I tell you there is nothing quite like the first two days at the NCAA Championship site because it's action-packed from sunrise to sunset with one good match after another. The day started off with gray skies and temperatures in the 70s but as the day progressed the sun made its way out and the temperatures shot up into the mid-80s (high humidity all day though). The morning slot saw Virginia roll over Florida on the Henry Feild Stadium courts while Texas overcame the loss of the doubles point to defeat Baylor on the McWhorter courts. Then in the noon slot it was Ohio State overcoming the loss of the doubles point to defeat Oklahoma 4-3 while TCU held off a hard charging Illinois 4-1. In the late afternoon window the hometown Georgia Bulldogs upset USC 4-3 while UCLA roughed up Texas A&M 4-1. The day was capped off with the top seed Wake Forest handling Stanford 4-0 while North Carolina defeated California 4-1. The announced crowd of 1,781 hit its peak during the Georgia/USC match with many sitting up high in the grandstand to stay out of the sun.
I'll go back through each match to give you some of the highlights though with two matches going on at the same it was hard to stay on top of both. I stuck with the Texas/Baylor match to start the day, then during the second slot I started with Ohio State/Oklahoma then watched most of singles in the TCU/Illinois match and then finished up back at the OSU/OU match. I watched just about the entire Georgia/USC match since UCLA/Texas A&M wasn't that close and then in the nightcap I spent most of my time watching UNC/Cal since the result of the Wake/Stanford match wasn't ever in doubt.
The opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament were completed last weekend so now it's time to look at the Sweet 16 matchups that will take place on Thursday in Athens, Georgia. There will two matches taking place at the same time with one on the main Henry Feild Stadium Courts and the other on the McWhorter Courts. The first matches start at 9 a.m. ET with the final two set to start at 7 p.m. ET though it wouldn't surprise me to see both of the 4 p.m. matches run late. Six of the eight matches will be rematches from the regular season so it'll be interesting to see how those teams do the second time around.
The men's second round wrapped up on Saturday so Sunday belonged to the women with nine regionals closing out the weekend after seven finished on Saturday. 15 of the 16 regional hosts advanced to Friday's Sweet 16 in Athens with the one upset taking place in Waco. Baylor had already defeated Texas A&M once this season (4-0) but on Sunday they'd find themselves playing from behind virtually the entire match. In that first meeting on March 22nd, Texas A&M was without its top player Rachel Pierson so having her in the lineup today obviously changed the whole complexion of the match.
Texas A&M struck first in doubles with a quick 6-0 win from Eva Paalma and Domenica Gonzalez at No. 2 but it looked like Baylor would take No. 1 after Blair Shankle and Karina Traxler went up a double break at 4-1. Texas A&M's Rachel Pierson and Rutuja Bhosale got one break back to make it 4-3 but Baylor held for 5-3. A&M then held, broke, and held to take a 6-5 lead.
Meanwhile over No. 3, Baylor's Theresa Van Zyl and Rhiann Newborn jumped out to a 2-0 lead but Texas A&M's Stefania Hristov and Saska Gavrilovska broke Van Zyl's serve and then held for 2-2. A&M would go up a break at 4-3 after breaking Van Zyl again but BU immediately broke back for 4-4 and then Newborn fought off two break points to hold for 5-4. After a Gavrilovska hold for 5-5, A&M would break Van Zyl for a third time to go up 6-5 and then Newborn served it out at love to take it 7-5.
Former Virginia Tech Hokie Sebastien Jacques is making his way across the country, by foot, after not being able to walk across a room just a few years ago. Jacques played at Virginia Tech from 2007 to 2010 but during his senior year he had to quit playing due to a lack of energy. After graduating with a degree in marketing he returned home to Magog, Canada, and after seeing several doctor he was eventually diagnosed with a pineal cystic tumor in his brain which was the cause of the energy drain. The doctors in Canada determined the procedure was too risky and the health care system wouldn't cover the cost so Jacques ended up raising $80000 and had the surgery performed in California. The surgery was a success and Jacques returned to a normal life but he decided to embark on the cross-country walk to show people that it is possible to overcome obstacles in life. Virginia Tech had a write-up on Jacques a few days ago plus there are plenty of details on his website.
The NCAA Division II Men's Championship has reached the semifinals with #1 West Florida advancing after a 5-0 win over #4 Hawaii Pacific. UWF's top player, #4 Alex Peyrot, played doubles but sat out in singles which was interesting because in the round of 16 its #2 player, Gabriel Dias, did the same thing. Next up for UWF will be #23 Southwest Baptist after the Bearcats held off #16 Ferris State 5-4 with Raul Cabalero winning the deciding match 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(1) at #4 singles. The other semifinal match will be between #2 Barry and #3 Columbus State. Barry cruised past #18 Drury 5-1 with the Bucs taking two of three in doubles and winning every completed set in singles. Columbus State ran through #14 Azusa Pacific 5-1 with the Cougars sweeping all three doubles courts (count as a point each) and then getting two straight set wins at #3 and #4. APU got its lone point when Oliver Frank, D2s top ranked player, cruised to a 6-1, 6-3 win at #1.
It was an exciting morning/early afternoon of tennis in Norman that ended with a pair of seeding upsets. For the second time in five days Texas Tech upset Baylor with the Red Raiders riding a hot start in both singles and doubles to take the match 3-2. Baylor's Max Tchoutakian fought off several match points at No. 2 to force a third set but shortly thereafter Texas Tech's Connor Curry clinched the win at No. 4. Check out Texas Tech's recap for all the details.
