COLLEGE STATION - Texas A&M freshman Lucia Quiterio earned a last match standing victory to secure a 4-3 win for the No. 19 Aggie women's tennis team over Mississippi State Thursday evening at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center. Texas A&M (21-6) advanced to Friday's quarterfinals against No. 17 Tennessee after defeating the Bulldogs (14-13).
"I was down 4-1 in the second set and I looked to my coach and he told me that we needed me to get this win today," Texas A&M Freshman Lucia Quiterio said. "He gave me a lot of confidence and I started to believe in myself. I kept fighting and finding my game. Fighting on every point got me through that match."
Trailing 4-1 in a second-set tiebreaker, Quiterio reeled off six of the next seven points to secure the tiebreaker, 7-5, and force a decisive third set. After earning a pair of early breaks in the third set, Quiterio topped Mississippi State's Sara Lizariturry 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 6-2 to send the Aggies through to the quarterfinals against the Lady Vols.
"Great fight from Mississippi State and today was another part of the learning process for this young team," Texas A&M women's tennis head coach Mark Weaver said. "Excellent job by Lucia [Quiterio], who was the hero for us today. It is really impressive for a freshman that has only been on the team for a couple months to play big in that moment and get the win for her team. Lucia was able to come back from a disappointing first set, pull out a clutch second-set tiebreaker and pull away with in in the third set. She had excellent composure and she wanted to be in that moment. This was a great team victory today."
The match was set back almost three hours after the rain the mornings forced the early matches to be delayed two hours followed by a brief afternoon showers delayed the evening session another hour.
A&M secured the doubles point to open the match with a decisive 6-1 win on court two by Renee McBryde and Katya Townsend over State's Emma Antonaki and Anastasia Rentouli. The Bulldogs earned a 6-3 result on court three by Lizariturry and Janina Braun over Quiterio and Riley McQuaid. The Aggies clinched the point with a 7-5 win on court one by No. 32 Jayci Goldsmith and Tatiana Makarova over State's Magda Adaloglou and Tamara Racine, ranked No. 61.
The two team split opening set with each team converting a pair of those into straight set wins. A&M's Townsend, ranked No. 54, doubles the A&M advantage to 2-0 with a 6-2, 6-2 win over No. 67 Antonaki on court one. The Bulldogs earned their first point of the day with a 6-1, 6-4 win on court three by Adaloglou over A&M's Makarova.
The Aggies increased the advantage to 3-1 with a 6-2, 6-3 win by McBryde over State's Racine on court four. The match was leveled as Braun edged out McQuaid 6-2, 6-4 on court five and Rentouli slipped by A&M's Goldsmith 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 on court two. With the match level at three-all, the attention shifted to court six and Quiterio's heroics were on display.
With the win, the Aggies improved to 6-6 all-time in the SEC Tournament, reaching the semifinals in the 2013 and 2014 tournament. The winner of Friday's quarterfinal matchup takes on the winner of No. 1 Georgia and No. 28 LSU in the SEC Tournament semifinals at 2 p.m. on Saturday.