It’s hard to believe that going into the fall Matt Roberts only had two returning players from his 2014-15 squad yet here we sit today with Mississippi State heading to the Round of 16 after routing Illinois 4-0.
State got off to a quick start in doubles and went up early breaks at No. 2 and No. 3. State’s No. 3 team of Rishab Agarwal and Niclas Braun would win four straight games to go up 5-2 and they’d end up winning 6-3. State’s Trevor Foshey and Luka Sucevic led 4-2 at No. 2 but Illinois’s Alex Jesse and Aiden Jiang would end up breaking back and forcing a tiebreak. Before the tiebreak really got going State’s No. 1 team of Mate Cutura and Vaughn Hunter would break serve to win 7-5 and clinch the doubles point. It was the first time since mid-February that State had won the doubles point in back-to-back matches.
State kept the momentum going in singles and won five opening sets. Luka Sucevic was first off the court with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Asher Hirsch at No. 6. A few minutes later Niclas Braun would make it 3-0 with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Julian Childers at No. 4 and then Nuno Borges would close the door on Illinois’s season with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Aron Hiltzik at No. 3.
“I am so proud of these guys and what they’ve accomplished this season with their backs against the wall, head coach Matt Roberts said. “It is unheard of for a team this young to be this successful, but these guys defy the odds. Before Friday we had only two players with any postseason experience and our younger guys handled it like veterans.
“We are playing well in doubles right now and I feel like we’ve found the right formula to win, Roberts said. “We focused on our doubles the last couple of weeks and have developed our games a lot. The guys have played phenomenal in doubles this weekend.
“We had two players this time last year, Roberts said. “Rishab and Mate believed in this program and stuck with us. Loyalty pays off and for us to win this way is just great to reward two men.
“I think Mississippi State played really well; they’re well-coached with great players and they obviously took it to us today,” stated Dancer. “The guys knew that Mississippi State is a great team. I think for us too much extra stuff was on our minds; if it was going to be inside or outside and thinking about that stuff. Mississippi State just outplayed us today.”
The closest second round match of the day took place in Winston-Salem between Wake Forest and Michigan. Wake Forest got a quick 6-2 win at No. 1 doubles but both No. 2 and No. 3 would go to a tiebreak. Wake led 4-2 in the tiebreak at No. 2 but Michigan would come back to win 8-6. Wake was serving at 5-6 in the tiebreak at No. 3 when a double fault give Michigan the 7-5 win and thus the double point.
Roughly 25 minutes into singles action play would be halted for 11 minutes due to what must have just been a mist of rain. Shortly after play resumed Michigan’s Runhao Hua picked up a win at No. 4 when his opponent Romain Bogaerts retired with a knee injury. Bogarets sat out Friday’s match and also missed doubles on Saturday with the same injury.
Play was stopped again for 22 minutes but once it re-started Wake’s Jon Ho finished off Carter Lin 6-1, 6-1 at No. 3 to bring Wake to within 2-1. Petros Chrysochos evened the match at 2-2 with a 6-0, 7-5 win over Jathan Malik at No. 2 and then Skander Mansouri gave Wake its first lead of the day with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Alex Knight at No. 1.
Wake’s Christian Seraphim and Dennis Uspensky both had break leads in the third set but closing out the matches wasn’t going to be easy. Michigan’s Davis Crocker came back from 3-1 down to go up 5-3 on Dennis Uspensky at No. 6 before Uspensky broke back to make it 5-4.
Seraphim broke to go up 2-1 in the third but Michigan’s Kevin Wong broke back to even it at 3-3. Seraphim broke for 4-3 but Wong broke back for 4-4. Seraphim broke again to go up 5-4 and then he’d clinch the win with a service winner to push Wake back into the Round of 16 for the second year in a row.
Wake Forest and Oklahoma will now meet for a third time this season since Oklahoma won its match over Oregon.
#6 Wake Forest 4, #24 Michigan 2
May 14, 2016 at Winston-Salem, N.C. (Wake Forest Tennis Complex)
USC faced a stiff test at home against Georgia Tech but the Trojans managed to pull through thanks to some strong play down the stretch from Logan Smith and Jack Jaede.
