Monday, 22 May 2017 11:52

NCAA Semifinal Recap: North Carolina Regroups To Beat Georgia & Virginia Outmuscles Ohio State

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For the third day in a row the weather played a role at the NCAA Championships with a four-hour delay disrupting both men's semifinals matches. Both matches were moved up to a 10 a.m eastern start due to the shaking forecast but just before each match hit the three-hour mark the rain started to fall and it was followed by lightning which triggered an automatic 30-minute delay. Every effort was made to resume play outdoors and the courts were dry around 3 p.m but before warmups began it started raining again. The radar had been showing a three-hour window between 4 and 7 that was supposed to be good but when that window disappeared the decision was made to go inside.. Once play resumed indoors at 5 p.m. eastern, at Georgia's hot and humid four-court indoor facility, one match would be over in 60 seconds while the other lasted almost 45 minutes.  

Virginia had won the doubles point 12 times in a row coming into today's match against Ohio State but the Buckeyes would put a halt to the streak after picking up wins No. 1 and No. 3.  OSU's Hunter Tubert and JJ Wolf jumped out to a 3-1 lead at No. 3 and would then add a no-ad break for 5-2. Virginia's Collin Altamirano and JC Aragone broke back from 30/40 for 3-5 and then they held from 40/15 for 4-5. Wolf would slam the door shut by holding at love with an ace to give Ohio State a 6-4 win. 

Ohio State also got off to a quick start at No. 2 doubles as Hugo Di Feo and Martin Joyce broke Thai-Son Kwiatkowski and Alexander Ritschard to start the match and they'd eventually increase their lead to 4-2. After Virginia held for 3-4, Ohio State went up 40/15 but Virginia came back to break on the no-ad point for 4-4. Virginia held from 40/30 for 5-4 and then broke from 15/40 to win it 6-4. 

The doubles point would be decided in a tiebreak at No. 1 between Ohio State's Herkko Pollanen and Mikael Torpegaard and Virginia's Luca Corinteli and Carl Söderlund. There were no breaks of serve in this one though Virginia definitely had a golden opportunity when it went up 0/40 on Ohio State's 3-4 service game. Ohio State managed to come back and hold and then a few games later it held from 40/30 to force the tiebreak. Torpegaard and Pollanen raced out to a 6-0 lead in the tiebreak and ended up winning it 7-3. 

Virginia turned it around in singles and claimed quick first sets at 2, 4, and 5 and would also add sets at 3 and 6 a little later on.  

Virginia senior Thai-Son Kwaitkowski broke Ohio State freshman JJ Wolf early and often in their match at No. 2. Kwiatkowski broke Wolf for 2-1 in the first set and then added a no-ad break for 4-1. After Kwiatkowski took the first set 6-2, he'd break Wolf at love to go up 1-0 in the second. Kwiatkowski went up 40/15 on his next service game but Wolf came back to break on the no-ad point to even it at 1-1. Kwiatkowski broke back on the no-ad point for 2-1 and he'd break again a few games later to go up 5-2. After falling behind 0/40, Kwiatkowski fought back and held on the no-ad point to win 6-2, 6-2.



Virginia junior Collin Altamirano won in dominating fashion for a second match in a row with a straight set win over Martin Joyce at No. 4. Altamirano won the opening set 6-0 and then broke on the no-ad point for 2-1 in the second. Altamirano would add one more break from 15/40 to close it out 6-0, 6-3

Virginia senior JC Aragone put the Cavaliers ahead 3-1 with a straight set win over Herkko Pollanen at No. 5. Aragone broke Pollanen for 3-2 in the first and would add one more break to take the opening set 6-3. Pollanen got off to a quick start in the second set and went ahead 3-0* but Aragone would come back to take the final six games to win 6-3, 6-3

Virginia junior Henrik Wiersholm was closing in on a clinch at No. 6 when he went up a break late in the second set against Kyle Seelig. Seelig actually had two set points in the first set on Wiersholm's 4-5 service game but Wiersholm held on the no-ad point with a backhand crosscourt winner. Seelig went up 40/15 on his next service game but Wiersholm broke on the no-ad point for 6-5. Wiersholm would serve out the set from 40/30 to take it 7-5. The second set started off with four consecutive breaks before Seelig held for 3-2. It stayed on serve until Wiersholm broke on the no-ad point for 5-4 but Seelig broke back on the no-ad point, which was also a match-clinching point, for 5-5. Wiersholm broke on the no-ad point for 6-5 and then he was serving at 40/30, double match point, when play was halted due to rain. 

