BEAUMONT, Texas – The Texas A&M – Corpus Christi Women's Tennis team matched their counterparts on the men's side Saturday afternoon, taking a 4-2 final over Sam Houston State to give the Islanders a team in both the men's and women's finals of the Southland Conference Tournament.
"This was what it's all about, just a flat-out battle," said Director of Tennis Steve Moore. "It was a great college tennis match with both teams fighting with all their heart for a shot to play in the finals and a chance to go to the NCAAs. I leave this match with a ton of respect for Sam Houston State, and a ton of respect for our girls as well."
The Islanders (17-3) got three two-set sweeps in singles, while Maider Martin fought back from a set down to clinch the match against Sam Houston (9-12) in the semifinal matchup. The women's team will face Northwestern State at 2 p.m. on Sunday for the tournament crown and an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
"This is a team that is such a true team," said Moore. "They're easy to believe in, and you can't help but want this for them because of what a high-character, true team they've been."
Due to the threat of inclement weather, both semifinal matches were changed to singles first, with doubles only being played if the match was tied 3-3 after singles. It looked headed that way, with Martin down a set before rallying back to take the second, and then rallying once again in the third from 4-3 down to take a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 final to clinch the match.
"I can't say enough about the freshmen, Maider and Celia, showing so much poise and mental toughness when we needed them the most," said Moore. "Every girl fought with all their heart, and I give credit to our women's team, men's team and all the fans as well, that really made this an electric environment and lifted up our girls."
The team got to that point after trailing early on, with Doris Kuselj falling 6-4, 6-0 at No. 1 singles, but Stefania Nicolae picked her team up quickly with a 6-1, 6-3 win at the No. 3 spot. From there it was a rapid succession of Islander points, with Celia Rodriguez Delgado winning 6-2, 6-3 at No. 5, followed within minutes by Sandra Burges at No. 4 singles with a 6-2, 6-4 final to make it a 3-1 lead. The penultimate point came at No. 6 singles, where Mia Matuszak battled in the first set to a tiebreaker before falling 7-6, 7-4), 6-0 at the No. 6 position.
"Sandra and Stefania fought as tough and as smart as you can ask players to play," said Moore. "I really thought these girls showed special heart and courage today."
Those setup the thrilling finish at No. 2 singles. Martin and her opponent Sheridan Currie were locked in a battle in at 4-4 for the crucial fifth game. The two traded points and advantages for 13 minutes in the single game before Martin pulled out the deciding point to take a 5-4 lead. She served for the match in the next game, clinching the victory for her team to send them to the finals.
The Islanders will face Northwestern State in a rematch of another classic battle between the two teams early in the season. The two teams have played five times since 2011, with all but one match finishing at 4-3 for the winner. The Islanders will try to keep their streak alive, having beat the Lady Demons 4-3 the last two times they have met.
"We know we have a great challenge tomorrow against Northwestern State, a team and a coach we have the highest respect for," said Moore. "We'll max out the things we can control tonight, and be ready to fight tomorrow with all of our hearts."
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Tennis Match Results
Sam Houston State vs Texas A&M - Corpus Christi
04/27/13 at Beaumont, Texas
Texas A&M - Corpus Christi 4, Sam Houston State 2
1. Tanya Postnikova (SHSU) def. Doris Kuselj (AMCC) 6-4, 6-0
2. Maider Martin (AMCC) def. Sheridan Currie (SHSU) 4-6, 6-4, 6-4
3. Stefania Nicolae (AMCC) def. Imke Jagau (SHSU) 6-1, 6-3
4. Sandra Burges (AMCC) def. Natalie Petaia (SHSU) 6-2, 6-4
5. Celia Rodriguez (AMCC) def. Maddie Mortimore (SHSU) 6-2, 6-3
6. Nadia Dubyanskaya (SHSU) def. Mia Matuszak (AMCC) 7-6 (7-4), 6-0
Sam Houston State 9-12
Texas A&M - Corpus Christi 17-3
Order of finish: Singles (1,3,5,4,6,2)