Texas A&M men’s tennis coach Steve Denton popped out onto Court 1 pumping his fist. The Aggies’ Carlos Aguilar had just won a point to give him four chances to claim a victory and tie the match against Oklahoma at 3-3. It was the first time the Aggies, fighting an uphill battle the entire afternoon, could see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Aguilar went on to even the score with a three-set victory, but Oklahoma’s Mason Beller spoiled the moment minutes later by staving off four match points in a tiebreaker to beat Noah Schachter 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 (7) in the second round of the NCAA men’s tennis tournament at the Mitchell Tennis Center on Sunday.
“It looked like we were turning the momentum in our favor and I felt like that it was going to come down to Noah at the end there,” Denton said. “We had a chance [after Aguilar’s win] and then they were able to come through and prevail in those key moments. Noah had his chances just wasn’t able to convert at the right time but like I said I thought Mason really stepped up and played well in those big points.”
The Aggies lost the doubles point and never led in the match, and appeared in trouble a number of times, until Aguilar posted his 6-0, 4-6, 7-5 victory over Spencer Papa. Schachter was leading when Aguilar clinched and had three match points at 5-4, but was unable to put his fellow Floridian and freshman away.
“Give credit to Oklahoma, they played well in the big points and big moments and that was the difference in this match,” Denton said. “We were kind of behind the whole day and we got ourselves in the match and gave ourselves a chance to win so that was what I was really proud of was our guys kept fighting and gave ourselves the opportunity.”
With the win, No. 21 Oklahoma, 17-10, will travel to No 3 Wake Forest for a super regional matchup. No. 13 Texas A&M finished the season at 21-8.
“We didn’t win tiebreakers today, like I said it would come down to yesterday,” Denton said. “We didn’t quite get that done in the last match, but Mason Beiler played really well, has been playing with a lot of confidence and he hit the ball on those big points, went for his shots and that’s what it takes in those situations.”
A&M lost the only other tiebreaker of the match when Ferran Calvo defeated Barney Smith 6-2, 7-6 (5) at No. 4 to put OU up 3-2.
The Sooners clinched the doubles point at No. 1 doubles on an Alex Bakshi service winner for the 6-4 win over Aguilar and Smith. The only break came on an Aguilar double-fault one game after the Aggies had two opportunities to break. A&M’s Valentin Vacherot and Schachter won 6-3 at No. 2 doubles and OU’s No. 3 doubles team won of Papa and Max Stewart won 6-4.
“I knew it was going to be a close match the last one was 4-3 [on March 9] and we won the doubles last time and that was ultimately the difference today,” Denton said.
Hady Habib pulled A&M even momentarily at 1-1 with a 7-5, 6-0 victory over former teammate Bakshi at No. 2.
Stefano Tsorotiotis put OU up 2-1 with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over freshman Austin Abbrat.
Vacherot made it 2-2 by defeating Jake Van Emburgh 6-3, 7-5 at No. 3. It was Vacherot’s first victory in three matches over Van Emburgh.
“Obviously Val’s point against Van Emburgh and Carlos here winning a tough match with Papa was big,” Denton said. “It’s not easy to win the first set 6-0 and then still win the match after losing the second set. That showed a tough mental effort to win that match.”
The Aggies were one of two host teams that failed to advance to the Sweet 16, but Denton wasn’t about to let that deter from the team’s season, one in which they finished third in the Southeastern Conference after losing four All-Americans and making it to the NCAA tournament semifinals.
“It’s hard to lose at the very end, disappointing and I feel badly for the guys because they’ve put there heart and soul into it this year and for it to come to an abrupt end is difficult,” Denton said. “Good news is the whole team is back and we’re looking forward to the future. It’s a bitter pill right now to swallow but hopefully it will be motivation to do well next year.”