Texas A&M finished its historic season as the national champion runner-up after falling to Stanford, 4-3, today in the finals of the NCAA Championship at the Kahn Outdoor Tennis Complex.
The Aggies, who had reached the NCAA round of 16 only once in school history before this season, conclude the year 26-4 under second-year head coach Howard Joffe, setting a record for the most wins in school history.
For the second consecutive match, the winner was determined in the last match standing. This time, however, the outcome would not favor the Aggies, as A&M junior Cristina Stancu fell to the Cardinal's 25th-ranked Kristie Ahn, 7-5, 6-4, 6-2, in a hotly contested match at No. 2 singles.
Texas A&M took the early lead in doubles as the 18th-ranked pair of Stefania Hristov and Stancu jumped out to a 5-1 lead over eighth-ranked Nicole Gibbs, the 2012 NCAA champion in both singles and doubles, and Ahn at the No. 1 court. The Aggies went on to post an 8-3 victory, equaling their highest ranked win in dual match play this season.
Stanford quickly evened the race for the crucial doubles point, as 28th-ranked Stacey Tan and Ellen Tsay got up a break, 4-3, against 49th-ranked Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar and Wen Sun at No. 2. A&M was unable to get back on serve, and the Cardinal went on to take the match, 8-4.
The doubles point came down to the No. 3 court where Aggie twins Ines and Paula Deheza had put the match back on serve against Stanford's Natalie Dillon and Krista Hardebeck, getting within 5-4. The match stayed on serve until the Cardinal broke to go up 7-5. A&M had three set points to break in the following game, but Stanford came back to finish off the game and the match, 8-5, clinching the point for Stanford.
A&M began the singles portion of the match by winning the first set on four of six courts, but the Aggies were unable to hang onto the lead.
Stanford got its only straight-set victory at the No. 4 court to take a 2-0 lead. Ines Deheza, who posted a heroic last-match-standing, three-set victory in the Aggies' 4-3 victory over UCLA to propel Texas A&M into the title match, was unable to duplicate the feat and suffered her only singles loss in NCAA tournament play with a 7-5, 6-3 loss to 103rd-ranked Tan.
The Cardinal later took a 3-0 lead with a three-set victory at the No. 1 line. Sanchez-Quintanar, ranked No. 4 in the nation in singles, opened her match by racing to a 6-0 first-set victory over 13th-ranked Gibbs. Sanchez-Quintanar went on to win the first two games of the second set before the reigning singles champion turned on the burners. Gibbs won the next 12 games to close out a 0-6, 6-2, 6-0 victory.
Aggie freshman Anna Mamalat put A&M on the scoreboard with a straight-set victory at No. 5. Mamalat jumped out to a 4-0 lead against 92nd-ranked Tsay en route to a 6-1 win in the opening set. The second set was closely contested on was on serve with Mamalat leading, 6-5. The Philadelphia native then broke Tsay to win the match, 6-1, 7-5, to put A&M within 3-1.
Aggie senior Nazari Urbina, the lone four-year letterwinner on the squad, put the Aggies within 3-2 and won her fifth consecutive NCAA tournament match with a 6-3, 7-6 (3) victory over 14th-ranked Hardebeck at No. 3. It marked Urbina's highest ranked win of the 2013 dual match season and the fifth highest ranked win of her career.
Hristov then knotted the score at 3-3 with a three-set win over Dillon at No. 6. After splitting the first two sets, 6-2, 3-6, Hristov won the first five games of the third set before closing out the 6-1 victory and forcing the match to come down to the No. 2 court.
It was Stanford's 17th NCAA title as the Cardinal finish the season 22-4.
Hristov and Stancu were named to the all-tournament team at No. 1 doubles. They will complete in the NCAA Doubles Championship beginning Thursday.
Urbina was named to the all-tournament team at No. 3 singles. She and Sanchez-Quintanar both will be competing in the NCAA Singles Championship beginning Wednesday. Urbina is making a school-record fourth consecutive appearance in the tournament. Sanchez-Quintanar, who reached the quarterfinals last year, is the No. 4 seed in the 64-player field.
Oh So Close...
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