At the same time Wiersholm was serving with match points so was Mikael Torpegaard at No. 1. Torpegaard and Alexander Ritschard split 6-2 sets and then it stayed on serve in the third set until Torpegaard broke Ritschard on the no-ad point for 5-4. Torpegaard had two match points while serving at 40/30 but Ritschard got the break for 5-5. Each held to send it to a tiebreak and then Torpegaard went up a mini-break at 3-1 and led 4-2 at the changeover. Torpegaard extended his lead to 6-2 but Ritschard got the next point to make it 6-3 and then the rain came. 

The other match going on that wasn't at a match point was at No. 3 where Ohio State's Hugo Di Feo was up a break at 2-1 in the third against Virginia's Carl Soderlund. Di Feo had a 4-0 lead in the first set but Soderlund won five straight and then had a set point on the no-ad point but Di Feo managed to take it for 5-5. Soderlund held for 6-5 and then broke from 30/40 to take the set 7-5. In the second set Di Feo broke on the no-ad point for 5-4 and then served out the set to take it 6-4. In the third set, after an exchange of holds Di Feo broke from 15/40 to go up 2-1 then the rain came.  

After a four-hour delay play resumed and with just two indoor courts available, since Georgia and North Carolina were using the other two, the decision was made to put the two matches on that were closest to finishing. So you had Torpegaard serving up 6-3 in the tiebreak while Wiersholm was serving 40/30. Torpegaard closed out Ritschard on the first point to cut Virginia's lead to 3-2 and about 30 seconds later Wiersholm closed out Seelig on a 28-shot rally to clinch the win. 





Ohio State's highlights and post-match interview with Ty Tucker.  

#2 VIRGINIA (32-1) vs. #3 OHIO STATE (32-3) 
Head Coaches: Brian Boland (Virginia) and Ty Tucker (Ohio State)
Doubles Results
1. Herkko Pollanen/Mikael Torpegaard (OHIO STATE) def. #17 Luca Corinteli/Carl Söderlund (VIRGINIA), 7-6 (3)
2. Thai-Son Kwiatkowski/Alexander Ritschard (VIRGINIA) def. #30 Hugo Di Feo/Martin Joyce (OHIO STATE) 6-4
3. Hunter Tubert/ JJ Wolf (OHIO STATE) def. Collin Altamirano/J.C. Aragone (VIRGINIA) 6-4
Singles Results
1. #2 Mikael Torpegaard (OHIO STATE) def. #91 Alexander Ritschard (VIRGINIA), 6-2, 2-6, 7-6 (7-3)
2. #14 Thai-Son Kwiatkowski (VIRGINIA) def. #46 JJ Wolf (OHIO STATE), 6-2, 6-2
3. #9 Hugo Di Feo (OHIO STATE) vs. Carl Söderlund (VIRGINIA) 5-7, 6-4, *2-1
4. #40 Collin Altamirano (VIRGINIA) def. Martin Joyce (OHIO STATE), 6-0, 6-3
5. #109 J.C. Aragone (VIRGINIA) def. Herkko Pollanen (OHIO STATE), 6-3, 6-3
6. #102 Henrik Wiersholm (VIRGINIA) def. Kyle Seelig (OHIO STATE) 7-5, 7-5 
Doubles (3,2,1) Singles (2,4,5,1,6)



On winning the match after the rain delay...“We just had to keep things simple and make sure that we took care of our bodies and prepared for each point. That is what it comes down to. You can’t look ahead. You have to focus on the present and I thought the players did a good job of that and they stayed relaxed and calm in the bus and then into the locker room. I was pleased with how we handled it. Congrats to Ohio State on a great season. They had a great run here and that was a great match.”

On clinching today’s match...“I remember being on the court pretty frantically trying to rush him to go. He was slowing down but I wanted to play the point. Things like that happen and you have to be prepared for that and we talk about it all the time. Actually, coach had already talked about how in the past here in Athens there had been rain and had prepared us mentally for the possibility of it. In the moment when it happened, I was trying to rush but then I depressurized, relaxed with the guys and got some fuel in me. We waited it out and I was ready to go from the first point. It all panned out well for us.”