Georgia Tech took the doubles point when Chris Eubanks and Carlos Benito won the decider at No. 2 by a 7-6(5) score. Each team took three opening sets in singles and three of the six matches would finish in straight sets.
USC’s Thibault Forget tied the match at 1-1 with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Daniel Yun at No. 4 but Georgia Tech’s Chris Eubanks answered with a 6-3, 7-6 win over Max de Vroome at No. 1.
USC’s Nick Crystal tied the match at 2-2 with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Carlos Benito at No. 2 but each of the remaining matches were still up for grabs. While the matches at No. 3 and No. 5 were just entering a third set, Georgia Tech’s Michael Kay was trying to close out Rob Bellamy at No. 6. Kay led 6-4, 5-5 but Bellamy held for 6-5 and then broke Kay to take the second set 7-5.
USC freshman Jack Jaede pulled away from GT senior Nathan Rakitt to win 6-1, 6-7, 6-1 at No. 5 and Logan Smith looked like he was moments away from clinching when he was serving up 5-2 in the third at No. 3. However GT’s Cole Fiegel would break for 5-3 and then hold for 5-4. Smith won a pivotal point at 30-30 when Fiegel put a shot into the net and then on his first match point Smith would clinch it when Fiegel sent a forehand wide into the alley.
I thought Bellamy forcing a third set was huge because had he lost that would have put even more pressure on both Smith and Jaede. Granted they were both already up breaks when Bellamy won the second set but it still probably helped ease the tension a little bit.
USC will face the winner of Sunday’s match between Georgia and Baylor.
#11 USC 4, #32 Georgia Tech 2
NCAA Championships – Second Round
May 14, 2016 – Marks Stadium (Los Angeles, Calif.)
“Today was a very exciting college tennis match,” said head coach Peter Smith. “Georgia Tech gave us all we could handle. Our fight from top to bottom is what our program is all about, and today that took us over the top.”
Head Coach Kenny Thorne – “That was an absolute battle, and USC deserves a lot of credit for holding us off. I’m proud of our team and the way we left it all out there, but we are definitely disappointed we didn’t make the sweet 16. I’m proud of our seniors Nathan and Casey, who led this team extremely well all season. They left the team in a much better place than when they arrived. The future is bright for this team. Is it too early to say I’m excited about next year already?
“We competed pretty hard, head coach JohnRoddick said. “That’s what you have to do. Oregon was definitely feisty. They did the best they could to put us out of position. Overall I thought they probably competed a little better than we did. That’s why the match was so close. A lot of credit goes to them.
“In doubles we have to get better, Roddick said. “The bottom line is that will hurt us at some point. We have to find a way to get doubles points, but we did what we were supposed to do in singles. Winning five out of six first sets in singles, we did what we needed to do and took care of business.
“We have a long week and tennis is a funny game and it doesn’t matter how you feel today or tomorrow, because it can change quickly, Roddick said. “We have a lot of things to work on and we have to get playing the right way.
“We played to win, but in the end, we came up just short. It was a great match and we had many opportunities. I’m very proud of this team and how they’ve gone about competing all year.
On the future
“We’re going to be loaded again next year. This season was a lot of firsts for the program, but we’re going to keep building on that and keep moving the program in the right direction. We have a lot of youth on this team, but they’re going to be the experiences veterans next year. Having them along with the high-powered recruits we have coming in is going to make for an exciting year and I can’t wait to get started.
TCU capped off an undefeated season at home with a 4-0 win over LSU. TCU really crushed LSU in doubles with Hudson Blake and Reese Stalder clinching the point with a 6-0 rout over the ITA No. 6 team of Jordan Daigle and Boris Arias.
TCU won all six first sets in singles and would end up taking all but one completed set with Cameron Norrie, Jerry Lopez, and Trevor Johnson each winning in straight sets.
Next up for TCU is the winner of Sunday’s match between Cal and Ole Miss.
