m delighted that their hard work has been recognized by getting a spot in the tournament,” A&M first-year coach Howard Joffe said. “But on a different level, it speaks to the direction of our program that half of our starting lineup is actually playing in the NCAA Championships. I’m delighted for each of them independently but also delighted for what it says about A&M’s program. To have three folks in it is a good achievement.”
Sanchez-Quintanar, a junior from Campo de Criptana, Spain, becomes A&M’s fifth All-American but the first in school history to garner the distinction by virtue of being a top 16 seed. Previous A&M All-Americans met one of the other two criteria for All-America status as Helga Vieira (2005), A&M’s most recent All-American, and Kim Laubushagne (1987) received the honor after reaching at least the round of 16 in the NCAA Singles Championship, and Jessica Roland (2004) and Lynn Staley were named All-America by finishing in the Top 20 in the final ITA singles rankings.
“I’m delighted with Cristina that she has ended the regular season ranked inside the top 16, which means she is an All-American,” Joffe said. “It just punctuates everything that I have known about her, which is that she is one of the best players in the nation and has the work ethic, the mentality and the wherewithal to be an All-American. At a personal level, it is very exciting because it is my first All-American as a head coach, but more than anything I’m delighted for Cristina and hopefully she continues on that path.”
The Big 12 No. 1 singles champion and the league’s automatic qualifier for the NCAA Singles Championship, Sanchez-Quintanar is 35-5 overall, one victory shy of tying for second place in the A&M records for most singles wins in a season. Currently ranked No. 8, the first-year transfer from Maryland is 22-1 in dual matches, including 9-0 in Big 12 matches at the No. 1 line. In addition, Sanchez-Quintanar is 15-4 against ranked opponents.
Sanchez-Quintanar, who became the highest ranked player in A&M history when she received a No. 4 ranking on Feb. 28, is making her second consecutive appearance in both the NCAA singles and doubles championships. Last year in her only season at Maryland, Sanchez-Quintanar became the Terrapins’ first-ever player to reach the singles round of 32 after defeating Urbina in the first round. Sanchez-Quintanar and partner Jordaan Sanford were eliminated in the first round in doubles after falling in three sets to 12th-ranked Linda Abu Meshrefova and Nida Hamilton of Northwestern.
Urbina also is making history, as she becomes A&M’s first three-time participant in the NCAA Singles Championship. Last year, the then-sophomore became only the third Aggie to make a repeat appearance, and in 2010, Urbina was A&M’s first-ever freshman to compete in the elite event.
“Probably the person I’m most delighted for with respect to the selections is Nazari, because Nazari’s year has been particularly difficult when you consider that she was sidelined for several months last fall with a wrist injury,” Joffe said. “As a result, her inclusion in the tournament was not at fate completely until today’s announcement. Nazari at no time in the year complained or whined. She just went about her business like a mature young lady. She practiced hard when she could and fought hard in her matches and actually managed to get in on the strength of her results down the stretch, so I’m very pleased for her that she has been rewarded this particular year. And the fact that she is now a three-time veteran of doing this does speaks to what a consistently phenomenal performer she has been for the Aggies. It’s never easy to do something once, but to replicate it and to do it three times in a row is phenomenal.”
Urbina, from Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico, is No. 61 in the latest ITA singles rankings, released April 24. She is 20-6 overall this season, including 17-4 in dual matches. The junior is 14-3 at the No. 2 line, including 7-2 in Big 12 matches, and 6-5 against ranked opponents after posting her highest ranked win of the season last week with a three-set, come-from-behind victory over 22nd-ranked Nina Secerbegovic of Baylor in the last match standing that helped propel A&M to the finals of the Big 12 Championship.
Sun, a junior transfer from Tyler Junior College where the Dalian, China, native was a national champion in both singles and doubles at the USTA/ITA National Small College Championships, and Sanchez-Quintanar are ranked No. 38 in doubles after going 21-9 overall, including 16-7 in dual matches all at the No. 1 line. Last weekend, the pair notched their highest ranked win of the season, defeating 13th-ranked Ema Burgic and Secerbegovic, 8-2, in the Aggies’ semifinal victory over the Lady Bears at the Big 12 Championship.
“Sun and Cristina’s inclusion in the doubles tournament is the best advertisement for hard work and application and learning as there is,” Joffe said. “They are a team that has played all year together and have worked on their doubles and have gotten better incrementally to the point where they are also a team that just got included on the strength of their last six to eight matches. It is really encouraging to see that a team that it wasn’t coming that easy to has ended up gelling very, very well and obviously is good enough to qualify for the event.”
The high-level competition and success these three juniors have already experienced and the additional development and growth they will gain against this year’s elite field also has Joffe excited for the upcoming season.
“There is a learning curve of sorts in playing in the NCAA tournament and all three of them now have had some experience at nationals, and that can only bode well for us as a team and for them as individuals,” he said. “And in the case of all three of them, they will be back next year, so this will serve us well as a team next year, too.”
No. 19 Texas A&M (18-5) will face LSU in the first round of the NCAA team tournament, Friday, May 11, in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The NCAA singles and doubles competition will be conducted May 23-28 at the University of Georgia’s Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga., following the conclusion of the team championship (May 17-22). All matches will be the best of three sets. Regular scoring and a 12-point tiebreaker at six games all will be used for all matches.