NACOGDOCHES, Texas – The Texas A&M – Corpus Christi women's tennis team won their first Southland Conference Tournament match in team history on Thursday, beating Northwestern State by a 4-3 final in a four-and-a-half battle that saw them beat the Lady Demons for the first time since 2007. Mia Matuszak gutted out a win at No. 6 singles on a hurt ankle to win the deciding point.
The Islanders improve to 16-4 on the year with the win, and will move on to face the No. 1-seeded Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks at 2 p.m. on Friday afternoon. NSU finishes their season with a record of 14-5 in 2012.
"Unbelievably proud of the way these girls fought and never gave up," said Director of Tennis Steve Moore. "6-3, 4-2 down in the final match for the season to end, and they fight back and find a way to win against a very good team."
The Lady Demons were the Southland Conference Champions and tournament champions just two years ago and advanced to the NCAA Championships.
"This was simply a great college tennis match, and what college tennis is all about," said Moore. "Never giving up and battling until the end, even when you're down, even when you're way down.
"The way that Mia fought, and all these girls rose up and pulled her through, was one of the best team efforts. That's the great thing about the conference tournament, you either rise up or the season ends, and they rose up today in a big way."
In doubles, the Islanders fell behind early after Mirna Cicak and Doris Kuselj fell by an 8-3 final at the No. 1 position. The team quickly tied it up however, with Ashley Garza and Stefania Nicolae winning 8-5 at the No. 3 spot.
That left the deciding match at No. 2 doubles, and it did not disappoint. After Sandra Burges and Chelsea Horan raced out to a 5-2 lead, and were on the verge of taking the match while ahead 7-6, Northwestern State broke their serve and won the next two points to take an 8-7 lead. Undeterred, Burges and Horan fought back to tie it at 8-8 and send in into a tiebreak. "
Chelsea and Sandra in the doubles tiebreaker, battling back to win 9-7, this was match was simply all about battling, never giving up, and never losing belief, said Moore. "Northwestern State played a great match and deserved to win also, our girls just never quit."
Things looked bleak early on, as NSU won the first three points in a game to seven, and held a 6-3 lead to bring match point. The Islanders duo won three straight points to tie it at 6-6 before NSU regained a slim lead at 7-6. Burges and Horan would go on to win the next three points to claim a 9-8 (9-7) final and give their team a 1-0 lead.
In singles, Horan won a 6-0, 7-5 final in No. 5 singles, and Nicolae picked up a 6-2, 7-5 win at No. 4 to give the Islanders a 3-0 lead.
The Demons came back with three straight wins, as Burges lost 7-5, 6-4 at No. 3, Kuselj went down by a 6-1, 7-6 score at No. 2, and Cicak was unable to battle back after a first set defeat, losing 6-3, 7-5 at No. 1 singles.
That tied the score at 3-3, and put the entire match on the outcome of No. 6 singles. After a quick first set were Matuszak struggle with finding the right way to play on her tender ankle, she rallied from 4-2 down in the second to win it and go on to a 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 final to give her team the victory.
The win was the first ever for the Islanders women, and with the win, they finally got over the hump against Northwestern State. They lost to the Lady Demons 4-3 both last year and this year in the regular season, and lost 4-0 in the Southland Conference Tournament in 2011.
Both the men's and women's team will be in action on Friday, with the men playing against UTSA in the first round of the men's tournament at 10 a.m., while the women will play SFA in the semifinals at 2 p.m.
"Tomorrow we face another incredibly tough test against Stephen F. Austin at home, a team that we have a ton of respect for," said Moore. "We don't have much time, so we need to be ready to go on short notice, but I promise you they will be ready. I have a lot of faith in the character of these girls."
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Tennis Match Results
Texas A&M - Corpus Christi vs Northwestern State
04/26/2012 at Nacogdoches, Texas
Texas A&M - Corpus Christi 4, Northwestern State 3
1. Olga Bazhanova (NSU) def. Mirna Cicak (AMCC) 6-3, 7-5
2. Tatiana Larina (NSU) def. Doris Kuselj (AMCC) 6-1, 7-6
3. Polina Konop (NSU) def. Sandra Burges (AMCC) 7-5, 6-4
4. Stefania Nicolae (AMCC) def. Andrea Nedorostova (NSU) 6-2, 7-5
5. Chelsea Horan (AMCC) def. Amy Williams (NSU) 6-0, 7-5
6. Mia Matuszak (AMCC) def. Linda Gamo (NSU) 3-6, 6-4, 6-2
1. Olga Bazhanova/Polina Konop (NSU) def. Mirna Cicak/Doris Kuselj (AMCC) 8-3
2. Chelsea Horan/Sandra Burges (AMCC) def. Tatiana Larina/Andrea Nedorostova (NSU) 9-8 (9-7)
3. Stefania Nicolae/Ashley Garza (AMCC) def. Linda Gamo/Amy Williams (NSU) 8-2
Texas A&M - Corpus Christi 16-4
Northwestern State 14-5
Order of finish: Doubles (1,3,2); Singles (5,4,3,2,1,6)
2012 SLC Women's Championship Tournament - Opening Round