In the other match that was taking place at the same time it was the host Oklahoma knocking off Texas 4-3. The Sooners won a crucial doubles point and then with the match tied at 3-3 senior Alex Ghilea came back from 2-0 down in the third set to win the final six games to clinch the win. Check out Oklahoma and Texas's recaps for more details.
A year ago Texas Tech won 28 matches and hosted a NCAA Regional but going into tonight's match against No. 4 Baylor the Red Raiders were winless in the Big 12 while having an overall record of just 10-14. Baylor was down a man with Jimmy Bendeck (#4 singles/#2 doubles) a late scratch so BU had to make adjustments to both its doubles and singles lineup. Texas Tech took advantage of the shift and picked up wins at No. 2 and No. 3 to take the early 1-0 lead. In singles play, Texas Tech would add five first sets and both Jolan Cailleau and Jackson Cobb would win in straight sets to make it 3-0. Baylor fought back to get splits at No. 3, No. 4, and No. 5 while Texas Tech got a split at No. 2.
Baylor's Johannes Schretter, Max Tchoutakian, and Will Little would each pull through to tie the match at 3-3. Texas Tech senior Carlos DiLaura led Baylor freshman Constantin Frantzen 4-1 in the third at No. 5 but Frantzen took the next two to pull within 4-3. DiLaura broke back for 5-3 but Frantzen broke and held for 5-5 and two games later it went to a tiebreak. DiLaura went up 4-0 in the tiebreak but Frantzen rallied to tie it at 6-6. Frantzen had match points at 7-6 and 8-7 but DiLaura pulled it out 10-8.
The latest USTA Top 25 is out with both the Wake Forest men and Florida women remaining at No. 1 although their leads at the top are as slim as they've been. On the men's side Virginia is just two votes back at No. 2 while on the women's side Ohio State is only one vote behind Florida. There was no change in the men's top six though Baylor moved up two spots to No. 7 while USC dropped one spot to No. 8 and Texas dropped two spots to No. 9. Florida, South Carolina, and Oregon made the biggest jumps by coming up four spots each to No. 15, No. 18, and No. 21. Georgia Tech took the biggest tumble by dropping five spots to No. 19 after a tough loss at unranked Virginia Tech. Coincidently Columbia only dropped one spot to No. 19 after it fell to unranked Harvard.
The women's top four remained the same though Vanderbilt shot up six spots to No. 5 after its big win over Florida last Sunday. Pepperdine came up four spots to No. 8 after defeating Stanford and Texas A&M came up six spots to No. 18 after defeating Georgia in Athens. Texas Tech and Auburn each dropped four spots to No. 10 and No. 22 after T-Tech lost to unranked TCU while Auburn fell to Arkansas.
The Tulane men and TCU women were the only newcomers to this week's poll with each coming in at No. 25. The Kentucky men and LSU women were the only two to fall out after each lost a pair of matches over the weekend.
The latest USTA Top 25 is out with both the Wake Forest men and Florida women remaining at No. 1. The men's top four stayed the same with TCU moving up one spot to No. 5. The women's top 10 remained largely unchanged with the only real move coming when North Carolina and Stanford swapped spots at No. 3 and No. 4. Oklahoma State and Northwestern made the biggest jumps on the men's side with each coming up three spots to No. 6 and No. 21 respectively. Kentucky took the biggest fall dropping five spots to No. 24 after a loss at home to Alabama.
On the women's side, Arizona State and Texas each came up three spots to No. 17 and No. 18 respectively while Kentucky took the biggest fall dropping five spots to No. 20 after losing to LSU and Texas A&M.
Prior to Sunday, it'd been 16 years since Oklahoma State had last defeated a top 3 team but that's exactly what they did on Sunday afternoon in Waco. Third-ranked Baylor jumped on Oklahoma State in doubles and picked up a pair of 6-2 wins at No. 1 and No. 2 to take the early 1-0 lead. Oklahoma State got back in the match by taking four opening sets in singles and Lukas Finzelberg would tie the match up with a quick 6-3, 6-0 win at No. 6. Baylor answered with straight set wins from Max Tchoutakian and Johannes Schretter at No. 2 and No. 3 to go in front 3-1. Oklahoma State's Artur Dubinski followed with a straight set win at No. 4 and then Julian Cash won in three sets at No. 1 to even the match at 3-3.
As Cash was closing out his match, Oklahoma State's Tristan Meraut and Baylor Jimmy Bendeck were headed to a second set tiebreak at No. 5 with Meraut having taken the first set. Meraut led the tiebreak 4-2 at the changeover and he would pull away and close it out 7-3 with Bendeck double faulting on the match point.
It may have been wet on the east side of the San Francisco Bay (UCLA/Cal rained out) but on the south side it stayed dry long enough for Stanford to upset No. 5 USC 4-1. Stanford came into the match having lost its last four to USC and after dropping the doubles point it may have thought No. 5 wasn't too far off. Stanford refocused in singles and took all six first sets and then one-by-one it managed to close them out in straight sets. Sameer Kumar tied the match at 1-1 with a 6-4, 6-2 win at No. 2 and then David Wilczynski made it 2-1 with a 6-1, 6-4 win at No. 3. Tom Fawcett put the Cardinal within a point of the clinch after winning 6-4, 6-2 at No. 1 and then senior Brandon Sutter closed it out with a 7-6, 6-1 win at No. 5.