BATON ROUGE, La. -- No. 18 Texas A&M has advanced to the quarterfinals of the SEC Women's Tennis Championship after opening tournament play with a 4-0 second-round victory over 61st-ranked and No. 14 seed Alabama this morning at the LSU Tennis Complex.
The Aggies, the No. 6 seed in the 14-team field, improve to 16-9 and will face No. 3 seed and fourth ranked Georgia (18-3), Friday at 10 a.m. Alabama, which upended No. 11 seed Missouri, 4-0, in Wednesday's first-round action, ends its season 5-18.
"This was definitely a very good day for the Aggies," A&M first-year head coach Mark Weaver said. "It is always nice to get the first-round bye, but it is also a little tricky to play the team that already has a tournament match under its belt. It is always a bit of an adjustment getting comfortable with the timing of the courts, weather conditions and so forth, but I thought we played well at every position and we are clicking at all positions, which is something that we will need to carry on into the match tomorrow. We had Georgia on the ropes last week, and if we can continue on with the good tennis that we have been playing, it should make for another exciting match."
A&M's Ines Deheza and Saska Gavrilovska got the morning off to a fast start, jumping out to a 3-0 lead over Bennett Dunn and Danielle Spielmann at the No. 3 line. The Alabama tandem got back within 4-2 before A&M won the next two games, with Gavrilovska smashing an overhead winner to punctuate the 6-2 victory.
The Aggies' 31st-ranked duo of Eva Paalma and Rachel Pierson quickly followed, having to play only one more point to finish off the 75th-ranked pair of Erin Routliffe, who has won the NCAA doubles title each of the last two years, and Natalia Maynetto, 6-2, at the No. 1 line to clinch the doubles point.
Alabama's Andie Daniell and Joanna Savva had just gone up a break and led A&M's 72nd-ranked Rutuja Bhosale and Anna Mamalat, 4-2, at the No. 2 line when the doubles point was decided, and the match was abandoned.
A&M carried the momentum into singles play, winning the first set on five of six courts. Deheza continued her fast-paced, business-like approach, jumping out to a 4-0 lead over Spielmann at the No. 4 position. Deheza went on to win the first set, 6-2, and then did not give up a game in the 6-0 second set to give the Aggies a 2-0 lead.
With the win, Deheza improved to 19-7 overall and 13-4 in dual matches only to move into a tie with Bhosale and freshman Domenica Gonzalez for most victories by an A&M player in each category.
Gonzalez put A&M ahead, 3-0, breaking Savva's serve at the end of each set to close out a 6-4, 6-4 victory at No. 5. With the win, the Ecuador native improved to 19-10 overall, including 13-6 in dual matches only.
Pierson clinched the winning point for the Aggies with her fourth consecutive victory. Down a break and trailing Maynetto, 4-2 in the opening frame, Pierson reeled off four consecutive games to take the opening set, 6-4. Pierson went on to win the first four games in the second set en route to a 6-4, 6-3 victory.
Bhosale, ranked 74th in the nation in singles, had won her first set, 7-5 against 49th-ranked Daniell at the No. 2 line and had just broken Daniell to take a 5-1 lead in the second set when Pierson clinched the win and play was stopped.
At No. 6, Paalma had fought back from a 5-3 deficit to win her first set against Bennett Dunn, 7-5, and the second set was tied, 2-2, when the match was abandoned.
In a matchup of top-30 players, 27th-ranked Routliffe was the only Alabama player who managed to win a set, holding off 25th-ranked Gavrilovska, who had overcome a 5-3 first-set deficit to even the score at 6-6 and force a tiebreaker. Routliffe went on to win the tiebreaker, 7-4, and held a 3-2 second-set lead when the match was halted.
A&M, 2-1 all-time in SEC quarterfinal matches, will be aiming for its first-ever win against Georgia when the teams meet in the quarterfinals. The Bulldogs are 11-0 all-time against the Aggies, including a 5-2 victory on April 10 in College Station. The match will mark the first time A&M and Georgia, which tied Vanderbilt for second place in the SEC regular season with an 11-2 record and received a double bye in the tournament, have met at an SEC Championship.