Friday was a stacked day with nine matchups between top 25 teams with six of those coming on the women's side. The highest profile match on the men's side took place in Waco with sixth-ranked Baylor hosting ninth-ranked TCU. The Bears claimed the doubles point with a 6-4 win at No. 1 and a 7-6(5) win at No. 3 and then in singles each team won three opening sets. Only two of the six matches would finish in straight sets with Baylor's Sven Lah winning 6-3, 6-3 at No. 5 while TCU's Alex Rybakov won 7-5, 6-3 at No. 1.
Baylor's Will Little put the Bears up 3-1 with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win at No. 4 and Jimmy Bendeck clinched at No. 6 with a 7-6, 3-6, 6-2 win. The other two matches were played out with Baylor's Johannes Schretter winning at No. 2 while TCU's Reese Stalder won at No. 3.
Baylor Head coach Brian Boland on the win…
"We enjoyed it. It was a tremendous crowd, and everyone came out and supported a great college tennis match and it was everything (and) more than we thought it would be. I'm just happy for the guys. They really prepared well all week, and now we have to get ready to play Texas, so we do not have a lot of time. But a tribute to our leaders, they played really hard tonight and did a really good job preparing this week, along with the rest of the team. Once again, doubles is pivotal in terms of the momentum, especially in matches that are as competitive as this one. And congratulations to TCU, they played a great match, and I look forward to another opportunity to play them again down the road. The Big 12 is a big challenge, and now we have another top-five team in front of us on Sunday."
For the most part Friday was a pretty dull day but Saturday delivered us some gems including two big comeback wins. I'll start with the upset of the day which came in Stillwater when Illinois rallied from 3-0 down to stun No. 11 seed Oklahoma State 4-3. The Cowboys took the doubles point with wins at No. 1 and No. 3 and then each team took three opening sets in singles. Oklahoma State seniors Lucas Gerch and Lukas Finzelberg made quick work of their opponents at No. 3 and No. 6 to make it 3-0 but Illinois started winning all the close sets and got back in the match.
Aron Hiltzik put the Illini on the board with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 win at No. 2 which elicited a big fist pump from head coach Brad Dancer and then both Aleks Kovacevic and Zeke Clark would win their matches within seconds of each other to tie it up at 3-3. Clark came back from a 4-0 first set deficit to take the set 6-4 and then he won the second set in a tiebreak by a 10-8 score. Kovacevic had a chance to close his match out in straight sets but after failing to do so he won the third set 6-0.
Illinois junior Aleks Vukic, who missed yesterday's match against Drake, would get the clincher with a 7-6, 7-6 win over Julian Cash at No. 1. Illinois is headed back to the Sweet 16 for the first time in two years and in doing so that means that an unseeded team has advanced to the Sweet 16 every year since the NCAA field was expanded to 64 teams in 1999.
The number of head coaching jobs at Power 5 schools is now up to six after LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva announced on Monday that men's head coach Jeff Brown was resigning after 20 years. Brown won just over 60 percent of the 517 matches he coached and was an even .500 against SEC competition. Brown's LSU teams advanced to the NCAA Tournament 17 times however this year the Tigers fell well short after going 10-17 overall and just 3-9 in the SEC. Brown's best seasons in Baton Rouge came in his first two seasons when he led the Tigers to back-to-back appearances in the NCAA semifinals. Alleva called the resignation a "mutual decision" though I'm pretty sure Brown wasn't the one to approach Alleva on the subject. Below is a quote from LSU's release:
“It's been a great run,” Brown said. “We had so much success and had so many great people come through our program. I'm proud of all the players that we coached here at LSU and all that we were able to accomplish as a program.”
The other Power 5 jobs currently open are: Virginia men, Virginia women, Tennessee men, USC women, and Minnesota women.
It was senior day in Raleigh but unfortunately for the host Wolfpack they only had five healthy players and their opponent happened to be No. 1 Wake Forest. Wake took the doubles point after only dropping three games and then the Deacs won five of six matches in singles with NC State freshman Alexis Galarneau salvaging the day for the Pack with a win over Borna Gojo at No. 2.
The women's SEC Tournament in Nashville had it all on Thursday with three matches coming down to the final court and one that started outside on the back courts and then and finished inside on just five courts after the rain came. Mississippi State won the opener over Tennessee 4-1 and then Auburn's Andie Dikosavljevic came back from *4-1 and *5-4 down in the third set of the deciding match at No. 1 to propel the Tigers past Arkansas 4-3 in a match that took over four hours.
The third match of the day between LSU and Texas A&M started doubles on the back courts due to the Auburn/Arkansas match running long and then once singles started they could only use four courts for the same reason. A little past the midway point of singles, with rain on the horizon, they moved indoors to Vanderbilt's five-court indoor facility. Texas A&M managed to go ahead 3-2 but LSU's Ryann Foster won in straight sets at No. 3 to tie it up and then a short while later Joana Valle Costa clinched the match by breaking Rutuja Bhosale to win 7-6, 1-6, 6-4.