On today’s match...“Hats off to Virginia, they were well coached and have very good players, so obviously it gets kind of tough to overcome any time you have to close out some sets. Virginia had a chance to beat us 4-0 and we had a chance to beat them 4-3. We had some opportunities and some chances but when you’re against a team like Virginia you’re not going to get more than one chance.”


UNC 0598Photo by Bill Kallenberg ( 

For the first-time in school history North Carolina will play for the National Championship after outlasting No. 12 Georgia 4-3. This was a match that had a little bit of everything with North Carolina getting off to a great start and looking like they'd close it out 4-0 to all of a sudden being in a dogfight and actually finding themselves down a break in the third set on each of the remaining courts. But let's backtrack a bit and see how they built up the lead that they had. 

North Carolina jumped out to an early 1-0 lead after taking the doubles point with wins at No. 1 and No. 2 while Georgia won at No. 3.

Georgia's Wayne Montgomery and Walker Duncan improved to 16-3 on the year after defeating Anu Kodali and Ronnie Schneider at No. 3. Montgomery and Duncan jumped out to a 3-0 lead after a pair of holds and a break of Kodali on the no-ad point. Montgomery and Duncan maintained the break lead the rest of the way and then added one more by breaking Schneider from 30/40 to win 6-2

North Carolina's William Blumberg and Robert Kelly picked up their 20th dual-match win of the year when they defeated the ITA No. 1 team of Jan Zielinski and Robert Loeb at No. 1. After four consecutive holds to start the match, Blumberg and Kelly broke Loeb on the no-ad point, via a double fault, and then Blumberg held at love for 4-2. Zielinski came back from 30/40 down to hold for 3-4 and then Kelly held from 40/30 for 5-3. Blumberg and Kelly went up 30/40 on Loeb's serve and got the break on the no-ad point to win 6-3

As North Carolina won on court 1, UNC's Simon Soendergaard was serving to stay in the match on 2 in what had been a back and forth tilt that had already seen four breaks of serve. Soendergaard and Jack Murray broke Nathan Ponwith no the no-ad point to start the match but Ponwith and Emil Reinberg broke Soendergaard from 30/40 to even it at 1-1. The next break came when UNC broke Ponwith from 15/40 for 3-2 but Georgia broke Soendergaard on the no-ad point, via a great get by Reinberg, for 3-3. After Soendergaard held for 5-5, he and Murray would break for 6-5 when a nice Murray return set up a Soendergaard forehand winner. Murray would serve it out from 40/30 to give North Carolina the doubles point and early 1-0 lead. 

Below are plenty of highlights that I shot during the doubles point including the match clinchers. 



North Carolina kept the pedal to the metal in singles and went up early breaks on every court except No. 5 and would ultimately take four first sets.

North Carolina freshman William Blumberg was the first off the court with an impressive straight set win over Wayne Montgomery at No. 2. Blumberg broke Montgomery to go up 3-1 in the first but Montgomery broke back and held for 3-3. Blumberg held, broke at love, and held again to take the first set 6-3. In the second set Blumberg broke from 15/40 to go up 2-1 and then he'd break again for 5-2 before serving it out from 40/15 to win 6-3, 6-2. 

Georgia sophomore Walker Duncan put the Bulldogs on the board with a straight set win over Jack Murray at No. 5. Duncan rolled through the first set 6-1 but Murray went up 3-0 in the second. Duncan won the next three to even it at 3-3 before Murray held on the no-ad point for 4-3. Duncan fought off a set point to hold for 5-5 and then he broke at love for 6-5. Duncan would serve it out from 40/30 to win 6-1, 7-5

North Carolina junior Robert Kelly put the Tar Heels a point away from the finals with a straight set win over Emil Reinberg at No. 3. Kelly jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the opening set and then held on the no-ad point to take the set 6-3. Kelly got a no-ad break for 2-1 in the second but Reinberg broke back for 2-2. Kelly broke again and held for 4-2 and a few games later he'd come back from 0/30 down to close it out 6-3, 6-4.

North Carolina was up 3-1 and Simon Soendergaard was serving for the match at No. 4 after breaking Jan Zielinski from 30/40 to go up 6-3, 5-4. Zielinski would break back from 30/40 and then after an exchange of holds they went to a tiebreak.  Soendergaard went up 4-0 in the tiebreak but unbelievably Zielinski took the next seven points to send the match to a third set (here is the video of the TB).