Post-Match Quotes from head coach David Roditi via TCU’s recap
“We came out of the gates strong. We were up a break in every doubles match right away. Hudson (Blake) and Reese (Stalder) beat their second top-10 team, which is remarkable considering where Hudson came from three to four years ago. We all knew that Reese was a great player, but for a freshman to be doing what he is doing is remarkable. Cameron Norrie has matured so much and as a coach we couldn’t be asking more from him. That is where he needed to improve and he is just so business-like out there and I am really happy for him and proud of him. He is leading this team along with some of the other guys but he is doing a great job.
“Winning the first set on every court after winning the doubles point at home and after the match they had yesterday meant that we needed to capitalize on them being a little bit emotionally fatigued and we jumped on them and kept it going. I am proud of them. Eduardo Nava was about to win which means he was playing well. We need to fix a couple of things between now and Friday. There are key parts of our lineup that we need to address and fix. If we are going to win our Round of 16 match, we are going to need every single member of our team. Right now, we don’t have every single person on our team competing and playing. Some of our teammates are just being selfish. We have to fix that and be ready for the Sweet 16. I am just happy to go undefeated at home. I am just thankful for our crowds, our fans and all our supporters out there because it just makes me really proud.
“TCU played a great match from the beginning, Head Coach Jeff Brown said. “We certainly didn’t play our best today, certainly in doubles, but I thought the guys responded well and a few of the guys were starting to turn things around at the end.
“This LSU team really took a turn about mid season. They really did a good job at giving themselves the opportunity to make it to the tournament and to finish strong. A lot of credit to this team for responding to some of our demands and really handling it well.
“I have to give TCU credit, Brown said. “They played at a very high level. We are excited going forward with our top three guys coming back and with our new recruits coming in.
“We are looking forward to the future and thank the seniors for all of their contributions, Brown said. “They’ve meant a lot to the program and we are going to make them proud going forward.
UCLA is heading back to the Round of 16 after shutting out San Diego for the second time this season. San Diego picked up a 6-2 win at No. 2 doubles but UCLA countered with a 6-4 win at No. 1. San Diego’s Alexandros Araouzos and Jaan Kononov broke UCLA to start the match and held for 2-0 but the Bruin duo of Max Cressy and Austin Rapp would come back to take the match in a tiebreak, 7-1, to give UCLA the doubles point.
While San Diego was right there with UCLA up top it was a whole different story down low. UCLA’s Karue Sell, Logan Staggs, and Joseph Di Giulio ran wild and rocked Jaan Kononov, Romain Kalaydjian, and Alexandros Araouzos by a combined score of 36-9 to give the Bruins the shutout win. Below is the clincher from Staggs:
“We were not looking good in doubles, said UCLA head coach Billy Martin of the Bruins’ slow start. “We got the job done at No. 1, but No. 2 was not having a good day. We started down on court 3, but those guys came back and pulled it out for us. I think that was a turning point for us momentum-wise.
“We won the first two singles matches relatively easy, said Martin of UCLA’s momentum in singles. “I think Karue and Joe let that doubles loss carry over and they were fired up in singles. To me, that was an unbelievable turning pointthose guys rebounding like that.
“Northwestern is a very good team, and we’ve certainly played Stanford a lot this season, said Martin of the Bruins’ next match. “Northwestern has been a top team all year. It’s kind of ironic because it’s Logan’s old teamso that will be interesting. It will be a very competitive match either way.
“We’re just going to take it one match at a time, and hopefully do something special, added Martin. ________________________________________________________
Penn State was one of three higher seeds that won a first round match on Saturday after the Nittany Lions defeated Columbia 4-3. Penn State won the doubles point for the 20th time in 30 matches with a pair of 6-3 wins at No. 2 and No. 3.
Each team won three first sets with all but one match finishing in straight sets. Penn State’s Leo Stakhovsky put the Nitts up 2-0 with a 7-5, 7-5 win over Shawn Hadavi at No. 1. Hadavi served for the second set up 5-4 but Stakovsky broke for 5-5. held for 6-5, and then broke again to win the match. Penn State’s Matt Barry extended the lead to 3-0 after he beat his former high school teammate Eric Rubin 6-4, 6-1 at No. 3.
