Conference tournament season is here with 5 underway on the women’s side and 4 on the men’s side. There are 3 conferences that will not hold tournaments this year due to COVID cutbacks so the regular season champions in the Mid-American (MAC), Mountain West, and West Coast (WCC) will earn the league’s automatic birth into the NCAA Championships. Several other conferences have cutback the number of schools that will be participating in its tournaments with the Big South, Big Sky, Horizon, MEAC, Ohio Valley, and Southern just inviting the top 4.
The ASUN will be spread over this weekend and next with the quarterfinal rounds being played this weekend on campus sites. The remaining four teams will head to Jacksonville next weekend where host North Florida is the 5-time reigning women’s champion while the Florida Gulf Coast men will attempt to repeat its title from 2019.
The 2021 ITA Kickoff Weekend got fired up on Friday with each of the 4 hosts in action advancing into the regional final. I still don’t quite have the time to get into any kind of detail on each match but I have put together a daily schedule of the matches along with live scoring/video links. The 7 regional winners on the men’s side will head to Champaign in 3 weeks (Feb 12-14) where Illinois awaits as the host while on the women’s side the regional winners head to Stillwater in 2 weeks (Feb 5-7) with Oklahoma State set to host.
There are several places that will keep you informed on what is happening throughout the weekend. Cracked Racquets is doing a RedZone style broadcast each day. Alex and Chris were on the air for over 8 hours on Friday flipping from one court to the next and today (Saturday) should be a really long day with those two expected to cover the action for almost 12 hours – definitely give them a listen and you can comment during the matches by using the YouTube chat feature.
The ITA Kickoff Weekend event page has box scores of each completed match along with all the relevant information that you’ll need for each regional. Just click on the tabs at the top to make your selections.
The craziness of the last few days finally culminated on Thursday with the inevitable announcement from the NCAA confirming what we all knew was coming – the 2020 spring season and subsequent NCAA Championships were officially cancelled. The coronavirus, which has been sweeping the planet over the last several months, finally started to ramp up in the United States and after the number of cases spiked up conferences and schools started to pull the plug on fans attending events and then ultimately calling everything off.
Was the quick decision to cancel the season too rash? Only time will tell but it was a move that the NCAA and each school/conference felt they had to make to try and slow the growth of the virus down.
I personally thought that each conference should have shut down for a 30-day period (similar to what is happening in Europe with soccer) and then reevaluated at that point with the decision made on facts rather than the panic that was sweeping the nation. If things had improved (decreasing number of new cases/death rate below what we see from the flu) then an abbreviated season could have been played out with conference tournaments and then the NCAAs. Of course if things hadn’t improved we would have been past the point of no return and the season would have to be scrapped but at least at that point we would have seen whether people who had contracted the virus had become virus-free or not.
Assuming the coronavirus fades It’ll be interesting to see how the NCAA handles eligibility for everyone and how things like next season’s championship site (does Stillwater get to do it next year), the Kick-Off Weekend draft (is it based off the most recent rankings), etc are handled. All we can do now is sit back and watch how it all plays out. read more…
USC may have been the top ranked team in the country headed into the 2020 ITA Men’s National Team Indoor Championships in Madison, Wisconsin, but most thought the winner would come from the top half of a draw which was loaded full of stalwarts such as Ohio State, North Carolina, and Texas. However when the ice had thawed in chilly Madison it was the No. 2 seeded Trojans that were hoisting the hardware after claiming their first indoor title since 2012, fourth overall, with an authoritative 4-1 win over the No. 4 seed North Carolina.
Just one day earlier USC was on the ropes and getting a standing ten count after dropping the doubles point and five first sets against Michigan but a trio of three sets wins set the stage for Monday’s final against a Tar Heel team that had blown past both Ohio State and Florida.
The all-important doubles point would be decided by a tiebreak at No. 1 between a pair of teams that entered the match undefeated during the four-day tournament. The reason it came down to No. 1 is because UNC’s Rinky Hijikata and Ben Sigouin finished the weekend 3-0 at No. 3 doubles after a 6-2 win while USC’s Mor Bulis and Brandon Holt won 6-2 at No. 2. The Bulis/Holt duo knocking off the ITA’s No. 3 ranked doubles team of Mac Kiger and Simon Soendergaard was somewhat surprising because neither Holt or Bulis had won a doubles match all weekend with Holt not playing doubles the previous two matches due to illness.
The match at No. 1 doubles between USC’s Daniel Cukierman/Riley Smith and UNC’s Will Blumberg/Brian Cernoch saw no breaks of serve and in fact only saw 1 of the 12 service games reach the deciding point. The one instance where there was a break opportunity came when Cernoch held while serving at 3-4.
In the tiebreak, Blumberg and Cernoch won the first three points and would eventually lead 5-2. Riley Smith won both points on his serve to trim the deficit to 4-5 and then Smith and Cukierman won the next two points on Blumberg’s serve despite the fact that Blumberg and Cernoch had won 14 of the 17 points on Blumberg’s serve up until that point. USC would make it five straight points after Riley Smith hit a volley winner and just like that USC had the doubles point and the 1-0 lead.
I just dusted off my live scoring page and added links for this weekend’s ITA Kickoff matches – I still have more to add for Saturday/Sunday but they should all be there for today’s matches. Unfortunately I don’t see myself being able to do any kind of match recaps because I won’t have that kind of time but I figured the scoring links/schedule were better than nothing.
NCAA Singles & Doubles Finals Recap: Jubb & Perez-Somarriba Win Singles Titles; UCLA Sweeps Doubles Titles
History was made on Saturday with Paul Jubb becoming the first South Carolina man to win the NCAA Singles Championship after the junior from Hull, England, halted the 31-match winning streak of Mississippi State senior Nuno Borges.
Jubb, who also became the first British man to win the NCAA Singles Championship, took the early advantage after breaking Borges’s opening service game but Borges broke back and held for 2-1. Jubb would regain the lead with a break on the deciding point for 4-3 and then after holding on the deciding point he’d break one more time to take the opening set 6-3.
Jubb went ahead 2-0 in the second set but Borges broke back and held for 2-2. It’d be all holds the rest of the way and then in the tiebreak Jubb opened up a 4-1 lead and cruised to take it 6-3, 7-6(2).
“I was so relentless with my feet,” Jubb said. “That was the main thing we were saying with my coach, just going into every single ball. I’m one of the toughest players from the back and my tempo is so high, so I was just trying to keep that up the whole match.”
“Unbelievable,” Jubb said after the match. “I had to overcome so much mental toughness after losing to him twice this season. Overcoming that fear and regaining believe that I could win was so big for me today, and I did it.”
“I look back, and it’s amazing what I’ve done,” Borges said. “People tell me how great my career has been and I have to take from that moving foward. I should be proud of myself for what I’ve done and take all of the positives from my tennis into the future.”
“Nuno’s a warrior,” MSU head coach Matt Roberts said. “I was happy that he was able to develop here at Mississippi State and use our program to take him to the next level to where he can be a successful tennis pro. That, for me, is a huge step forward for our program. I’m just really proud of him for being such an incredible ambassador for Mississippi State and for college tennis. We can’t wait to see what he does on the pro tour, and he always has a family here at Mississippi State.”