The second day of the NCAA Championships is half way over with the higher seeds winning in each of the first four matches. In the morning session, No. 2 seed North Carolina shutout out ACC rival Duke 4-0 on the main Henry Feild Courts while defending champion and No. 7 seed Stanford held off a late charge to defeat No. 10 Michigan 4-1. The two noon matches saw both of the SEC schools go down as Ohio State won fairly comfortably over South Carolina while Texas Tech came back from losing the doubles point to defeat Auburn 4-2.
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.
Virginia won its 12th ACC Tournament Championship by defeating the top seed and top ranked team in the country Wake Forest 4-3. The Cavaliers came into the match having lost two straight against Wake Forest after the Demon Deacons beat them in last year's ACC Championship and then earlier this year in Winston-Salem. Virginia jumped out to the early 1-0 lead after picking up doubles wins at No. 2 and No. 3. UVA's No. 2 team of Thai-Son Kwiatkowski and Alexander Ritschard broke for 5-3 and then served it out for 6-3 while its No. 3 team of Collin Altamirano and JC Aragone clinched the point by breaking to win 6-4.
Virginia came out strong in singles and took four opening sets but Wake Forest's Petros Chrysochos put the next point on the board with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Alexander Ritschard at No. 1. The match didn't stay tied for long because UVA senior Thai-Son Kwiatkowski closed out Borna Gojo 6-4, 6-4 and a little while later junior Collin Altamirano made it 3-1 after defeating Dennis Uspensky 6-3, 6-4. Wake trimmed the deficit to 3-2 after Alan Gadjiev got past Henrik Wiersholm 6-4, 6-3 and then the Deacs would force third sets on each of the remaining courts.
Sunday was as wild a day as it gets in the SEC with four lower ranked women's teams picking up wins with two of those wins coming over No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Georgia. The SEC is the only Power 5 Women's Conference to have its conference tournament this coming week so many of these same teams will see each other much sooner than they had probably hoped. Sunday was a day of redemption for some teams on the men's side with both Oregon and Michigan overcoming tough losses to pick up a top 25 win.
Georgia came into Saturday's match at Texas A&M with an undefeated conference record but a few hours later they'd be undefeated no more as Texas A&M played a tremendous match and came away with the win and the top seed in the SEC Tournament. Georgia was 16-5 in doubles coming into the match while Texas A&M was just 9-13 but it'd be the Aggies that'd get off to the quick start by picking up breaks at No. 1 and No. 2.
Texas A&M's AJ Catanzariti and Arthur Rinderknech jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead at No. 1 doubles against the ITA No. 2 team of Jan Zielinski and Robert Loeb and they refused to let Georgia get back in the match. Texas A&M's Jordi Arconada and Hady Habib went up an early break at No. 2 however Georgia's Paul Oosterbaan and Nathan Ponwith would break back to even it at 2-2. Arconada and Habib returned the favor and broke for 3-2, Habib held for 4-2, and then A&M broke again via a Ponwith double fault for 5-2. Over at No. 3, it stayed on serve until Georgia's Wayne Montgomery and Walker Duncan broke Max Lunkin to go ahead 5-3.
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
Usually Thursdays are fairly quiet before the start of a busy weekend but today was wide open with several schools playing dual-matches down in San Diego prior to the start of the Pacific Coast Doubles Championships. Fifth-ranked Oklahoma State improved to 11-3 with a 4-1 win over No. 9 Michigan. The Cowboys won the doubles point going away with its top two teams each winning 6-1 and then it took five opening sets in singles. Julian Cash, Artur Dubinski, and Tristan Meraut each won in straight sets with Meraut clinching at No. 5. Michigan picked up its lone point from Carter Lin at No. 6
The University of Nebraska Omaha started its tennis program in 2008 and after playing in Division II for four years it made the transition to Division I during the 2011-12 season. Since the D1 transition Omaha had only won three conference matches in the lower-tier Summit League, with all three coming against Western Illinois which dropped its struggling program last year, and they'd never come close to defeating a team from a Power 5 Conference going 0-16 while getting outscored 94-4. So when Omaha made the short trip to Lincoln today to play Nebraska it knew the odds were stacked against it but somehow, someway, it managed to do the previously impossible and pull off the biggest win in program history.
Omaha got off to a quick start and swept all three doubles courts to take the early 1-0 lead but Nebraska came back strong in singles and claimed four opening sets. Nebraska went ahead 2-1 with straight set wins from Dylan Bednarczyk and Micah Klousia at No. 2 and No. 5 and then Tomislav Antoljak put them a point away with a three set win at No. 3. Omaha freshman Louis-Jonas Heizlsperger came back from a set down to win in three sets at No. 6 and then freshman Razvan Grigorescu closed out Toby Boyer in three sets at No. 1 to tie up the match at 3-3. As a side note Grigorescu also defeated Oklahoma's Spencer Papa last week so it appears the Mavs have a legitimate No. 1.
