COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Texas A&M reached the final match at the Big 12 Tennis Championship for the first time since 2004, but the No. 3 seed Aggies were unable to capture their second-ever tournament title as they fell to No. 4 seed Texas, 4-2, today at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center.
In 2004, A&M (18-5) upset the Longhorns to win its only Big 12 tournament championship, but today Texas (17-7) won the crucial doubles point and went on to post three wins at the bottom of the singles lineup to capture its eighth tournament trophy and earn the league’s automatic bid to the 64-team NCAA Championship.
"Truthfully our kids conducted themselves like champions, but unfortunately on the scoreboard we are not champions today,” said A&M first-year head coach Howard Joffe, who directed the Aggies to a 7-2 record and a tie for second place in the Big 12 regular season standings. “I am delighted with them. They did a great job."
Only 12 days ago on these same courts, the Aggies defeated the then-No. 6 Longhorns, 4-3, winning the doubles point and getting points at the top three spots in the lineup. In today’s meeting, Texas, which had switched its lineups and the No. 1 and No. 2 positions since the previous meeting, won the crucial doubles point, which proved to be the difference.
"We actually thought we were going to play Baylor, but the Aggies took it to them yesterday,” Texas coach Patty Fendick-McCain said. “We played the Aggies here a couple weeks ago and they got us then, but we knew it was going to come down to the doubles point. That was our emphasis today."
Texas’ Krista Damico and Cierra Gaytan-Leach jumped out to a 5-0 lead against A&M’s Janelle Cuthbertson and Nazari Urbina and went on to end the Aggie duo’s 16-match winning streak with an 8-3 victory at the No. 2 line to give the Longhorns an early edge.
A&M’s senior team of Sheri Olivier and Lauren Santacroce then prevailed, 8-6, in a hard-fought battle against Elizabeth Begley and Aeriel Ellis at No. 3, breaking Texas’ serve in the match-winning game.
At the No. 1 line, Texas’ 55th-ranked team of Lina Padegimaite and Noel Scott was tied with A&M’s 38th-ranked duo of Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar and Wen Sun before winning five of the next six games to clinch the point.
"I actually don't think we did a bad job at all in the doubles,” Joffe said. “You have to give Texas some credit. They played not just well, but with a ton of passion and energy. They really took it to us. In the context of the match it was huge for them."
Texas quickly took a 2-0 lead once singles play started. Begley, the tournament’s Most Outstanding Performer, defeated Olivier, 6-0, 6-1, at the No. 6 line, and Padegimaite followed with a 6-0, 6-2 win over Santacroce at No. 4.
Eighth-ranked Sanchez-Quintanar put the Aggies on the scoreboard and won her seventh consecutive singles match, winning the first 10 games against 38th-ranked Ellis in a 6-0, 6-1 victory at the No. 1 line. Sanchez-Quintanar, who went 9-0 during the Big 12 regular season, improves to 22-1 in dual matches and moves within one win of climbing into a tie for second in the A&M records for most singles victories in a season with a 35-5 overall record.
No. 81 Wen then put the Aggies within 3-2 and won her sixth consecutive match as she finished off Scott, 6-1, 6-0 at No. 3.
The first four singles matches finished within a span of less than 15 minutes. Meanwhile, the remaining two matches were dogfights. No. 67-ranked Damico had won her first set, 6-4, against No. 61 Urbina at the second line, but Urbina held a 5-4 lead in the second set when Gaytan-Leach came back from a set down to defeat Cuthbertson, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, at No. 5, to secure the victory for the Horns.
"I have to give them credit as well in the singles,” Joffe said. “They also played with a lot of spunk and passion.
"If I have to sort of analyze it most honestly and unemotionally, Texas probably does have the best team. They are very, very deserving to be the champion. Ours is a team that unfortunately has lacked some depth. In our two matches against Baylor and Texas in the last two days, we have not gotten beaten at No. 1, 2 or 3. There is no question that we have a very strong top of the lineup and there is no question that Texas has the best team."
"There is really parody in the Big 12 at this point,“ Fendick-McCain added. “We are seeing every single team battling really well and playing really good tennis. We knew we had to play just about our best tennis to get through this.”
The Aggies now await the announcement of the 64-team NCAA Championship bracket, which will be announced Tuesday at 4 p.m. on NCAA.com. A&M is expecting to make its 13th consecutive and 18th overall appearance in the NCAA tournament.
No. 13 Texas 4, No. 19 Texas A&M 2
Big 12 Championship - Final
April 29, 2012
George P. Mitchell Tennis Center
College Station, Texas
1. (#8) Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar (TAMU) def. (#38) Aeriel Ellis (UT), 6-0, 6-1
2. (#61) Nazari Urbina (TAMU) vs. (#67) Krista Damico (UT), 4-6, 6-4 unfinished
3. (#81) Wen Sun (TAMU) def. Noel Scott (UT), 6-1, 6-0
4. Lina Padegimaite (UT) def. Lauren Santacroce (TAMU), 6-0, 6-2
5. Cierra Gaytan-Leach (UT) def. Janelle Cuthbertson (TAMU), 3-6, 6-4, 6-2
6. Elizabeth Begley (UT) def. Sheri Olivier (TAMU), 6-0, 6-1
Doubles (Texas wins the point)
1. (#55) Padegimaite/Scott (UT) def. (#38) Sanchez-Quintanar/Sun (TAMU), 8-4
2. Damico/Gaytan-Leach (UT), def. Cuthbertson/Urbina (TAMU), 8-3
3. Olivier/Santacroce (TAMU) def. Begley/Ellis (UT), 8-6
Order of finish
Doubles: 2, 3, 1
Singles: 6, 4, 1, 3, 5*
*- Clinched match
Texas A&M: 18-5
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