NORMAN, Okla. – The 24th-ranked Texas A&M women’s tennis team held off No. 46 Oklahoma, 4-3, at the Headington Family Tennis Center to close out the regular season and finish tied for second in the Big 12 Conference.
The Aggies (16-4, 7-2 Big 12), under first-year head coach Howard Joffe, will tie Texas, which missed out on an opportunity for a co-championship with Texas Tech after falling at Oklahoma State, 4-3, today. Baylor (6-2), which hosts ninth place Iowa State on Monday, is likely to finish in a three-way tie with the Aggies and Longhorns.
The second-place finish is A&M’s highest since placing in a two-way tie for second in 2006 with a 9-2 record.
“It was definitely a great win for us today in the sense that it was the last match of the regular season, it was a conference match and it was on the road,” Joffe said. “It was definitely hard fought, and the scores would attest to that. But on the day, all our kids fought really well.”
A&M opened the match by sweeping the doubles matches. It marked the eighth time this season the Aggies won all three matches and the 17th time in 20 matches that they won the point.
Janelle Cuthbertson and Nazari Urbina ran their winning streak to 14 and finished 7-0 in Big 12 play at the No. 2 line after jumping out to a 6-0 lead and cruising to an 8-2 win over Mia Lancaster and Abbi Melrose.
The 50th-ranked duo of Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar and Wen Sun also appeared in control of the match at the No. 1 line, racing to a 7-2 lead against 39th-ranked Marie-Pier Huet and Whitney Ritchie. The OU pair then rallied, winning four consecutive games to get within 7-6. Serving to tie the match, OU held off four match points before double faulting on the fifth match point to end the contest and give the Aggies the 1-0 lead.
Sheri Olivier and Lauren Santacroce quickly followed with an 8-3 victory over Peta Maree Lancaster and Whitney Wofford at No. 3 to complete the sweep.
The Sooners stayed in striking distance in singles and evened the score at 1-1 as Huet knocked off 80th-ranked Urbina, 6-1, 6-2 at the No. 2 line. The Aggies, who typically rely on the top of the lineup for points, then got what proved to be a crucial win from Olivier, who defeated Peta Maree Lancaster, 6-2, 6-0 at the No. 6 line to give A&M a 2-1 lead.
Sanchez-Quintanar completed an undefeated season in Big 12 matches, going an impressive 9-0 at the No. 1 line, but the feat and another crucial point for the Aggies was in jeopardy as the junior from Spain split sets with Ritchie, 6-0, 3-6. It was only the first time Sanchez-Quintanar dropped a set in conference play this season.
Sanchez-Quintanar rebounded in the deciding third set, going up a break at 3-1 en route to a 6-2 win that put the Aggies ahead, 3-1.
“Cristina’s match was a critical match because the kid was playing awful well and had the home crowd and split sets,” Joffe said. “But Cristina was very mature. She didn’t unravel and just fought her and managed to get a little daylight in the third set.”
Sanchez-Quintanar moves to 19-1 in dual matches and improves to 32-5 overall, climbing into a tie for fourth in the school single season records for most wins.
“Truly Cristina’s results in conference play in going 9-0, and on the year -- she lost one match when she had abrasions on her leg and actually had the match point and lost it in a super tiebreaker -- it really speaks a lot for what a competitor she is,” Joffe added. “It is obvious that she is a very fine player and it is obvious she is very talented, but to win that many matches with having the team on your back, which has been the case at No. 1, 2 and 3, it is an awful lot of stress and pressure in the team context, and it speaks to what a great competitor she is.”
OU got within 3-2 as Melrose finished off Santacroce, 6-4, 7-5 at the No. 4 line. After Cuthbertson dropped her first set 6-3 to Wofford at No. 5, it appeared that the deciding point would depend on the outcome of the No. 3 line, where Sun had won her first set, 6-2, against Mia Lancaster but found herself in a dogfight late in the second set. Sun had taken a 5-2 lead when Lancaster made a pressure-filled comeback to tie the score at 5-5. Sun broke Lancaster to take a 6-5 lead and was serving for the match. Lancaster fought off three match points and had several set points before Sun pulled out the 7-5 victory to put A&M up, 4-2, and clinch the winning point for the Aggies.
“Sun won the first set fairly handily but took about five match points and a year off my life, but she managed to close out the match,” a relieved Joffe said. “It obviously was a very close one.”
Melrose then held off a persistent Cuthbertson, who came back from down a break to tie the second set at 5-5 before Melrose managed the 7-5 victory.
“Today I was very, very pleased with the team,” Joffe said. “Some folks are tired and we need to get people fresh for the Big 12 Championship and hopefully for the NCAA tournament, but in the strength of what we had today, the girls fought tooth and nail. I was delighted with them.”
A&M plays host to the men’s and women’s 2012 Big 12 Tennis Championships, April 26-29 at the Mitchell Tennis Center. The women’s bracket will be announced following the Baylor-Iowa State match on Monday. The winner of the Big 12 Championship will receive the conference’s automatic berth into the NCAA Championship tournament.
To purchase tickets in advance, contact the ticket office at 1-888-99-AGGIE or purchase online at AggieAthletics.com.
No. 24 Texas A&M 4, No. 46 Oklahoma 3
April 22, 2012
Headington Family Tennis Center
1. (#8) Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar (TAMU) def. Whitney Ritchie (OU), 6-0, 3-6, 6-2
2. Marie-Pier Huet (OU) def. (#80) Nazari Urbina (TAMU), 6-1, 6-2
3. (#83) Wen Sun (TAMU) def. Mia Lancaster (OU), 6-2, 7-5
4. Abbi Melrose (OU) def. Lauren Santacroce (TAMU), 6-4, 7-5
5. Whitney Wofford (OU) def. Janelle Cuthbertson (TAMU), 6-3, 7-5
6. Sheri Olivier (TAMU) def. Peta Maree Lancaster (OU), 6-2, 6-0
Doubles (A&M wins the point)
1. (#50) Sanchez-Quintanar/Sun (TAMU) def. (#39) Huet/Ritchie (OU), 8-6
2. Cuthbertson/Urbina (TAMU) def. M. Lancaster/Melrose (OU), 8-2
3. Olivier/Santacroce (TAMU) def. P. Lancaster/Wofford (OU), 8-3
Order of finish
Doubles: 2, 1, 3
Singles: 2, 6, 1, 4, 3*, 5
* - Clinched match
Texas A&M: 16-4, 7-2 Big 12
Oklahoma: 10-12, 4-5 Big 12