Columbia freshman Victor Pham put the Lions on the board after he defeated Constant De La Bassetiere 6-2, 6-4 at No. 2. Mike Vermeer made it 3-2 with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Tomas Hanzlik at No. 4 and Miguel Alda, who was only playing his third dual-match of the year, defeated Aws Laaribi 7-6, 6-2 at No. 5 to tie the match at 3-3.
Columbia freshman Timmy Wang got a split at No. 6 against Penn State junior Marc Collado and Wang went up a break at 1-0 in the third. Collado would break back and proceed to win the final six games of the match to clinch the Penn State win. Below is match point courtesy of Penn State.
Penn State now will face No. 1 Virginia for a chance to go to Tulsa.
#37 Penn State 4, #25 Columbia 3
May 14, 2016 at Charlottesville, Va.(Snyder Tennis Center)
“That was a really good college tennis match,” said Head Coach Jeff Zinn. “Our seniors came through today in Matt Barry and Leo Stakhovsky. Marc Collado played amazing at No. 6 and we are so proud at how far he has come this season. He fought hard out there and never gave up; that is what our coaching staff preaches everyday.”
“Matt Galush and Aws Laaribi played strong in doubles to help bring us an early lead,” said Coach Zinn.
“Thank you to everyone who came out today to cheer us on,” said Assistant Coach Paul Tobin. “We are looking forward to a good matchup tomorrow against the winner of Virginia/Monmouth. A chance to go to the Sweet Sixteen is on the line and we are excited at the chance to play for it.”
#1 Virginia 4, Monmouth 0
May 14, 2016 at Charlottesville, Va. (Snyder Tennis Center)
1. #8 Ryan Shane (VA) vs. Vaghela, Vidit (MU) 6-6, unfinished
“Monmouth is a good team that won the MAAC conference tournament with a lot of good players,” said Virginia head coach Brian Boland. “This match wasn’t easy for us in certain spots, which I think was a good thing. We want to be pushed a little bit in the first round. Sometimes it is the most difficult match. I thought that our three-week layoff showed in certain spots, but after 45 minutes, we settled down a bit and played better. It was good to get through the first round and now we will get ready to play Penn State tomorrow.”
“It was good that the guys were able to go in and felt like they belonged and were able to be competitive today, said Monmouth Head Coach Kyle Bailey. “A lot of games went to deuce. Vidit and Alejandro were right there with one of top doubles teams in the country and Vidit went toe-to-toe with the reigning NCAA Champion.”
“It was a great season, said Bailey. “We established what this program is about and moving forward, we can build off of today. This performance let the guys know that they belong and can play at this level. If we can play with these guys, we can play with anybody.”
One of the wildest matches of the day took place outdoors in Columbus as N. 33 Virginia Tech jumped out to early 3-1 lead but had to hold on to defeat No. 20 Kentucky 4-3.
The Hokies won the doubles point for the 18th time in 26 tries with 6-3 wins at No. 1 and No. 3. Virginia Tech also took four opening sets in singles and it was nearly five but Amerigo Contini dropped the first set tiebreak to Nils Ellefsen 14-12.
Kentucky’s Trey Yates tied the match at 1-1 with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Mitch Harper at No. 5 but Virginia Tech went ahead 3-1 with straight set wins from Joao Monteiro and Edoardo Tessaro at No. 1 and No. 4.
Kentucky’s Nils Ellefsen trimmed the deficit to 3-2 with a 7-6(12), 6-4 win over Contini at No. 3 but it looks like the end was near because Austin Hussey trailed Jai Corbett 5-2 in the third at No. 6. Hussey would miraculously win three straight to tie it at 5-5 and would then win the match in a tiebreak to even it at 3-3.
Kentucky freshman Ryotaro Matsumura had clinched a slew of matches this year for the Wildcats so when he forced a third set at No. 2 against Andreas Bjerrehus it appeared that Kentucky might pull off the comeback. There were a few early breaks in the third set but Bjerrehus broke free and won the final three games to close out a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win.
