COLUMBIA, S.C. - The No. 13 Texas A&M men's tennis team tackled the weather and a spunky South Carolina (14-15, 4-8) squad Friday at the Carolina Tennis Center in Columbia, SC. The match was tied at three-all when a nearly three hour rain and lightning delay forced teams inside. A&M's Arthur Rinderknech clinched the victory following the delay to send the 3rd-seeded Aggies (26-8, 8-4) into the semifinals for the fourth straight season. Texas A&M will take on Florida at 11 a.m. (CT) Saturday in Columbia.
Sophomore 'Artillery' Rinderknech endured the delay and defeated Gabriel Friedrich in under five minutes after the significant stoppage. The Paris, France native bounced back from a late third-set break to even the match at five-all. The stringy right-hander held serve on the next point and led 30-15 receiving serve for the match. Mother Nature decided to make the Aggies and Gamecocks wait through a two hour and 48 minute rain and lightning delay. Rinderknech returned to the court and took two of three points to clinch the match.
The Aggies opened the match dropping the doubles point for just the ninth time this season, but the Aggies improved to 6-3 in those matches. Rinderknech and junior Max Lunkin took advantage of an early break to claim a 6-4 win over Andrew Schafer and Yancy Davis on the third court. The senior duo of Harrison Adams and Shane Vinsant remained on serve until the final serve of the match, as Alex Fennell and Sam Swank broke serve up 5-4 to claim the second court. With the day's first point in the balance, doubles court one went to a tie-breaker that refused to go the Aggies way. Senior Jackson Withrow and freshman Aleksandre Bakshi fell 7-1 in the breaker to No. 67 Gabriel Friedrich and Harrison O'Keefe.
A&M took little time to bounce back from dropping the doubles point, capturing the first set on four courts. Despite losing some momentum, the Gamecocks improved their lead to 2-0 as Andrew Schafer topped Jordi Arconada 6-1, 7-5 on court three. The maroon and white got on the board as Withrow topped Wood Benton, 7-5, 6-3 on court six. The Nebraska native improved to 16-3 this season and 8-1 against league opponents.
The Aggies would even the score a few minutes later, Adams defeated Thomas Mayronne 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 on court five. The New Braunfels native claimed his 68th win in the maroon and white. The stalemate did not last for long as SC regained the lead, 3-2, as Fennell topped sophomore AJ Catanzariti 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 on court four.
Facing elimination the Aggies would need to win both courts still in play to advance to Saturday's semifinals. Texas A&M's Vinsant prevailed in a grueling third-set tiebreaker, defeating O'Keefe 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(5) on court two followed by Rinderknech's triumph.
The winner of Saturday's match between Texas A&M and No. 11 Florida will advance to the SEC Tournament Finals. The Aggies have won seven straight SEC Tournament matches; winning both the 2014 and 2015 SEC titles; dating back to the 2013 tournament. The maroon and white's last setback was a tight 4-3 match to eventual champion Georgia in Oxford, Miss. in the semifinals.
Visit 12thMan.com for more information on Texas A&M men's tennis. Aggie fans also can keep up to date with the A&M men's tennis team on Twitter by following @AggieMTEN or on Facebook at Facebook.com/AggieMensTennis.
#13 Texas A&M 4, #50 South Carolina 3
- #18 Arthur Rinderknech (TAMU) def. #58 Gabriel Friedrich (SC) 6-4, 6-7(4), 7-5
- #53 Shane Vinsant (TAMU) def. Harrison O'Keefe (SC) 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(5)
- Andrew Schafer (SC) def. Jordi Arconada (TAMU) 6-1, 7-5
- Alex Fennell (SC) def. AJ Catanzariti (TAMU) 5-7, 6-3, 6-4
- Harrison Adams (TAMU) def. Thomas Mayronne (SC) 6-2, 4-6, 6-4
- Jackson Withrow (TAMU) def. Wood Benton (SC) 7-5, 6-3
- Gabriel Friedrich/Harrison O'Keefe (SC) def. Aleksandre Bakshi/Jackson Withrow (TAMU) 7-6(1)
- Alex Fennell/Sam Swank (SC) def. Harrison Adams/Shane Vinsant (TAMU) 6-4
- Max Lunkin/Arthur Rinderknech (TAMU) def. Andrew Schafer/Yancy Dennis(SC) 6-4
Quotes Steve Denton, Texas A&M Head Coach
On the match ...
"I think there is room for improvement and the first match in a tournament is normally the tightest so we will hopefully loosen up and play well tomorrow against a very good Florida team. There was a lot of pressure on this match, South Carolina was playing for place in the NCAA Tournament and we wanted to defend our title. I thought our guys competed really well, today was a great college tennis match."
On the Aggies prevailing through adversity...
"Once we came inside it was an equalizer for both guys. It is always tougher being down a game and Gabe (Friedrich) was down 15-30 on his serve when we made the move. So that first point of the game indoors was huge, Arthur was able to come into the net and hit a volley winner. Once Arthur was up 40-15 and Gabe had to win three straight point it was really tough. Arthur played well today, but give a lot of credit to South Carolina today. They played with a lot of guts and we knew they would. They played really well in the doubles and gave us everything we wanted in a first match at the SEC Tournament."
On Shane Vinsant evening the match at three-all...
"I thought Shane played a little more aggressive at the end of his third set, he was up 3-0 in the third and then the match tightened up. Anytime you play a tie-breaker in the third anybody can win, but Shane really came up with a couple big shots in the breaker to give us a chance and then Arthur came through for us again."