North Carolina A&T

North Carolina A&T women’s tennis wins big over Hampton

The Aggies survive another day in the tennis tournament; they will face top-seeded program next

Courtesy of North Carolina A&T Athletics

WILLIAMSBURG, Va.  – Exaggeration often holds hands with athletics when a description is needed. But to call North Carolina A&T’s Colonial Atheltic Association Women’s Tennis Championship Tournament first-round 4-3 win over the Hampton Pirates on Thursday the biggest in modern program history is not such a case.  

The Aggies, the No. 9 seed in the tournament, won at William & Mary’s Mackesy Tennis Center and will play the top seed and the tournament host, William & Mary Tribe Saturday morning at 9. The win improved the Aggies to 9-7 on the season, guaranteeing the program its first winning season in modern history. 

The historic win comes on the heels of the Aggies going 0-28 from 2020-22. Over five years from 2018-22, North Carolina A&T went 3-63, and Thursday’s CAA tournament win marks the program’s first postseason victory in 18 years. So, there are no exaggerations here. 

“This was a team effort and a well-deserved win for a women’s team that had to endure so much adversity with injuries off and on all season long,” said A&T head coach Dejon Bivens. “It was great to see that when it matters most, they made it happen to give us a chance to play against William & Mary tomorrow. We earned the right to play the best. We will bring all that we have for that effort.”

They certainly did that on Thursday. So to say Thursday’s win was hard-fought is not an overstatement. In fact, it may be an understatement. Trailing 3-2 with the No. 2 and No. 3 singles players still on the court, sophomore Cielo Tapia-Cruz found herself down a set at No. 2 against Diana Starodubtseva. 

Tapia-Cruz then became aware that the team needed her point. She quickly responded, dominating the second set 6-0 before taking the crucial third set 6-4 to keep North Carolina A&T season alive and put the opportunity to advance in a postseason tournament on the racquet of freshman Nuria Sanz at No. 3 singles. 

“Cielo has been showing such class and fight all season,” said Bivens. “To come back from a set down to win and give us a chance was breathtaking.” 

It took Sanz and her opponent, Mio Kozaki, four hours before their match determined Thursday’s winner. Although Sanz took the first set 6-3, Kozaki grabbed set No. 2, 7-5. Therefore, the match came down to the third set, where Sanz broke Kozaki’s serve three times to win the third set 6-2, sending the Aggies to the CAA quarterfinals. 


“What a crazy day. My singles match was a fight,” said Sanz. “It was a mental fight, and I was there for it most of the time. Today’s key was to break my opponent’s serve and try to win my serve every time. After I gave the team the clinching point, I was proud of how we worked and fought. I’m so happy with my mentality and my fight.” 

The day opened with Hampton tennis taking the doubles point by winning two of the three doubles competitions. Kozaki and Starodubtseva defeated Lana Caculovic and Isabela Romanichen 7-5 to start tournament play. The Pirates claimed the doubles point when their No. 3 team, Angelina Blinova and Lucia Jor Fernandez, beat Nour Gueblaoui and Asima Sazan 6-1. 

Sanz and Tapia-Cruz did give the Aggies some momentum going into singles with a No. 2 doubles win over Laura Peralta and Franzene Tsui 6-1. Gueblaoui then avenged her doubles loss with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Sobenna Egwuekwe at No. 5 singles to even the match at 1. 

North Carolina A&T

North Carolina A&T tennis took the lead as Romanichen defeated Fernandez 6-0, 6-2 at No. 4 singles. Hampton tied the match when Blinova defeated Caculovic in three sets, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2. The Pirates took the lead 3-2 when Peralta defeated Sazan at No. 6 singles, 0-6, 7-5, 6-4, setting up the dramatic ending. 

“The energy and the tournament were different today,” said Gueblauoui. “I loved it, and then supporting my friends was so great, sharing positive energy with them and staying beside them on their matches. I’m looking forward to our next fight.”

North Carolina A&T women’s tennis wins big over Hampton
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