The No. 30 Texas A&M women’s tennis team rallied for a dramatic 4-3 victory over Rice on Friday to set up an NCAA second-round matchup against the host Texas Longhorns at 12 noon on Saturday.
With the match knotted at 3-3, freshman Iulia Ivascu, from Bucharest, Romania, fought off three match points before tallying a hard-fought 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (8-6) win over Rice’s Savannah Durkin in the last match standing on the No. 6 court.
“I just thought about my team and that I was fighting for them,” Ivascu said. “I’m really happy because we worked very hard last week and the hard work paid off today.”
With the third-set tiebreaker leveled at 6-all, Ivascu ripped a crosscourt forehand that the Rice player called out but was overruled by the side judge. Because it was the Rice player’s third overrule, she was given a point penalty which gave Ivascu an 8-6 win in the tiebreaker.
“It was a crazy way to end the match,” Aggies head coach Mark Weaver said. “Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you haven’t. I knew the Rice girl had two overrules and that the next was going to be a point penalty. Thank goodness they put the far side judge out there. It was very fortunate for us to finish it out there, but all credit goes to Iulia for staying focused and staying in the moment.”
The Aggies opened match by winning the doubles point with victories at the No. 2 and No. 3 courts. Freshman Tatiana Makarova and senior Macarena Olivares logged a 6-1 win at No. 2 doubles, and Ivascu and fellow freshman Riley McQuaid tallied a 6-2 victory at No. 3.
Other Aggies posting singles victories to get the match to 3-all were Makarova at No. 5 and McQuaid at No. 4. Makarova cruised to a straight sets win in 6-4, 7-5 over Anna Bowtell, while McQuaid prevailed in three sets, 6-0, 0-6, 6-4, over Fernanda Astete.
The Aggies’ win sets up Saturday’s match against old foe Texas, which is coached by former Texas A&M head coach Howard Joffe, who served as the Aggies’ head coach from 2012-15 with Weaver as his top assistant.
“We’ve had some conversations the last few days and we are truly best friends, so it won’t be easy and it won’t be fun,” Weaver said of the Aggies’ matchup with Joffe’s team. “It is what it is, it’s competition and we’re competitors. Texas has had a great year. I think they’ve won 15 in a row and went undefeated in the conference. Coach Joffe is an incredible coach and it’s no surprise that he’s taken Texas to the heights they have this year. We’ve faced a lot of stiff competition in the SEC and had a lot of good, solid wins. We know that if we play at a high level, we’ll have our shots tomorrow.”