Next up for Virginia Tech is a rematch against Ohio State – the Buckeyes won the regular season meeting 4-0.
#33 Virginia Tech 4, #20 Kentucky 3
May 14, 2016 at Columbus, Ohio (Varsity Tennis Center)
Baylor won a match that many, including me, didn’t think they’d win. The Bears overcame the loss of the doubles point to defeat Florida State 4-3.
Florida State took the doubles point with wins at No. 2 and No. 3 and then the teams split opening sets in singles. Baylor junior Max Tchoutakian tied the match at 1-1 with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Marco Nunez at No. 2 but FSU’s Terrance Whitehurst won in straight sets at No. 6 to put the Noles up 2-1.
Baylor senior Julian Lenz tied the match at 2-2 with a 6-2, 7-6 win over Benjamin Lock at No. 1 and Jimmy Bendeck gave BU its first lead with a come from behind 6-7, 6-4, 6-2 win over Aziz Dougaz at No. 4.
FSU’s Jose Gracia tied the match at 3-3 with a 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 win over Tommy Podvinski but Baylor senior Felipe Rios clinched the match with a 6-7, 6-2, 6-3 win over Michael Rinaldi at No. 3.
“They really knocked us back on our heels (in doubles), but I thought the guys responded well. We fought for everything that we could get. I’m really proud of the effort. Felipe lost a first set, but came back and really turned it around. He did a great job clinching. Jimmy was great on four court. Florida State has a heck of a team and fought us really hard. We were lucky to win.” –head coach Matt Knoll on the victory
“It was a tough match and I knew it was going to be tough. The coaches told me that the guy was tough and plays a game that I don’t like that much. He plays very flat. I found a way even though I lost the first set.” — senior Felipe Rios on his three-set win
Head Coach Dwayne Hultquist – “I was pleased with how well Jose came back. I thought he did a great job of fighting back. There were a lot of big points that could’ve gone either way. It was an incredibly tough draw. Baylor is a team that made National Team Indoors, they’re a team that was one of the top seeds last year. They have their top three guys back, so we knew it was going to be a battle up top even though we were maybe slightly favored down low. The key match was really number four. We won the first set there and didn’t quite finish it off. At four-all, we had some game points to go up 5-4, and it ended just one game away. I thought that was the defining moment of the match.
Ole Miss advanced to the second round of the Cal regional with a come from behind 4-3 win over Denver. The Rebels were playing without Filip Kraljevic, who was listed at #3 singles and #1 doubles, so they had to make some changes by moving up their #2 and #3 teams a spot while also shifting everyone from #4 through #6 up a spot.
Denver managed to take the doubles point with wins at No. 1 and No. 2 and then the teams split opening sets in singles. Denver got straight set wins from David Fox and Wyatt Lovera at No. 4 and No. 6 but Ole Miss managed to take the other four with Gustav Hansson clinching the match with a 7-5, 2-6, 6-2 win over Henry Craig at No. 1.
#27 Ole Miss 4, #47 Denver 3
May 14, 2016 at Berkeley, Calif. (Hellman Tennis Complex)
1. #39 Gustav Hansson (OM) def. Henry Craig (DU) 7-5, 2-6, 6-2
“We played a great match today against a good Denver team. Doubles could have gone either way. A lot of the singles courts were going our way and some weren’t. The guys responded to the pressure situations and handled themselves really well. It was a total team effort from top to bottom and we are extremely proud of the guys.
On Grey and Ricardo’ matches
“Grey served well and played a solid match. It was good to see him get the win, and his energy on the court fired up everyone else. Ricardo hasn’t played a lot lately, but he stepped up and provided us a huge win. When he faced set points in the first set he maintained his focus and served his way out of it. Great job by both Grey and Ricky to get us on the board.
On Stefan and Gus at the top
“Stefan has been there many times, he loves to be in that position. He stuck to his game and then in the third set he was able to break and serve it out at the end. At that point everyone felt very good about the situation, because Gus has been there many times already in his career, especially this year. He loves to play third sets and we felt very confident he would win.
