The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Aggie women’s, men’s tennis enter NCAA Tournament

Texas+A%26amp%3BM+Junior+Mary+Stoiana+returns+a+volley+during+Texas+A%26amp%3BMs+match+against+TCU+on+Sunday%2C+Jan.+28%2C+2024+at+Mitchell+Outdoor+Tennis+Center+in+College+Station%2C+TX.
Photo by Chris Swann
Texas A&M Junior Mary Stoiana returns a volley during Texas A&M’s match against TCU on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024 at Mitchell Outdoor Tennis Center in College Station, TX.

While the path hasn’t always been the smoothest, the 2024 campaign marked another year of consistency for the Texas A&M tennis programs.

With the selection show on April 30, the men’s team reached the NCAA Tournament for the 30th consecutive season as the No. 15 seed to host a regional, while the women’s squad marked its 24th trip in a row to the Big Dance with a No. 13 seed and hosting duties.

The men will kickstart the tournament versus Rice on Friday, May 3 at the Mitchell Tennis Center, with the women’s first serve against A&M-Corpus Christi set for Saturday, May 4 at 1 p.m.

While the ladies’ SEC regular season title and trip to the conference tournament championship gave little reason to doubt their hosting bid in the NCAA Tournament, a five-match skid by the men cast doubt on their chances of returning to their home court.

Following a win at LSU on March 31, the Aggies dropped their last four matches of the regular season before falling to the Tigers in the first round of the SEC Tournament on April 18. Three of the five matches came down to a tiebreaking seventh point.

“Now we need to go back and play the kind of level of tennis we played earlier in the season,” coach Steve Denton said. “We’ve been working hard, so we’ll see what happens.”

A two-week break between the SEC Tournament and the NCAAs provides a reset point for the team to fine-tune its craft and return to College Station, where it is 11-2 this season.

“We had two weeks to practice and we also had a chance to play a tournament for a few guys in the team to get some confidence,” senior Raphael Perot said. “I’m pretty sure we’re ready now to move on to the next. We’re having a better energy as a team … we’re in a good mindset right now, so I like our chances.”

Perot has been a mainstay at Court 1 for the Aggies this year as the country’s No. 23 players in singles, and his seven ranked wins earned him First Team All-SEC honors alongside junior JC Roddick. Not only does hosting offer a home-court advantage, but also an opportunity for Perot and graduate Kenner Taylor to finish their playing days in Aggieland on a high note.

“We were kind of scared of not being able to play at home,” Perot said. “I think it’s going to be a big advantage for us, especially here, I feel like it’s tough for the opponents to play here. I feel like that can give us extra motivation. Everybody was super excited even though we lost a few matches in a row.”

A&M is joined in the regional by Baylor at 18-11 and No. 18 San Diego with a 22-3 mark. The Bears find themselves in a similar funk, having lost four matches in a row, while the Toreros captured a West Coast Conference regular season and tournament crown. The regional champion will take on the winner of the Austin regional, hosted by Texas.

“Which comes first, the winning or the confidence?” Denton said. “The winning comes first, but now that we’ve not been able to win down the stretch, now we’ve got to step up and just play a little bit better in all these different matches and expect a good result when that happens.”

Despite opening the season with a 5-5 record and losses to three ranked teams, A&M’s women’s squad has continued the winning culture it’s built over the past several years. The Aggies will look to reach their third consecutive Elite Eight and fifth-straight Sweet 16.

A&M rebounded from its slow start by winning 17 of its next 19 matches, including a 12-1 mark in SEC action to claim a share of the conference regular season title. For their efforts, junior Mary Stoiana was named SEC Player of the Year while Lucciana Perez took home SEC Freshman of the Year honors.

“We truly feel like we’re as good as anyone in the country now with [senior] Carson [Branstine] and the lineup,” coach Mark Weaver said. “I’ll take our lineup against anyone. I feel like if we’re performing at the level that we’re capable of, we’re gonna be in great shape out there.”

Branstine returned to the Aggies’ roster in the conference tournament for the first time since undergoing hip surgery 12 months ago. Her success on tour this season translated to an A&M uniform, as she captured a singles and a doubles victory in the SEC Tournament.

“[She] definitely provides our team more depth,” Stoiana said. “She’s an experienced tennis player in all aspects so it’ll be fun to see how we contest other teams with just another level to our lineup.”

The Mitchell Tennis Center’s advantage hasn’t been limited to the men’s squad, as the ladies are gunning for their 54th consecutive victory in College Station. The Aggies are 10-0 at the venerable facility this season while being battle-tested away from it.

“I feel like we’ve traveled more this spring perhaps than we ever have in my coaching career,” Weaver said. “It’s always nice to sleep in your own bed and play on the courts that we’re familiar with. We’ve got a great fan base that’s just growing and growing every year and we’re a pretty tough team to mess with here in Aggieland.”

Power 5 competition will make its way to College Station in the form of Arizona at 17-12 and No. 18 Oklahoma at 18-6 and 11-2 in the Big 12. The Aggies and the Sooners last met in 2022, when Oklahoma put an end to A&M’s 33-2 season in the NCAA quarterfinals.

“We saw the adversity in the beginning of the regular season and in the past years,” Stoiana said. “I actually think it’s kind of nice that we got those hits in the beginning so that way we’re ready to go now in the postseason.”

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About the Contributors
Luke White
Luke White, Sports Editor
Luke White is a senior telecommunication media studies major and sport management minor from Round Rock, Texas. He has served as head sports editor since May 2023.
Chris Swann
Chris Swann, Photo Chief
Chris is a Journalism junior from Winnsboro, TX. Chris served as the Social Media Manager and Assistant Photo Chief prior to becoming Photo Chief for The Battalion’s photo desk. Before transferring to A&M in the Fall of 2023, Chris spent two years at Tyler Junior College, where he was Photo and Design editor for their student media, The DrumBeat. He is expected to graduate in May of 2026.
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