A&M women's tennis faces Rice in NCAA opener

A&M women's tennis faces Rice in NCAA opener
Posted at 7:33 PM, May 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-01 20:33:59-04

The Texas A&M women’s tennis team received an at-large bid to the 64-team NCAA Division I Women’s Tennis Championship and will open the tournament against the Rice Owls at 10 a.m. on Friday, May 11 at the Texas Tennis Center in Austin, the NCAA announced today.

The winner between Texas A&M (16-10) and Rice (15-8) will face the winner between host and No. 6 seed Texas (22-4) and McNeese State (18-3) in second-round action at noon on Saturday, May 12, also at the Texas Tennis Center.

The second-round winner advances to the round of 16 and the final championship site, the Wake Forest Tennis Complex in Winston-Salem, N.C., May 17-22, with Wake Forest University serving as host.

“It is always exciting with the NCAA Selection Show,” A&M coach Mark Weaver said. “We went where we thought we would go. We thought we would play Rice first round, and hopefully we can get Rice back. We had a tough match with them early in the season at their place. We feel like we are much improved since we played them a few months ago. We play such a tough schedule in the SEC, we are definitely more match tough and have improved a lot, so we are looking forward to the opportunity again to play Rice. Hopefully we can get that one, and it would be nice to play Texas in the second round. But we definitely have to focus on the first-round match against Rice. They are plenty good.”

The Aggies (16-10) are making their 19th consecutive and 24th overall appearance in the tournament. Last year, 20th-ranked Texas A&M was sent to Waco, Texas, where the Aggies defeated Louisiana Monroe, 4-2, in the first round and then upset host and 16th-ranked Baylor, 4-3, in the second round to advance to the round of 16 for the fourth time in five years and the fifth time overall. A&M then fell to No. 1-ranked and eventual national champion Florida, 4-0, at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Georgia.

“It's not easy making these tournaments,” Weaver said when asked about the 19 consecutive appearances in the tournament. “It's not something to take for granted. The depth in college tennis, definitely there a lot of very good teams that didn't make the tournament this year. It's not easy to do, so we are proud of that achievement. It is kind of special for me. I started 19 years ago as a volunteer coach for Coach Bobby Kleinecke, and so it's kind of neat for me as a well. It is exciting for the Aggies, and this is a team that has really persevered throughout the season. We are working very hard right now and playing some very good tennis, and I am looking forward to see how we perform in the first round against Rice.”

A&M’s best finish in program history was runner-up at the 2013 NCAA Championship, where the Aggies fell to Stanford, 4-3, in the championship match at Urbana, Illinois.

Rice received an at-large bid and is making its seventh consecutive and 11th overall appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Last year the Owls fell to TCU, 4-0, in the first round.

McNeese received and automatic bid and is making its first NCAA appearance after winning the Southland Conference tournament championship. The Cowgirls also won the SLC regular-season title.

Led by the No. 1 singles player in the country, Bianca Turati, Texas went undefeated in the Big 12 Conference regular season and also captured the league’s tournament title.  The Longhorns are making their third consecutive and 35th overall appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

A&M holds a 26-10 lead in the all-time series against the Owls. Rice, however, has won the last two meetings, including a 4-3 victory against the Aggies on Feb. 5 in Houston.

A&M has won four of the last five meetings against Texas, all under previous head coach Howard Joffe, who was hired as the head coach of the Longhorns following the 2015 season. In the most recent meeting, A&M defeated the Longhorns, 4-2, in the second round of the 2014 NCAA tournament in College Station. Texas leads the all-time series, 44-10, including 14-2 in matches played in Austin.

A&M and McNeese State have never met.

Texas A&M is one of 11 teams representing the Southeastern Conference in the tournament field. Vanderbilt is the No. 1 seed and Ole Miss and Georgia are the Nos. 5 and 7 seeds, respectively. Florida (9) and South Carolina (10) also were among the 16 seeded teams, while Auburn, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State and Tennessee also made the tournament field.

The Aggies tied LSU for ninth place in the SEC regular-season standings with a 5-8 record. A&M has not played since falling to top-ranked Vanderbilt, 4-1, in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament on April 20 in Knoxville, Tennessee.