Women's Tennis captures Big 12 Championship, defeats Texas A&M, 4-2
April 29, 2012
COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Cierra Gaytan-Leach punctuated a come-from-behind, three-set win with a service ace, as fourth-seeded Texas (17-7) collected the doubles point and three singles wins to seal a 4-2 win over third-seeded host Texas A&M (18-5) Sunday in the finals of the 2012 Big 12 Championship.
Texas claims its eighth Big 12 Championship - its first since 2005 - and the first for seventh-year head coach Patty Fendick-McCain, who has led the Horns to the finals of the Big 12 Championship in each of her seven seasons in Austin. Texas becomes just the second fourth-seeded team to win the Big 12 Championship. Oklahoma State was the last No. 4 seed to win the event in 2003.
Texas sophomore Elizabeth Begley was selected as the Big 12 Championship’s Most Outstanding Performer after going 3-0 in singles play without dropping a set. The Houston native completed the regular season with a 9-0 mark against conference foes and improved that mark to 12-0 with her victories this weekend over Oklahoma State’s Isabela Miro, Texas Tech’s Nikki Sanders and Texas A&M’s Sheri Olivier.
The Horns won matches at the first and second doubles matches to assume a 1-0 lead before adding wins from Begley, freshman Lina Padegimaite and the clincher from Cierra Gaytan-Leach to seal the victory, which was punctuated by a Gaytan-Leach ace on match point.
At second doubles, UT’s Krista Damico and Gaytan-Leach led off by breaking the 16-match winning streak of A&M’s Janelle Cuthbertson and Nazari Urbina. UT raced out to a 5-0 lead behind three service breaks. A&M closed within 5-2, but Texas cruised to an 8-3 win. Texas’ Begley and Aeriel Ellis held a 5-3 lead over the Aggies’ Sheri Olivier and Lauren Santacroce at third doubles, but the Aggies claimed the next three games to assume a 6-5 lead. Texas held serve to even the match at six games apiece, but A&M held and broke the Horns in the final game to take an 8-6 win.
Texas’ Padegimaite and Noel Scott broke the Aggies’ Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar and Wen Sun to take a 4-3 lead at first doubles. UT held serve and broke once more for a 6-3 lead. Both teams held serve the rest of the way, and A&M failed to put a final Scott serve in play, as UT claimed the match, 8-4 to nail down the doubles point.
Begley made short work of A&M’s Olivier at sixth singles, as she posted a 6-0, 6-1 win to push the Texas lead to 2-0. Padegimaite, who joined Begley to finish 9-0 in conference play, remained undefeated against league foes, as she notched a 6-0, 6-2 win over A&M’s Santacroce at fourth singles to extend the Longhorns’ lead to 3-0.
Texas A&M responded with a victory at first singles, where the Aggies’ eighth-ranked Sanchez-Quintanar topped UT’s Ellis, 6-0, 6-1. A&M pulled within 3-2 when the Aggies’ 81st-ranked Sun defeated UT’s Scott by a 6-1, 6-0 count at third singles.
At fifth singles, which proved to be the clinching point, Gaytan-Leach broke for a 3-2 first-set lead over the Aggies’ Cuthbertson. But, Cuthbertson held serve twice and broke Gaytan-Leach as many times to take the first set, 6-3. Gaytan-Leach broke for a 5-2 second-set lead before Cuthbertson broke Gaytan-Leach and held serve to close within 5-4. However, Gaytan-Leach held serve to close out the second set, 6-4.
At 1-all in the third set, Gaytan-Leach broke Cuthbertson’s serve before holding serve, breaking Cuthbertson and holding once more for a 5-1 lead. Cuthbertson held serve in the following game, but at match point in the following game, Gaytan-Leach swatted an emphatic ace to finish off the Horns’ 4-2 title-winning victory over the Aggies.
Damico and Urbina were engaged in a match at second singles that had the makings of a classic before the match was called when Gaytan-Leach nailed down the match-clinching point. Neither Damico nor Urbina held serve in the first set’s opening eight games before Damico held serve for a 5-4 lead. Damico managed to hold serve for the first time in the match to close out the first set, 6-4. Damico broke Urbina to tie the second set at three before holding serve for a 4-3 lead. Urbina held serve and broke Damico for a 5-4 lead when Gaytan-Leach’s match became final.
Texas and Texas A&M had met just 12 days prior to Sunday’s Big 12 Championship finals. The Aggies dealt the Longhorns a 4-3 defeat on April 17 in College Station. Texas and Texas A&M each tied with Baylor for second place in the final Big 12 Conference standings. Baylor, who had claimed the second seed in a tiebreaker, fell to A&M in Saturday’s semifinals, while Texas defeated top-seeded Texas Tech on Saturday to set up Sunday’s title match between the Longhorns and the Aggies.
The NCAA will announce the 64-team NCAA Tournament field on Tuesday, May 1 at 4 p.m. Central with a selection show on NCAA.com. Texas is poised to earn one of 16 No. 1 seeds available.
There is really some parity in the Big 12 at this point. We are seeing every single team battling really well and playing really good tennis. We knew we had to play just about our best tennis to get through this. About four days ago we were dragging a little bit with a few speed bumps toward the end of the regular season. I am really proud of the girls and the way they were able to right the ship.
It’s special for us. We haven’t won this before. one of our goals this season was to come and win this tournament. After the bumps in the road, it seemed almost unlikely. It’s a true tribute to their resiliency and their determination and their Texas fighting spirit.
On the leadership from senior Krista Damico
On winning the Big 12 Championship with a youthful roster
On Cierra Gaytan-Leach rallying from a set down to win her match
Texas senior Krista Damico
On the challenge of winning the Big 12 Championship
On Cierra Gaytan-Leach clinching the match
Texas sophomore Elizabeth Begley (Big 12 Championship’s Most Outstanding Performer)
On winning the Big 12 Championship
Texas sophomore Cierra Gaytan-Leach
On rallying to win the final two sets of her match
2012 Big 12 Championship – Finals
ITA Team Rankings: #13 Texas, #19 Texas A&M