On playing Cal next
“We are looking forward to tomorrow’s match against Cal. We are very familiar with some of their players. We just have to go out and play with the same intensity and focus we had today, and if we do that, we have a good chance to advance.
Gustav Hansson on the win
“It was a great team win. Everybody played well and responded to the challenge in singles. We are excited to be moving on and looking forward to a great match against Cal.
#13 California 4, Army West Point 0
May 14, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (Hellman Tennis Complex)
1. #9 Filip Bergevi/Florian Lakat (Cal) vs. Kyle Barnes/Austin McCasin 6-1
2. Andre Goransson/Oskar Wikberg (Cal) vs. Sam Lampman/Michael Nguyen (Army) 5-4, unf.
“It was important for us to start the NCAA tournament with a solid performance, and that’s just what we did today, Cal head coach Peter Wright said. “Army has a great team, and they posted solid results all season. Our guys did a good job of staying focused on their game plans, and we were excited to get back on the courts after a three-week break.
“Tomorrow will be a big challenge for us as Mississippi is playing well. The key for us will be staying aggressive and being quick to see the opportunities as they develop in the match.
“We played a very, very good team today,” said Army head coach Jim Poling. “The guys fought hard and battled with them in a few sets, but this is one of the best teams we’ve ever played. I’m proud of our effort today.”
“It was an unbelievable feeling, Munoz said. “We knew this was going to be a tough team and a tough match all the way to the end, and I’m really glad I was able to pull through.
“It crossed my mind during today’s match of course thinking about what happened against South Carolina, he explained. “The way I looked at it was, If the guy beats me, he beats me. But I’m not going to let myself give into the match.’
“I just did the best I could and thank God it went our way.
Oklahoma State 4, Bryant University 0
May 14, 2016 at Stillwater, Oklahoma (Greenwood Tennis Center)
“It was a good performance; we hadn’t played in a couple of weeks so it was good to get a victory,” coach Jay Udwadia said. “Anytime you can get off the court with a win in the NCAA Tournament, you’ve got to be happy.”
“We hadn’t played in a couple of weeks now and there’s always going to be a few things you’re not happy with at the start, but I think doubles helped with that,” Cash said.
“I’m just trying to stay focused on every point and I look over and I see the scores and everybody is doing really well,” Roper said. “We were battling out there, but luckily I got the win in the set.”
“Our guys came to play today and leading into Arkansas, I think we’re playing in good form and we’re definitely ready for the challenge,” Udwadia said.
“It’s another match for us, we played Arkansas earlier in the season and it was a close match,” Cash said. “It was on their home territory and we look forward to having them here and seeing if we can get the job done again.”
Jonathan Kelley was in Evanston covering the Northwestern Regional so check out his post for all the details from Saturday’s matches between Northwestern and Valparaiso and Stanford and Notre Dame.
First Round:  Virginia def. Monmouth 4-0  North Carolina def. College of Charleston 4-0  Ohio State def. Tennessee Tech 4-0  Georgia def. South Carolina State 4-0  Texas Tech def. New Mexico State 4-0  Florida def. North Florida 4-0  Cal def. Army 4-0  Northwestern def. Valparaiso 4-1  Oklahoma State def. Bryant 4-0 [17-32] Tulane def. Dartmouth 4-0 [17-32] South Florida def. St. John’s 4-0 [17-32] Arkansas def. Wichita State 4-2 [17-32] Stanford def. Notre Dame 4-1 [17-32] SMU def. Washington 5-0 [17-32] Ole Miss def. Denver 4-3 [33-48] Penn State def. Columbia 4-3 [33-48] Baylor def. Florida State 4-3 [33-48] Virginia Tech def. Kentucky 4-3
Second Round:  TCU def. [33-48] LSU 4-0  UCLA def. [17-32] San Diego 4-0  Wake Forest def. [17-32] Michigan 4-2  USC def. [17-32] Georgia Tech 4-2  Oklahoma def. [33-48] Oregon 4-2 [17-32] Mississippi State def.  Illinois 4-0  Texas A&M vs. [17-32] Texas 1-0