All of a sudden the momentum clearly shifted Georgia's way because in addition to Zielinski forcing a third Robert Loeb did the same at No. 6 plus Nathan Ponwith was on the verge of closing out Ronnie Schneider at No. 1. 

Ponwith came back from a 3-1 first set deficit to take the set in a tiebreak 7-4. In the second set Ponwith went up 4-0 and he'd close it out 7-6, 6-2.  

So Georgia was within 3-2 and both Zielinski and Loeb would go up breaks early in the third set but all that momentum would come to a screeching halt when Mother Nature came knocking on the door.  

Fast forward four hours and play resumed indoors with Zielinski serving up 3-2 in the third while Loeb was serving up 1-0 in the third. Both Zielinski and Loeb held for 4-2 and 2-0 respectively and after a few more holds Zielinski would close out Soendergaard 3-6, 7-6, 6-3. 

It all came down to No. 6 where North Carolina sophomore Bo Boyden had just broken Loeb on the no-ad point for 2-2. Boyden fell behind 30/40 on his next service game but he'd fight off both break points to hold for 3-2. Loeb came back and held at love for 3-3 but Boyden held from 40/30 for 4-3. Loeb would fall behind 15/40 on his 3-4 service game but after Kelly was overruled for the second time in the game, third in the match, a point penalty was issued which brought up a no-ad point. Boyden would get the break when Loeb misfired on a forehand and then he served it out from 40/30 send the Heels onto the finals. 

Below are match points from two different vantage points and below that are some highlights that I shot during the match.




Post-Match Interviews with Manny Diaz and Robert Loeb are available here.  

#9 NORTH CAROLINA (28-4) vs. #12 GEORGIA (22-7) 
Head Coaches: Sam Paul (North Carolina) and Manuel Diaz (Georgia)
Doubles Results
1. #12 William Blumberg/ Robert Kelly (NORTH CAROLINA) def. #1 Jan Zielinski/Robert Loeb (GEORGIA), 6-3
2. #82 Jack Murray/Simon Soendergaard (NORTH CAROLINA) def. Emil Reinberg/ Nathan Ponwith (GEORGIA), 7-5
3. Wayne Montgomery/ Walker Duncan (GEORGIA) def. Anu Kodali/ Ronnie Schneider (NORTH CAROLINA), 6-2
Singles Results
1. #56 Nathan Ponwith (GEORGIA) def. #22 Ronnie Schneider (NORTH CAROLINA). 7-6 (4), 6-2
2. #16 William Blumberg (NORTH CAROLINA) def. #33 Wayne Montgomery (GEORGIA), 6-3, 6-2
3. #116 Robert Kelly (NORTH CAROLINA) def. #59 Emil Reinberg (GEORGIA), 6-3, 6-4
4. Jan Zielinski (GEORGIA) def. Simon Soendergaard (NORTH CAROLINA), 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3
5. Walker Duncan (GEORGIA) def Jack Murray (NORTH CAROLINA), 6-1, 7-5
6. Bo Boyden (NORTH CAROLINA) def. Robert Loeb (GEORGIA) 7-6 (0), 4-6, 6-3
Doubles (3,1,2) Singles (2,5,3,1,4,6)

On today’s match...“Georgia gave us everything they had and their crowd was incredible early. I told my guys to embrace the atmosphere and I think they did, it’s such an amazing feeling to absorb the energy here. Manny Diaz runs such a class act, for instance when they honored Bo’s mom. Georgia turned five games around and came back, I have nothing but respect for their team and their program. And honestly, I’m just so proud of my boys.”

On today’s match...“It’s a dream come true, I mean there’s one more to go, but growing up I never even dreamed of making it this far and being able to compete for a national title. It’s a team sport, thank goodness, because if it was up to me we wouldn’t be here. Thanks to guys like Bo (Blaine Boyden) we are, he has incredible resolve. It means a lot to be here especially since we’ve made it to quarterfinals the past three years. We are reaching heights North Carolina tennis hasn’t ever reached.”

On today’s match...“Sports are crazy! We had a lot of momentum, but you know the rain came, and Saturday it worked in our favor, and we were able to maintain our momentum. I am so proud of our guys. They fought a great fight, not only today, but during this tournament. We really came together as a team, and improved so much during the close of the year. I think this has been a great ride, the future is very bright.”


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