May 14, 2017
By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
After battling back from a loss in the first-set tiebreaker, Baylor freshman Jessica Hinojosa was up a break in the third set in the last match on court in Sunday's NCAA Championship second-round matchup against Texas A&M.
Five points from winning, and punching 16th-seeded Baylor's ticket for a Round of 16 berth in Athens, Ga., Hinojosa lost back-to-back deuce games and was broken twice in falling to Texas A&M's Macarena Olivares, 7-6(5), 5-7, 6-4, in the deciding match in the Lady Bears' 4-3 loss at the Hurd Tennis Center.
"Ultimately, you've got to give credit to A&M," said coach Joey Scrivano, whose team ended the season at 22-7. "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."
The Lady Bears had chances in doubles, taking early leads at Nos. 1 and 3. But, the Aggies' No. 3 team of Stefania Hristov and Saska Gavrilovska rallied to clinch it with a 7-5 win over Theresa Van Zyl and Rhiann Newborn after Hinojosa and fellow freshman Angie Shakhraichuk got blitzed by Eva Paalma and Domenica Gonzalez, 6-0, at No. 2.
"It wasn't even about the point, it's more about the mentality going in," senior Blair Shankle said. "We were totally fine playing from a point down. But, A&M is an incredible frontrunner team when they have that point. That's a point, but for us it wasn't like we needed to panic. I think it was more about the momentum than A&M having that point."
The Aggies (18-12) earned a split in singles when Olivares pulled out the first-set tiebreaker at No. 6. Hinojosa had fought back from a 1-5 deficit and broke Olivares three times, but she lost the first three points in the tiebreaker and wasn't able to dig out of that hole.
"Jess has battled the entire season," Scrivano said. "And as a freshman, you can't really ask much more of her. . . . . She was matched up against a more experienced player, and unfortunately in these types of matches, normally experience wins. And that was the case today."
Gavriolovska rolled through Van Zyl, 6-1, 6-1, at No. 4, countered by Newborn's 6-4, 6-2 win over Gonzalez at No. 3. A&M's 53rd-ranked senior, Rutuja Bhosale, got the Aggies' third point on the board by beating sophomore Elizabeth Profit, 7-5, 6-2, at No. 2.
"Liz competed hard, but at some point competing hard isn't enough," Scrivano said. "You have to compete hard and execute and find a way to win. There were a few spots in our lineup that have not produced the entire season, and we've got to fix that."
Shakhraichuk swept Paalma, 6-3, 6-3, at No. 5, then Shankle fought through an injury and rallied from a 2-5 second-set deficit to defeat 16th-ranked Rachel Pierson, 6-2, 7-5, at No. 1 to knot the score at 3-3.
"Rachel started playing well and playing smart, so I knew I had to make a few adjustments," said Shankle, who picked up her 11th win over a ranked opponent this year while improving to 5-0 versus Pierson. "I did, and fortunately it went well for me. Some didn't go my way the beginning, and then I kind of got a few in the end. It was a really tough match."
Scrivano said Shankle, who will play in the NCAA Championship singles and doubles tournaments later this month in Athens, "is one of the best players we've ever had here."
"She always competes, she always brings that competitive fire," he said. "She's not playing her best right now, but she's making up for it in grit and toughness. This sport honors toughness. If you're tough, you're going to win a lot of matches. And Blair is as tough as it comes."
Newborn, who played her last collegiate match and plans to graduate in August, said Hinojosa will learn from coming up short in the closing position.
"She fought so hard out there," Newborn said. "It's sad that she wasn't able to pull it out, but it's OK. It's a good learning experience for her, for us, and now it's just time to move on to next year."
WACO, Texas -- In its tightest match of the season, the No. 16 Baylor women's tennis program fell to Texas A&M, 4-3, in the NCAA Championship second round on Sunday afternoon. The loss closes the team portion of the postseason for the Lady Bears, who end the year with a 22-7 mark overall.
After surrendering the doubles point and the first singles result on court four, the Lady Bears battled their way back into match contention. Senior Rhiann Newborn put her squad on the board with a strong victory on court three, 6-4, 6-2, against Domenica Gonzalez.
Texas A&M responded with another win at No. 2 singles to establish a 3-1 lead, but Baylor gained steam when freshman Angelina Shakhraichuk came through with a win on court five, 6-3, 6-3, over Eva Paalma to cut the deficit to one.
With the match result on the line, No. 3-ranked Blair Shankle came through with a huge tiebreak victory in No. 1 singles. She bested No. 16-ranked Rachel Pierson, 6-2, 7-6(5) to knot the team score, 3-3, and earn her 11th win over a ranked opponent this season.
On court six, freshman Jessica Hinojosa fought through a match exceeding three hours, but succumbed in the end to Macarena Olivares, 7-6(5), 5-7, 6-4. The three-setter clinched a berth to the Round of 16 for Texas A&M.
● Senior Blair Shankle posted her 11th win over a ranked opponent, besting No. 16 Rachel Pierson, 6-2, 7-6(5) in No. 1 singles.
● Shankle has won nine consecutive matches and is 18-2 in dual match play.
● Senior Rhiann Newborn ended her career with a 6-4, 6-2 victory at No. 3 singles. She ends her senior year with a 21-7 record overall and a 16-5 mark in dual match action.
● The Lady Bears are 21-1 when hosting NCAA Championship first and second round action.
● Baylor is 34-20 all-time in the NCAA Championship and 31-14 under head coach Joey Scrivano.
● BU is 23-2 all-time in NCAA Championship matches played in Waco.
● The Lady Bears won nine of their last 11 dual matches of the season.
● Baylor is 10-5 all-time in NCAA Championship second round matches.
"Ultimately, you have to give credit to Texas A&M. They have a great team, they have a lot of experience, they have another gear and they put it into another gear today. Credit to them and their coaches, they did a great job and out-competed us. When you're in a match this close, you need your opponent to help you a bit. We weren't the best version of ourselves and they played very well. Those two things turn into a 4-3 loss for us." - Baylor head coach Joey Scrivano
Senior Blair Shankle will compete in the NCAA Championship singles competition at Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga., on May 24-29. She was the No. 5 overall seeded player as the automatic qualifier out of the Big 12 Conference. Shankle enters the 64-player bracket with a No. 3 national ranking.