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.
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.