COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The No. 7 Texas A&M women’s tennis team returns to action Tuesday to take on No. 3 North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C. First serve of the top-10 showdown is at 4 p.m. (CT) at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center.
“This is definitely a considerable challenge,” A&M head coach Howard Joffe said. “North Carolina boasts two of the top five players in the country and a lineup that is certainly as deep and as strong as anyone in the country. This is definitely a big challenge for our group, but for the first time all year I would say our group in the past seven to 10 days has started to look a little more organized, cohesive and is playing better, so I’m very excited for us to get the opportunity to go at North Carolina and see how we perform.”
The Aggies are 2-0 on the young season, having defeated both Mississippi State and DePaul by identical 4-1 scores in the ITA Kick-Off Weekend, Jan. 25-26, in College Station. A win against the Tar Heels would mark the highest ranked win in A&M history. The current record for the highest ranked win was set last year as A&M stunned then-two-time defending national champion and fourth-ranked Florida, 4-3, in the teams’ first-ever meeting as Southeastern Conference foes.
“This match represents a great opportunity to beat the preseason No. 3 them in the country,” Joffe said, “but the whole object of the exercise in general is for the team to get better and better. And this is exactly how we will do it with this match and also with three or four very tough matches coming up at the end of the week. It is a good time for our team to start to play better and look a little more mature, and it is a great opportunity.”
Senior Cristina Stancu is the Aggies’ top-ranked player, entering the week No. 14 in the national singles rankings and No. 22 in doubles with sophomore Stefania Hristov. Stancu is 2-0 in dual singles matches at the No. 1 line, and she is 18-4 overall, including 11-2 against ranked opponents. Stancu and Hristov are 2-0 at No. 1 doubles, and the Romanian duo is 13-5 overall, including 2-3 against ranked opponents.
Saska Gavrilovska also is 2-0 in singles -- both at the No. 3 line -- and was last week’s SEC Freshman of the Week after winning both matches in straight sets to help A&M earn a berth in the ITA National Team Indoor Championships.
A&M is 2-0 at No. 6 singles, with Hristov and freshman Jana McCord each playing a match at the position during the opening weekend.
The Aggies are a combined 4-0 in doubles in dual matches. In addition to Stancu and Hristov, sophomore Ines Deheza and freshman Rutuja Bhosale are ranked No. 51 in the nation in doubles and are 1-0 at the No. 2 line. Gavrilovska and sophomore Anna Mamalat are 1-0 at No. 3 doubles.
UNC is 4-0 on the year, all on its home court. The Tar Heels blanked both No. 75 Elon and UNC-Greensboro, 4-0, and also shut out No. 62 Denver, 4-0, in the first round of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend. UNC then defeated No. 31 Memphis, 4-1, to advance to the indoor championship.
Tar Heel freshmen Jamie Loeb and Hayley Carter are No. 2 and No. 5, respectively, in the ITA national singles rankings. Loeb, the 2013 Riviera/ITA All-American singles champion, is 23-1 overall in singles. She is 4-0 in dual matches at the No. 1 line, having given up only four sets in the four matches combined.
Carter is 21-4 overall, including 2-0 at No. 2 singles. Whitney Kay and Ashley Dai also are ranked in singles at No. 88 and No. 118, respectively.
The Tar Heels have two doubles teams ranked in the top 12, with Whitney Kay and Caroline Price coming in at No. 10. The pair of Loeb and Carter is No. 12, while Laura Slater and Kate Vialle are No. 42
UNC is 7-2 all-time against the Aggies, including a 4-0 victory at last year’s ITA National Team Indoor Championship, which the Tar Heels went on to win. A&M’s last victory against UNC was an 8-1 decision on March 15, 1997, in College Station.
Tuesday’s match against the Tar Heels is a prelude to the ITA National Team Indoor Championship, fielded by 16 of the 17 top-ranked teams in the country. The tournament begins Friday at the Boar’s Head Tennis Club in Charlottesville, Va.,
“We are a team that has played only two matches, and so to get a high-quality opponent like North Carolina, under the new format, indoors, it is as good of preparation as any team will get for the national indoor tournament,” Joffe added.
Live scoring of the match will be available at AggieAthletics.com.
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.
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