Cal came into Friday evenings match against No. 23 Oregon with a perfect 33-0 record all-time against the Ducks but the streak nearly came to an end. Cal picked up the all-important doubles point with wins at No. 1 and No. 3 but Oregon came back in singles and picked up three quick straight set wins from Akihiro Tanaka, Cormac Clissold, and Ty Gentry to go in front 3-1. Cal came back to tie it up with Andre Goransson and Filip Bergevi each winning in straight sets so the match would be decided in a third set at No. 1 between a pair of Frenchmen.
Cal senior Florian Lakat (Paris) took the first set 6-4 but Oregon sophomore Thomas Laurent (Montpellier) snagged the second 7-5 after breaking Lakat's 6-5 service game. After an exchange of holds, Laurent went up 30/40 on Lakat's 1-2 service game but Lakat hit back-to-back forehand winners to hold for 2-2. Laurent held for 3-2 and then he went up 30/40 on Lakat's serve but Lakat hit back-to-back service winners to hold for 3-3. Laurent held for 4-3 and then once again he'd go up 30/40 on Lakat's serve but Lakat hit an ace out wide and then on the deciding point he hit a service winner to hold for 4-4. Laurent had been cruising on his serve all set but Lakat would break him on the no-ad point after hitting a forehand winner that just clipped the sideline right in front of the chair. Laurent actually called the shot out but the chair quickly overruled it so now Lakat was serving for the match up 5-4. Lakat would serve it out from 40/15 to give Cal a tough 4-3 win.
After watching a top 10 men's showdown on Friday night in Winston-Salem, I took in a top 10 women's showdown on Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill. Fourth-ranked North Carolina hadn't dropped a regular season conference match in three years and was riding a 50-match home court winning streak but both of those streaks would come to an end courtesy of tenth-ranked Georgia Tech. North Carolina was playing without Alexa Graham (#4S/#2D) who was out with an illness so they had to change one doubles pairing and move everyone in the lower half of the singles lineup forward one spot.
North Carolina's Hayley Carter and Jessie Aney jumped out to an early break lead at No. 1 doubles and would add another to win 6-2. Georgia Tech's Kenya Jones and Paige Hourigan followed a similar path at No. 2 doubles and also won 6-2. The point would be decided at No. 3 between Georgia Tech's Nami Otsuka/Luca Fabian and North Carolina's Sara Daavettila/Rachael James-Baker. Georgia Tech won three of the first four games to go up 3-1 but North Carolina broke and held for 3-3. A few games later Georgia Tech held for 5-4 and then they broke UNC from 15/40, via a double fault, to take the match 6-4.
Thursday was a busy day in the SEC with eight teams in action however the highest profile match of the day didn't quite live up to expectations. Georgia, ranked No. 14, strolled into Starkville and took out the host No. 17 Mississippi State 4-0 in just under two and a half hours. The doubles point itself took just under an hour with two of the three matches going to tiebreaks. Mississippi State's No. 2 team of Mate Cutura and Vaughn Hunter won the only match that didn't go to a tiebreak. Cutura and Hunter broke from 30/40 to go up 3-2 and then they came back from 15/40 down to hold for 4-2. After an exchange of holds, Cutura and Hunter broke at love to take it 6-3.
The other two matches looked like they'd be blowouts after the way each started. Mississippi State's Niclas Braun and Trevor Foshey jumped out to a 4-1 lead at No. 1 but Georgia's Robert Loeb and Jan Zielinski came back to tie it at 4-4. Mississippi State held on the no-ad point for 5-4 and after three more holds it'd go to a tiebreak. Georgia jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the tiebreak and they wouldn't drop a point on serve and would win it 7-3.
Georgia's Walker Duncan and Wayne Montgomery jumped out to a 4-0 lead at No. 2 doubles however Mississippi State's Nuno Borges and Giovanni Oradini would come all the way back to tie it at 5-5 after breaking Georgia on the no-ad point. Each team had an easy hold to push it to a tiebreak and then Georgia went up a mini-break at 2-1 and pulled away to win it 7-5.
For a while on Sunday it looked like the top ranked team in the land was going down but when the going got tough the tough got going. Wake Forest started off the day by claiming the doubles point with wins at No. 1 and No. 3 but Georgia Tech came back strong in singles and took five opening sets. Georgia Tech junior Chris Eubanks tied the match at 1-1 with a fairly routine 6-1, 6-4 win over the ITA second-ranked Petros Chrysochos at No. 1. Eubanks led the match from start to finish by breaking Chrysochos's opening service game in each set. Georgia Tech junior Daniel Yun put the Yellow Jackets ahead with a straight set win over Alan Gadjiev at No. 6. The opening set stayed on serve until Yun broke for 6-5 and then after serving out the set he'd open up a 4-0 lead in the second and close it out 7-5, 6-1
Saturday was a busy day out west with USC and Baylor advancing to the finals of the BNP Paribas Open Collegiate Tennis Challenge while Oregon defeated Tulane to win the San Diego Spring Break Tournament. Virginia played its first competitive match in a month and dominated Notre Dame in South Bend. Mississippi State, Auburn, and Florida each went on the road in the SEC and won 4-3 matches.
Thursday was a busy day in the SEC with eight teams in action since the conference is playing on Thursday and Saturday this week. Three of the four matches saw the road team pick up a win while No. 17 Kentucky was the only team to win at home. TCU finished off its West Coast trip with another win while just down the road UCLA knocked off Duke.