Maggie Mello

The Texas women’s tennis squad picked up two key conference victories over the weekend against Oklahoma State and No. 22 Oklahoma.

First the Longhorns trounced the Cowgirls 6-1 on Friday.

Junior Krista Damico and sophomore Aeriel Ellis began the match with a convincing 8-2 triumph over OSU’s doubles pair of Nataliya Shatkovskaya and C.C. Sardinha. Freshmen Cierra Gaytan-Leach and senior Amanda Craddock secured the doubles point for UT, beating Oklahoma State’s second pairing of Kanyapat Narratana and Malika Rose 8-5.

Afterward, Texas freshman Juliana Gajic and senior Maggie Mello survived the stamina battle against OSU’s Sasha Belova and Leyla Simmons, winning 7-6 (4) in a tiebreaker.

“That was probably the best doubles we have played all year,” said Texas head coach Patty Fendick-McCain. “Oklahoma State is a tough team. I think our girls were really mentally prepared to go in and do some damage.”

Ellis began the singles side of the match with a 6-4, 4-0 win over Belova, giving UT a 2-0 lead overall. Craddock was next in line, prevailing 6-4, 6-1 over Sardinha.

“I had to be really aggressive towards her,” Craddock said. “It was really just who could last longer and put away the shots.”

Gaytan-Leach sealed the Longhorn victory with a 6-2, 6-2 triumph over Sarah Meghoufel.

“The Big 12 is the strongest it’s ever been this year,” Fendick-McCain said. “Obviously, getting that one under our belts feels pretty good.”

Texas faced the Sooners on Sunday. The Longhorns sent their seniors off in good style, beating Oklahoma in the last home match of the season.

Texas had a tough break to start the match, losing the doubles point to Oklahoma in a tie-breaker.

Craddock and Gaytan-Leach began, beating OU’s Ana-Maria Constantinescu and Alice Radu 8-3. Afterward, Gajic and Mello fell to OU’s Tara Eckel and Marie-Pier Huet 4-8. Damico and Ellis were defeated in a back and forth tie-breaker, 7-5.

Behind 0-1, Gaytan-Leach defeated OU’s Maria Kalashnikova 6-0, 6-3 after Ritchie retired from her match against Mello, forfeiting 7-5, 2-1. Damico pushed UT’s lead to 3-1, beating Constantinescu 6-4, 6-4.

“It was a stressful beginning, but it forced me to dig down deep,” Damico said. “It’s always great to win against the big ones like OU and Texas A&M.”

Gajic clinched the victory for Texas, prevailing over Lancaster.

“This is a pivotal win,” Fendick-McCain said. “The sooners have been a very tough team and have been ahead of us most of the year. We were up to the challenge today, and knew it was coming.”
 

After failing to qualify any Longhorns for the doubles draw over the weekend at the ITA All-American Championship in Los Angeles, Texas will attempt to advance some players in the singles event beginning today.

Both of the Texas doubles pairs competing in the draw were unable to avoid defeat in the opening round on Saturday. The duo of junior Krista Damico and freshman Cierra Gaytan-Leach fell 8-4 against a team from Harvard. Also failing to advance were seniors Amanda Craddock and Caroline Larsson, who were beaten 8-5 by Kansas’ Ekaterina Morozova and Erin Wilbert.

Damico, however, remains in California as she will begin her competition in the qualifying rounds of the singles draw today. She joins senior Maggie Mello and sophomore Aeriel Ellis, who had the weekend off. Mello and Ellis are also expected to be playing together in the qualifying stages of the doubles draw.

Ellis will also be participating as an alternate for the main singles draw. This will be an important event for Ellis, as she finds herself involved in two of the last three events that the Longhorns remain alive in. Ellis was the 2010 Big 12 Conference Freshman of the Year, as well as the ITA Texas Region Rookie Player of the Year. Playing in all three national championship events last season (the ITA All-American Championship, ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships and the NCAA Championships) she was able to tally a 32-14 overall singles record.