By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
The Baylor Women’s Tennis team had its season come to an end over the weekend. The Lady Bears battled their way back from multiple deficits before ultimately falling 4-3 to Texas A&M in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Freshman Jessica Hinojosa led 4-3 and served to consolidate the break when Texas A&M junior Macarena Olivares stormed back to win that game and her own service game at deuce before breaking Hinojosa a second time to complete the 7-6, 5-7, 6-4 win and clinch the victory for Texas A&M.
Baylor head coach Joey Scrivano said that Texas A&M deserved all the credit for battling all afternoon long.
“Ultimately, you’ve got to give credit to A&M,” Scrivano said. “They’re very experienced. They have another gear, and they put it into another gear today. When a matchup is this close, you need your opponent to help you a little bit. I felt like we weren’t the best version of ourselves today. And credit to A&M, they played very well. So, the combination of those two things turned it into a 4-3 loss for us.”
Texas A&M led from the onset and Baylor was constantly forced to play catch up.
The Aggies earned the doubles point with a 6-0 win by junior Eva Paalma and sophomore Domenica Gonzalez and a 7-5 win by redshirt senior Stefanis Hristov and senior Saska Gavrilovska.
Texas A&M grabbed a 2-0 lead against Baylor when Gavrilovska grabbed a 6-1, 6-1 win over Baylor junior Theresa Van Zyl on court No. 3.
Baylor did get points back on court No. 1 thanks to a 6-2, 7-6 win by senior Blair Shankle, court No. 3 with senior Rhiann Newborn’s 6-4 6-2 win and on court No. 5 with freshman Angelina Shakhraichuk’s 6-3, 6-3 win.
However, A&M senior Rutuja Bhosale prevailed 7-5, 6-2 on court No. 2 to even the match and Olivares’ streak of three straight games against Hinojosa sealed the deal.
Newborn said she believes that the loss will only make Hinojosa stronger as she gets older and that this experience will be invaluable to her moving forward.
“She fought so hard out there. It’s sad that she wasn’t able to pull it out,” Newborn said. “It’s a good learning experience for her, for us and now it’s just time to move on to next year.”
Baylor advanced to meet Texas A&M on Sunday thanks to a clean 4-0 sweep of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the first round.
The Lady Bears got to work early and often, beginning with the doubles competition. Shankle and sophomore Karina Traxler easily advanced 6-2 on court No. 1 while Shakhraichuk and Hinjosa clinched the point on court No. 2 with a 6-1 set win.
Shakhraichuk and Hinojosa continued their play on courts five and six, clinching the first two singles points for the Lady bears.
Hinojosa clinched first with a 6-1, 6-0 win with Shakhraichuk right behind her at 6-0, 6-1.
Scrivano said that it has been the play of the freshmen duo that has helped elevate Baylor to where it’s at on the tennis court.
“We have great depth on our team, and our freshmen are a big part of that,” Scrivano said. “They’ve definitely helped our lineup become stronger all the way, one through six. That’s what it takes to have a team that goes deep in the tournament.”
With Van Zyl, sophomore Elizabeth Profit and Shankle leading on their prospective courts, it was Newborn who sent the Lady Bears moving on in the bracket. Newborn closed out Corpus Christi freshman Louise Trigona 6-1, 6-3 on court No. 3.
While team competition for the Lady Bears is over, Shankle will continue in the Singles competition of the NCAA Tournament.
Shankle is 27-4 this season, earning her the No. 5 seed nationally. The tournament will run May
19-23 at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga.