COLLEGE STATION - Texas A&M freshman Katya Townsend earned a three-set victory to secure a 4-2 win for the No. 19 Aggie women's tennis team over No. 17 Tennessee Friday afternoon at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center. Texas A&M (22-6) advanced to Saturday's semifinals against No. 1 Georgia after defeating the Volunteers (19-7).
"The first and second set were really close, I just missed on a set point in the first set and then in the third set I was able to push through and get the win," Townsend said. "I don't know if she was getting tired, but I stayed focused and I knew that I had to keep pushing no matter what the scores were on the other courts. Knowing that I will fight for every point even if I am down. For my whole life that has been my biggest strength, stronger than my forehand, my serve or anything else. Just being able to keep fighting, I think that is what is most important."
After dropping the first set to No. 56 Sadie Hammond, 6-7(6), Townsend rebounded to win 12 of 16 games to earn a 6-3. 6-1 win in sets two and three to send the Aggies to the SEC Tournament Semifinals for the third time in program history. The 2019 appearance for A&M in the country's best conference tournament is the first since the 2014 season.
"When we saw the draw come out, this was the match we wanted," Texas A&M women's tennis head coach Mark Weaver said. "It was a great opportunity to get some revenge after they were able to beat us indoors in Knoxville earlier this year. I remember once that match was over I thought I hope we get another shot at them at home in the conference tournament. The mental consistency from Katya [Townsend] was remarkable, she really took that match to another level in the second set and I would have bet my life on that match once it went to the third set."
A&M secured the doubles point to open the match with wins on courts two and three after the Lady Vols earned a 6-3 triumph on the top court. A&M's Townsend and Renee McBryde bested Tennessee's Maia Haumuller and Tenika McGiffin 6-3 on court two followed by the clincher from A&M's Riley McQuaid and Lucia Quiterio topping the Vol duo of Rebeka Mertena and Johanna Silva on court three, 6-4.
The two teams split opening sets with the Aggies converting a pair of those into straight set wins, while the Vols captured a single point in straight sets. The Aggies earned a 2-0 advantage as Thursday's hero, Quiterio, earned a 6-0, 6-4 win on court six over McGiffin, of Tennessee. Quiterio earned her fourth straight win and improved to 14-2 this spring.
Tennessee earned their first point of the day with a 6-4, 6-3 win on court five by Ariadna Riley over A&M's McQuaid. Shortly thereafter, A&M's Makarova gutted out a 6-1, 7-6(5) win on court three over Silva to push the A&M advantage to 3-1. Makarova claimed her 13th dual win of the spring to improve to 19-8 overall this year.
The Vols pulled within 3-2 as Kaitlin Staines outlasted A&M's Jayci Goldsmith 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 on court two. With A&M in control of the remaining two matches, fans marched back and forth between court one and four to see which Aggie would capture the final point of the night.
With the win, the Aggies improved to 7-6 all-time in the SEC Tournament, reaching the semifinals in the 2013 and 2014 tournament. The winner of Friday's semifinal matchup takes on the winner of No. 8 Vanderbilt and No. 5 South Carolina in the SEC Tournament final at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, broadcast live on SEC Network.