KNOXVILLE, Tennessee - The No. 11 Texas A&M topped Tennessee, 4-1, at the Barksdale Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee Friday afternoon in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals. The top-seeded Aggies improved to 19-5 on the season, advancing to Saturday's tournament semifinals at 1 p.m. (CT) in the Volunteer State.
The Aggies faced off with the host institution in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals for the second straight season, having topped South Carolina last year, 4-3, matches were played in Columbia, SC a year ago. With the win, Texas A&M improved to 9-2 all-time in the SEC tournament and have advanced to the semifinals in all five tournaments since joining the league in the 2012-13 season.
Texas A&M opened the day with a dominant display in doubles, holding serve on all three courts through the 35 minutes of doubles action. No. 20 AJ Catanzariti and Arthur Rinderknech were the first pair off the court, winning 6-2 over No. 52 Timo Stodder and Luis Valero. The junior duo improved to 5-0 against ranked teams, winning their fourth straight match overall.
Hady Habib and Jordi Arconada sealed the day's first point for the Maroon & White, defeating Jack Schipanski and Scott Jones, 6-3, on the second court. The Aggie duo won their second straight match to improve to 5-3 together. The third doubles match was abandoned as Aleksandre Bakshi and Max Lunkin were on serve, up 5-4, against Srdjan Jakovlevic and Sunay Bhat on court three.
The Volunteers did not go away easy, the teams split first sets in singles action at 3-3. The home team evened up the match at 1-1 as Luca Wiedenmann topped Bakshi, 6-4, 6-1, on court six. The tie did not last long as, Arconada bested Valero 6-2, 6-1 to restore the advantage for Texas A&M. The Buenos Aires, Argentina native improved to 20-3 this year, winning his 18th straight match. The junior stands at 18-1 in dual matches and a perfect 11-0 against SEC foes.
Catanzariti pushed the Aggies ahead 3-1 as he topped Jakovljevic 6-4, 6-3 on court three. The win was number 12 this season for the Pittsburgh, Penn. native and his sixth against an opponent from the SEC this year.
Habib clinched the victory for the Aggies, defeating Schipanski 6-3, 7-6(3) on court five. The Houston, Texas native clinched for the second time this season to improve to 22-4 on the year and 14-2 in dual matches.
The Maroon & White await the winner of Friday's match between No. 18 Mississippi State and No. 19 South Carolina in the semifinals Saturday at 1 p.m. (CT). The Maroon & White have advanced to the SEC Tournament finals in two of the last three seasons, capturing the trophy in 2014 and 2015.
Post Game Quotes Steve Denton, Texas A&M Men's Tennis Head Coach About the win...
"We were pleased with how we came out in the doubles, we knew that we would get a big fight today. Tennessee was in a position where they really needed the win today. Sometimes when a team plays a tough match the day before and needs another win that they will come out strong like Tennessee did today. Our guys did a really good job to take care of the doubles point and stay in front throughout a lot of the singles matches. Splitting first sets and keeping the pressure on them with the doubles point was big today. We know we will have to play better moving forward in this tournament if we want to get another win. It's a good first win because it is never easy to win on the road in the SEC"
On AJ Catanzariti's win today...
"AJ has been hitting the ball well of late, but the results have not always gone his way. It was great to see him come out and take it to his opponent. He played really tough at the end of the first set and continued that same mentality into the second set getting the straight set victory. He was able to play a great game to close it out, that was great to see and I am really happy for him. That should give him a lot of confidence moving forward."
On Hady Habib clinching the match...
"Hady does a really good job of holding serve, he has a really big serve and that is a really effective weapon for him in these matches. When he gets into a tiebreaker he has a big tool to rely on in those tight moments. He was able to pick up a couple easy points on his serve early in the tiebreaker and that was the difference. When you get ahead in the tiebreaker and have a serve like he does you have to feel really good about your chances.