A&M women beat LSU at the net

The Texas A&M women’s tennis team opened the home portion of its schedule with a 4-3 victory over LSU on a sun-splashed day at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center.

Aggie head coach Bobby Kleinecke was pleased to come away with the win against the Southeastern Conference rival, but he wasn’t overly satisfied in his team’s performance.

“We are fortunate to have come away with the win, but sometimes during a season you have to get fortunate and have things fall your way,” he said. “We missed way too many balls today, and I’d say the whole day was filled with points that we lost because of our errors.

“It’s tough because we really didn’t have a good week of workouts with the weather being like it was, practicing indoors and not being able to get outside and then having it windy today and having a side wind. I thought that was a factor, but we have to be able to put the ball in the court, and that is the bottom line.”

A&M, which evened its record at 2-2 on the young season, took an early lead by winning the doubles point, but it did not come easy on two courts. Morgan Frank (Oldsmar, Fla.) and Christi Potgieter (Petrusville, South Africa) cruised to an 8-1 victory over Kaitlyn Burns and Yvette Vlaar at the No. 2 line, but the remaining two matches would battle for another hour before A&M would complete come-from-behind victories on both courts to close out the sweep and put the Aggies up, 1-0.

A&M’s Stephanie Davidson (Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas) and Sheri Olivier (Topeka, Kan.) were down a break to Ariel Morton and Ebie Wilson, 4-2, at the No. 3 line but managed to later take a 6-5 lead. LSU won the next two games to go up 7-6, but A&M won the next three games to close out the match.

Another battle was also taking place at the No. 1 line. LSU’s Keri Frankenberger and Whitney Wolf seemed in control with a 7-3 lead over A&M’s Janelle Cuthbertson (Perth, Australia) and Christi Liles (Largo, Fla.). The Aggies began to rally and were within 7-5 when they found themselves down double match point. Cuthbertson and Liles fought back to win that game and went on to extend their winning streak to five games en route to taking an 8-7 lead. LSU tied the score at 8-8 to force a tiebreaker. A&M dropped the first point but never trailed after that, as the Aggies went on to take the tiebreaker, 8-6, and complete the sweep.

“In doubles, you might fall down but you have believe, and we did keep believing,” Kleinecke said. “We are working extremely hard in practice and doing everything in practice that we can do, but we have to be able to play in matches like we are practicing, and I didn’t see that today.”

Each team won three first sets to begin the singles before Frank gave the Aggies a 2-0 lead by disposing of Frankenberger, 6-2, 6-1 at the No. 2 line. Liles then put A&M up, 3-0, with a 7-5, 6-0 victory over Vlaar at No. 4.

Morton was the first to put the Tigers on the board as she topped fellow Klein High School alumna Lauren Santacroce (Spring, Texas), 7-5, 6-2 at the No. 6 line.

In a match-up of ranked opponents, 17th-ranked Nazari Urbina (Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico) clinched the winning point for the Aggies with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over 33rd-ranked Wolf at the No. 1 line. Urbina played well enough to win despite having returned to town Sunday morning after spending the last four days competing for Mexico at the Fed Cup in Argentina.

“We just found a way to win,” Kleinecke said. “Nazari traveled from Argentina and found a way to win in straight sets. Morgan puts the ball in the court and wins 2 and 1. Christi Liles tried to make it pretty in the first set and struggled, but in the second set she played extremely solid tennis and that’s all she needed to do. When you look at those matches that we won, those are positives, but we have to have other people step up.”

Urbina’s point would be the last point the Aggies would score. Burns downed Potgieter, 7-5, 4-6, 6-1, at No. 3, and Wilson defeated Davidson, 7-5, 7-6 (4) at No. 5.

“We are going to take the win and run with it and keep working, but we also have to be realistic that we cannot be satisfied with our performance. We are a lot better than what we showed today. There were the different factors, but I’m taking a deep breath that we won this match.”

The match against the Tigers (0-2) marks the first of a six-match home stand for the Aggies. A&M returns to the Mitchell Tennis Center on Saturday, Feb. 12 to host former Southwest Conference-foe TCU. First serve is slated for 1 p.m.

It will be a Breast Cancer Awareness match, and fans are encouraged to join the Aggies in wearing pink for the event.