Texas A&M freshman Iulia Ivascu won the last match standing to lift Texas A&M to a 4-3 victory over 24th-ranked Kentucky in the second round of the SEC Women’s Tennis Tournament today at Barksdale Tennis Stadium.
The Aggies, the No. 9 seed in the 14-team tournament, improve to 16-9 overall and advance to the quarterfinals to face SEC regular-season champion and No. 2-ranked Vanderbilt on Friday at 3 p.m. (2 p.m. CT). Kentucky, which had posted a 4-1 regular-season home victory over Texas A&M on April 7 in Lexington and was the No. 8 seed, falls to 14-10.
The teams split the first two doubles matches to be completed as Ivascu and freshman partner Riley McQuaid raced to a 6-1 victory over Diana Tkachenko and Brianna Tulloch at the No. 3 line. Kentucky’s Mami Adachi and Justina Mikulskyte had jumped out to a 5-0 lead over A&M’s Tatiana Makarova and Macarena Olivares at No. 2 but the Aggie duo made a late charge and got within 5-4 before the Wildcats won a no-ad point to win, 6-4.
The point came down to the No. 1 line, where A&M missed an opportunity to take the doubles point. The Aggies’ 59th-ranked Domenica Gonzalez and Eva Paalma had won a no-ad point to go up, 5-4, against Emily Fanning and Lesedi Jacobs. In the following game, the A&M pair was at triple match point, but Kentucky evened the game at 40-40 and then won the no-ad point to even the match, 5-5. Kentucky broke the Aggies’ serve to go up, 6-5, and then won a no-ad point to win the match, 7-5, to give the Wildcats the 1-0 lead.
McQuaid evened the team score at the start of singles, breaking away from a 3-3 tie in each set to defeat Tkachenko, 6-3, 6-3, at the No. 4 line.
Adachi put the Wildcats back on top, 2-1, after downing Paalma, 6-4, 6-4, at No. 3. In a matchup of ranked contestants, No. 76 Olivares evened the team score, 2-2, with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over 118th-ranked Mikulskyte at No. 2. It was the seventh win—including the fourth ranked win—in the last eight decisions for Olivares, who improved to 28-10 overall.
Gonzalez gave A&M its first lead, 3-2, getting a service break to cap each set in a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Fanning at the No. 1 line. Jacobs tied the score for the final time with a come-from-behind 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory over Makarova at No. 5.
Ivascu and Tulloch were knotted at 5-5 in the second set at the No. 6 line as Jacobs tied the team score. Ivascu had won the first set, 7-5, and was serving for the match with a 6-5 lead in the second set. Tulloch, however, broke Ivascu to force a tiebreaker in which neither player built more than a two-point lead. Ivascu fought off four set points and was at match point, 10-9, after Tulloch was overruled and received a point penalty. Tulloch, however, scored the next two points to regain the lead, 11-10. Ivascu fought off another set point to tie the score, 11-11, before Tulloch won the next two points to win the set and force a third set.
Both players struggled with their serve in the final set, and other than the first two games, neither side was able to hold serve until Ivascu held to go up, 6-5. The Romanian built a 40-15 lead in the ensuing game, and Tulloch double-faulted at match point to give the win to Ivascu.
Texas A&M, which was facing Kentucky for the first time in an SEC Tournament match, improves to 5-5 all-time in the tournament and advances to the quarterfinals for the fifth time in six years in the league. The Aggies, who also will be facing the Commodores for the first time in the postseason event, fell to Vanderbilt, 4-0, in Nashville, when the teams met on April 5.
The winner of the Texas A&M-Vanderbilt match advances to face the winner between No. 4 seed Georgia and No. 5 seed Ole Miss in the semifinals at 2 p.m. (1 p.m. CT) on Saturday.