Utah and No. 12 Stanford had met 37 times headed into Sunday's men's match in Salt Lake City and despite some recent close encounters the Utes had only tasted victory once with that coming over 30 years ago. Stanford's top player Axel Geller did not play, despite suiting up on Thursday against Cal Poly, so the Cardinal had to make some adjustments to both their doubles and singles lineup and Utah rose to the occasion on senior day with its departing trio each playing a role in the 4-2 upset win.
Utah senior David Micevski and junior Slava Shainyan were the first off the court in doubles with a 6-3 win at No. 1 over Stanford's usual No 2 team of Jack Barber and William Genesen. Moments later Stanford's Sameer Kumar, who normally teams with Geller at No. 1, and Sangeet Sridhar won 6-4 at No. 2 doubles to make the match at No. 3 the decider.
Utah senior Joe Woolley and sophomore Russell Benkaim would win that decider in a tiebreak 7-2 over Alexandre Rotsaert and Timothy Sah with the Stanford pair in their usual spot at No. 3.
In singles each team would take three opening sets with Utah claiming the top three while Stanford took the bottom three.
Utah senior Dan Little made it 2-0 after rolling in his final match at home with an impressive 6-3, 6-2 win over Rotsaert at No. 1 however Stanford was closing in on wins on the bottom three courts.
The three top matches on Saturday each finished with lopsided results as the Texas men, Stanford women, and Michigan women rolled to wins over top 25 conference opponents.
Fourth-ranked Texas improved to 20-2 and snapped a four-match losing streak against No. 10 TCU with a 6-1 win. After TCU finished up its senior day activities, which celebrated the careers of Alex Rybakov and Reese Stalder, the Horned Frogs claimed the doubles point with wins at No. 1 and No. 2. Texas regrouped in singles and took five opening sets with Yuya Ito and Leo Telles winning in straight sets at No. 2 and No. 3 to give Texas a 2-1 lead. TCU battled back to force several third sets but ultimately the Horns would win them all with Christian Sigsgaard clinching at No. 1 with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Alex Rybakov.
Texas finishes conference play next weekend with road matches at Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. TCU will have to regroup quickly with No. 8 Texas A&M coming to town on Monday and then the Horned Frogs make the same trip that Texas makes to Stillwater and Norman.
After a pretty ho-hum Saturday, Sunday brought us several good matches with a few upsets and a few near-upsets. #15/#11 USC pulled off the biggest upset of the day by going to Austin and defeating #3/#1 Texas 4-2. The Trojans grabbed the early lead with doubles wins at No. 2 and No. 3 and then the teams split opening sets in singles. All matches that finished did so in straight sets with USC getting wins from Brandon Holt, Riley Smith, and Mor Bulis at 1, 5, and 6 while Texas picked up wins from Yuya Ito and Harrison Scott at 2 and 4 while Leo Telles led 6-4, 4-4 on 3.
#8/#12 Mississippi State extended its home winning streak to 24 with a late rally to get past #22/#19 Georgia 4-3. Georgia claimed the doubles point with wins at No. 1 and No. 3 but Mississippi State fought back in singles with four opening sets. Strahinja Rakic and Nuno Borges rolled to straight set wins at No. 4 and No. 1 to make it 2-1 but Georgia's Trent Bryde would tie it at 2-2 with a straight set win at No. 3. Georgia senior Walker Duncan made it 3-2 with a 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 win at No. 6 and it looked like match at No. 4 was all but over with Georgia freshman Philip Henning serving up 4-6, 6-2, 5-2 (30/0) against MSU senior Trevor Foshey. However on the 30/0 point Henning would go down on the baseline with what appeared to be a pretty severe ankle sprain.
Henning did his best to continue after a lengthy medical timeout but he could barely put any weight on his injured ankle and Foshey quickly won point after point. With the outcome of that match all but certain the focus went to No. 2 where MSU junior Giovanni Oradini led Georgia senior Jan Zielinski 5-4 in the third. Oradini had jumped out to a 4-1 lead early in the set but Zielinski managed to get it back on serve at 4-4. After Oradini held for 5-4 he'd get the pivotal break to close it out 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 to make it 3-3. Moments later Foshey would close out Henning 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 to extend the home winning streak to 25. Unlike most match clinchers there was no celebration in this one with Foshey and Henning hugging at the net while the teams exchanged handshakes.
The big top 10 showdown on Saturday took place at Stanford with the No. 4 Cardinal hosting No. 7 Vanderbilt in a rematch of last year's NCAA Championship Final. Stanford won that match in Winston-Salem 4-3 with some final court drama but this one on Saturday at Stanford was a pretty cut and dry win for the Cardinal. Stanford rolled through doubles only dropping two games each at No. 1 and No. 3 and then they added five first sets in singles with four of them being lopsided 6-1 scores. Melissa Lord made it 2-0 with a 6-1, 6-3 win over at No. 2 and Emma Higuchi made it 3-0 with a 6-1, 7-6 win at No. 6. Emily Arthbuthnott provided the clincher at No. 4 with a 6-1, 2-6, 6-1 win.
The other matches were played out with Stanford adding two more points with wins at No. 5 and No. 3 while Vandy got its lone point at No. 1 after Fernanda Contreras fought off multiple match points to win a third set supertiebreak 14-12.
Boston College pulled off the upset of the day on Sunday with a historic first-ever top 10 win when it upset No. 10 Syracuse 4-3 in a match that started before noon but almost lasted until the kickoff of the Super Bowl. The Eagles, now 7-0, jumped out to the early lead with what turned out to be a crucial doubles point with wins at No. 2 and No. 3. Syracuse bounced back in singles and took the opening set on three of the four courts in action however each team would claim two wins a piece which meant it'd come down to the final two matches to go on court at No. 5 and No. 6. Syracuse tied it up at 3-3 with a straight set win at No. 6 but BC would get the clincher from freshman Laura Lopez who picked up a 7-6, 6-3 at No. 5.
"I am so proud of how hard our girls compete," said head coach Nigel Bentley. "They have worked so hard. They understand there are no short cuts. They earned an awesome win today against a top-10 team. Our captain senior Jackie Urbinati had another amazing third set comeback and everyone really fed off her energy. Yufei Long was outstanding beating one of the nation's top players."
"To watch Laura get her first ACC win under that kind of pressure was tremendous to witness. The doubles teams battled hard every point, and everybody contributed to this complete team win. I'm very happy for our team and program, it's a great day for BC women's tennis."
Big Ten Conference Men's Tennis is ramping up and there is a Big Time Top Ten match on Sunday in Columbus. One of the biggest college rivalries will be played as the #8 nationally ranked Michigan Wolverines visit the #2 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.
A resurgent Michigan program is off to a great start in 2018. The Wolverines stand 11-2 on the season with their only losses coming on the road against #3 North Carolina (4-2) and at home against #11 Florida (4-2). In the Florida match, Michigan barely lost the doubles point with #1s falling 7-6 (6). The Wolverines put up a fight in singles winning a pair of matches in straight sets but Florida was too strong up top sweeping the top three spots.
Since then the Wolverines have beaten #23 Cal, Memphis, a great 2018 Western Michigan team, #17 Notre Dame, # 10 Duke and Central Florida.
Michigan is clearly finding its step as the Big 10 season starts.
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.