COLLEGE STATION -- Texas A&M men's tennis captured the 2015 SEC Tournament Championship Sunday afternoon over Georgia 4-2 at the George P Mitchell Tennis Center. The No. 6 Aggies claimed a share of the regular season championship with the No. 5 Bulldogs last week.
"This title feels just as good as the first, we were able to come out on top of a very good and well coached Georgia team," Texas A&M men's tennis head coach Steve Denton said. "We got off to a good start in doubles and looked like we could potentially run away with it, but Georgia came back and put us on our heels. Then the rains came and our guys came out of the locker room with an unbelievable attitude and resolve to win this championship"
The Coach Denton lead squad have etched their name on the last three SEC trophies handed out, the 2014 and 2015 Tournament Championships along with the 2015 regular season crown. The Aggies improve to 21-4 on the year, winning 13 of their final 14 matches this spring.
The maroon and white opened play winning the doubles point for the 21st time this season. Freshmen AJ Catanzariti and Arthur Rinderknech were the first off the court grabbing an early break and riding the momentum to a 6-3 win over Wayne Montgomery and Nick Wood. The rookie duo are an astounding 18-4 this season, including a remarkable 12-2 mark against opponents from the SEC.
The point was clinched on court two by seniors Jeremy Efferding and Jordan Szabo at almost the exact time as Harrison Adams and Shane Vinsant fell to No. 1 Ben Wagland and Austin Smith. Efferding and Szabo nailed down the match's first point with a 6-3 victory over Nathan Pasha and Paul Oosterbaan. The nation's 46th-ranked duo improved to 15-6 in dual matches including a 8-3 mark against league foes.
"It was really big for us to come out and put our stamp on this match," Denton added. "Getting that doubles point proved really big, our number two team did a great job against two really good players that play big and serve big. We were able to get a couple breaks and help secure that point. AJ and Arthur, the two freshman, have really been coming through for us all season."
The two teams split first sets across all six courts, the home team claimed first sets on courts two, three and five. The visitors evened the team score at one-all as Wagland claimed a straight-set victory over No. 55 Adams on court four; 6-2, 6-3.
The deadlock did not last long as No. 93 Catanzariti restored the one point cushion for the host-Aggies. The three-time SEC Freshman of the Week bested Wood on court five 6-3, 6-4. The Pittsburgh native continues to pace the Aggies with 19 dual victories against just four defeats this spring, the freshman concluded the SEC Tournament a perfect 3-0 in both singles and doubles play.
Catanzariti's doubles partner, Rinderknech, put the Aggies ahead 3-1 with a 6-4, 6-4 thriller over No. 26 Nathan Pasha. Heading into the tournament the Frenchman was 0-2 against ranked-opponents, but evened his ledger with Sunday's win and Saturday's straight-set triumph over No. 118 Mate Cutura of Mississippi State. The stringy right-hander finished the weekend 3-0 in doubles along with a 2-0 singles tally. For his efforts on the weekend, Rinderknech was named to the All-Tournament team.
"The two freshmen carried over their play from the doubles into the singles getting our first two singles points today," Denton said. "They are a major reason we were in a position to play for the championship much."
The Bulldogs clawed back into the match with a 7-5, 7-5 win on court five by Oosterbaan over freshman Jordi Arconada. The A&M freshman suffered his first defeat in nine-matches, falling to 9-3 this spring with a 7-2 ledger against the league.
As the future home of the tournament trophy hung in the balance, lightning in the area forced play to halt, rain followed and both teams remained in the locker room for two hours. When play was halted both matches on courts one and two were deep into the third set, with Georgia holding a 5-4 edge on court one and a 5-3 advantage on the second court.
Once play resumed the Aggies took a stranglehold of the momentum, winning all six games that were to be completed. Excitement built as players warmed up following the delay with the focus around the Mitchell Tennis Center on court one.
No. 61 Efferding played to the crowd's level of intensity winning three straight points and clinching the Aggies fourth point. The Boca Raton native notched his 10th win this spring and seventh against a ranked opponent; 6-7(2), 6-1, 7-5 over No. 29 Austin Smith. Moments after Efferding and his teammates lifted the SEC trophy, the right-hander was named the Tournament MVP along with All-Tournament Team nod.
"The clinch for Jeremy could not have happened to a better player and a better person," Denton said. "He is a leader and has been an MVP for this team all season. It was an unbelievable senior moment for him and he will remember this for the rest of his life. Playing at home against a great player on court one in front of a great crowd and the way he played those last three games, I have not seen a player play better than that under those kind of circumstances." No. 69 Vinsant broke Montgomery twice and held serve to take a 6-5 advantage in the third-set, but the match was halted once Efferding clinched the team victory.
The NCAA Tennis Selection Show will be held Tuesday, April 28 on NCAA.com. The men's selections will be announced at 5:30 p.m. (following women's selections at 5:00). The NCAA first and second rounds will be held on campus sites the weekend of May 8-10.
#6 Texas A&M 4, #5 Georgia 2
1. #61 Jeremy Efferding (TAMU) def. #29 Austin Smith (UGA) 6-7 (5-7), 5-1, 7-5
2. #69 Shane Vinsant (TAMU) vs. #28 Wayne Montgomery (UGA) 6-4, 6-7 (2-7), 6-5, unfinished
3. Arthur Rinderknech (TAMU) def. #26 Nathan Pasha (UGA) 6-4, 6-4
4. Ben Wagland (UGA) def. #55 Harrison Adams (TAMU) 6-2, 6-3
5. #93 AJ Catanzariti (TAMU) def. Nick Wood (UGA) 6-3, 6-4
6. Paul Oosterbaan (UGA) def. Jordi Arconada (TAMU) 7-5, 7-5
1. #1 Ben Wagland/Austin Smith (UGA) def. #11 Harrison Adams/Shane Vinsant (TAMU) 6-3
2. #46 Jeremy Efferding/Jordan Szabo (TAMU) def. Nathan Pasha/Paul Oosterbaan (UGA) 6-3
3. AJ Catanzariti/Arthur Rinderknech (TAMU) def. Wayne Montgomery/Nick Wood (UGA) 6-3