The doubles point looked like it was Florida's for the taking after the Gators #2 team of Elliott Orkin and Maxx Lipman cruised to a 6-1 win while its #1 tandem of Diego Hidalgo and Gordon Watson jumped out to a 4-2 lead. With Georgia's #3 team of Wayne Montgomery and Paul Oosterbaan also winning 6-1 the pressure would go back on Georgia's #1 team of Austin Smith and Ben Wagland and the undefeated tandem wouldn't go away as they took 3 straight games to go up 5-4 and were serving for the match. There would then be 3 consecutive service breaks to send the match to a tiebreak. After falling behind 4-2 and 6-4, Georgia's Austin Smith and Ben Wagland would fight off 2 match points and eventually win the last 3 points to take the tiebreak 9-7 in a match that took 57 minutes.
In singles play Georgia would jump out to a break lead on all 6 courts and would end up taking 5 1st sets with Elliott Orkin grabbing the lone 1st set for Florida at #4. Austin Smith would be 1st off the court with a 6-1, 6-4 win at #2 and then 15 minutes later Paul Oosterbaan would close out his match with a 6-4, 6-4 win at #6 which put Georgia up 3-0. Elliott Orkin would give Florida its only point with a 7-5, 6-2 win at #4 but a short while later Nathan Pasha would clinch the victory for Georgia with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-0 win at #3 singles. The 2 remaining matches were tied in the 3rd set at the time of the clinch.
FYI, the # beside the player's school is the player's Universal Tennis Rating as of the current date of the recap. For more details about UTR check out their website.
Auburn, AL: In the SEC opener for each school, Auburn was able to grab the doubles point and then pick up 4 1st sets to put South Carolina into a hole that they just couldn't climb out of. Auburn's Oliver Plaskett provided the clincher at #6 singles with a 6-4, 7-6 win over Thomas Mayronne. The remaining match at #2 was halted with Auburn's Marko Krickovic up 5-3 in the 3rd so more than likely this would have finished 5-2 in Auburn's favor had it been played out.
South Carolina recap
Ann Arbor, MI: The Dartmouth Big Green ran its record to 7-4 on the year with a 4-3 win on the road at Michigan. Michigan was coming off a win over Memphis but couldn't duplicate the results against its Ivy League foe.
#50 Dartmouth 4, #52 Michigan 3
The owners of 38 NCAA Division 1 Men's Team National Championships will meet on Friday afternoon in Los Angeles as the #1 USC Trojans host the #37 Stanford Cardinal.
USC's media guide shows they lead the all-time series 109-76 with the 1st match played in 1925 while Stanford's shows USC leads it 63-59 with the 1st match coming in 1967. I'd have to go with USC's as the more accurate source since I know Stanford was playing tennis long before 1967. Stanford has won 17 NCAA Championships with the last coming in 2000 while USC has won 21 NCAA Championships including 5 of the last 6.
USC has won 8 straight in the series with Stanford's last win over SC coming back in 2011 at the National Indoors. This USC team is full of experience with the top 4 spots in the singles lineup occupied by seniors along with a junior and a sophomore at 5 and 6. Stanford on the other hand is starting 3 freshmen, a senior, and 2 juniors.
Let's breakdown the individual match-ups and see if Stanford has any shot at getting close to 4 points against the #1 Trojans.
Stanford freshman #26 Tom Fawcett has turned some heads so far this year with his stellar play which includes 3 wins over top 60 opponents and he is currently the 3rd highest ranked freshman in the latest rankings behind only Duke's #8 Nicolas Alvarez and Georgia's #17 Wayne Montgomery. USC senior Yannick Hanfmann just seems to keep plugging along with 11 of his 13 wins over ranked opponents with 8 of those 11 over top 50 opponents. Both of these guys are undefeated in dual match play so somebody has to lose - I'll take experience over youth.
Stanford's David Wilczynski has done something you don't see too often - he has played at every spot in the singles lineup after starting the year at 6 and has since played at 5, 4, 3, 2, and this past Tuesday against Hawaii he played at 1 so that's 6 different positions in 7 matches. The reason for the upward slide has been strictly performance based as all his dual match wins have been blowouts with the lone loss coming in 3 sets to Cal's Filip Bergevi. One item to note is that while the wins have been impressive only 1 has been over a ranked opponent (#123 Perez-Blanco). Wilczynski's opponent will be #20 Roberto Quiroz who already has 7 wins over ranked opponents and 5 of those over top 50 opponents. Quiroz is just too seasoned for the Cardinal freshman and will take this one in 2.
Stanford's John Morrissey spent the last 2 years playing atop the Cardinal singles lineup but has been pushed down to #3 after a slow start to the year in conjunction with the strong play of both Fawcett and Wilczyns