A trio of top 15 matches highlighted the mid-week slate with the TCU men, Pepperdine women, and Duke women all coming through with wins.
TCU earned a hard fought 4-3 win at home over No. 8 Texas A&M. The Horned Frogs won a pivotal doubles point with wins at No. 1 and No. 2 and then each team took three opening sets in singles. Texas A&M's Valentin Vacherot tied it up with a straight set win at No. 3 but TCU made it 3-1 with a three-set win from Luc Fomba at No. 5 and a straight set win from Sander Jong at No. 6. Texas A&M's Barnaby Smith made it 3-2 with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 win at No. 4 and Juan Carlos Aguilar tied it up with a 7-6, 7-5 win at No. 2. TCU senior Alex Rybakov won the decider on senior night with a 7-6, 6-7, 6-3 win over Hady Habib.
The big match during the week took place in Los Angeles on Wednesday afternoon as eighth-ranked UCLA hosted ninth-ranked Pepperdine. The Bruins struck first by taking the doubles point with wins at No. 2 and No. 3 but Pepperdine quickly tied it up with a 6-0, 6-0 win by Anastasia Iamachkine at No. 6. UCLA retook the lead with a straight set win by Elysia Bolton at No. 2 but Pepperdine added straight set wins by Jessica Failla and Daria Kuczer at No. 3 and No. 4 to go in front 3-2. UCLA's Jada Hart tied the match at 3-3 with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win at No. 1 but Pepperdine's Dzina Milovanovic would win the decider at No. 5 singles 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.
In men's action on Wednesday, No. 11 North Carolina defeated ACC rival No. 21 NC State 4-0. The Tar Heels took the doubles point and then added straight set wins in singles from William Blumberg, Brian Cernoch, and Bo Boyden at No. 1, No. 3, and No. 5.
Friday brought us seven matchups between top 25 teams with five taking place on the men's side and two on the women's side. The only top 10 matchup took place in Nashville with fifth-ranked Vanderbilt hosting sixth-ranked South Carolina. The Gamecocks hadn't beaten Vandy in Nashville since 2005 but the 14 year drought came to end thanks to a few key points in doubles and then getting all around strong play throughout the singles lineup.
South Carolina grabbed the early lead after taking the doubles point with a 6-1 win at No. 1 and a 7-6(4) win at No. 2. In singles, SC claimed four opening sets and they'd manage to close three out in straight sets. Ingrid Gamarra Martins was first off the court with a 7-5, 6-4 win at No. 1 and Kennedy Wicker followed with a 6-2, 7-6 win at No. 6. While the matches at No. 3, No. 4, and No. 5 were deep in the third set, SC senior Paige Cline would close out her match at No. 2 in straight sets with a 6-2, 7-6(4) win.
Another big coaching opening was filled as LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva named Andy Brandi and his son Chris as the men's co-head coaches of the Tigers. Andy has plenty of coaching experience in the SEC after spending 17 exceptional seasons as the women's head coach at Florida from 1984 to 2001. During those 17 seasons, Andy won three NCAA Championships while his teams won 91% of its matches and lost zero SEC home matches! After Andy left Florida he served as Director of Tennis at the IMG Academy for five years and then most recently he was a national coach on the USTA Player Development staff.
Chris Brandi played collegiately at TCU and Florida from 2001 to 2005 and then was an assistant coach at Wake Forest in 2008 and at Baylor from 2009-2011; most recently he was a private tennis coach in Florida. Andy and Chris Brandi replace Jeff Brown who stepped down after 15 seasons. Below are some quotes from LSU's release:
While the NCAA Division I Tournament got started last weekend the Division II Tournament wrapped up with the West Florida men and Barry women bringing home the trophy. UWF won its fourth national championship, first since 2014, with a 5-2 win over Barry. UWF took two of three doubles matches to go in front 2-1 and then it added straight set wins from Gabriel Dias and Serdar Bojadjiev and Alfonso Castellano provided the clincher with a three set win at No. 6. UWF's recap has more details plus you can rewatch the broadcast of the final at this link.
The 69th Blue Gray Tennis Classic came to an end on Saturday with the Rice men and Auburn women capturing titles by winning three matches in a 30-hour window. Rice started the day on Friday with a 4-0 win over Boise State and then Rice and Virginia Tech met in the semifinals with the doubles point played on Friday while singles was played Saturday morning. Rice only dropped two points in doubles and then the Owls won 9 of 11 sets in singles with David Warren clinching the 4-0 win. In Saturday afternoon's championship match, Rice took the doubles point with wins at No. 1 and No. 2 but then the teams split first sets in singles. South Carolina picked up straight set wins from Andrew Schafer and Alex Fennell while Rice's Tommy Bennett won in straight sets for Rice. With the match tied at 2-2 each of the remaining matches would be decided by few points late in the third set.
South Carolina's Yancy Dennis served for the match at No. 3 up 5-4 in the third but Rice's Jake Hansen broke back, held, and broke again to win 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 which put Rice ahead 3-2. Rice sophomore Eric Rutledge would clinch the match at No. 5 by breaking Thomas Mayronne's 4-4 third set service game and then serving the match out to take it 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. The match at No. 1 went unfinished with Rice's Jamie Malik leading 4-2 in the third set tiebreak after Malik had fought off two match points to force the tiebreak
There was only one men's match on Friday that took place between ranked teams and it happened in Columbus as No. 3 Ohio State ran its record to 8-0 with an anything but easy 4-1 win over No. 15 Kentucky. The doubles point on the other hand was pretty easy with the Buckeyes winning big at No. 2 and No. 3. Ohio State rode the momentum from the doubles point into singles and took four opening sets but Kentucky managed to get splits on two of those courts. Kentucky's Nils Ellefsen tied the match with a straight set win at No. 4 but Ohio State countered with straight set wins from Mikael Torpegaard and Herkko Pollanen at No. 1 and No. 5. Each of the remaining matches were in third sets but Ohio State sophomore Kyle Seelig would pull away from Kentucky's Enzo Wallart to clinch the match with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 win at No. 6.
Saturday was semifinal day at all the fall tournaments - take a look down below to see who is playing in Sunday's finals.
In my opinion the biggest surprise for Ohio State this year has been the play of Chris Diaz at #1. Last year the Columbus native struggled in the middle of the lineup and went just 11-15 in dual match play but this year he has more than held his own Roberto Cid, Shane Vinsant, Or-Ram Harel, and Lukas Ollert.
TCU's final warm up for next week National Indoors was a successful one as they rolled into Tulsa and came out with a 4-0 win. Tulsa put up a fight on several courts with the Golden Hurricanes either leading or in striking distance on each of the 3 remaining courts but it was all for not as TCU got straight set wins from senior Arnau Dachs and a pair of guys that were ranked #2 (Nunez) and #3 (Norrie) in the ITA's preseason newcomer/freshman rankings. TCU will likely be looking at a 1st round matchup against #3 Virginia next Friday so it will take a complete performance from everyone to keep it close.
Before I preview that one here are a few others to keep an eye on today:
#31 San Diego (8-3) at #34 Texas Tech (12-4) - 1pm est - Live Scoring - San Diego is coming off a hard fought loss against USC and has wins on the year over South Carolina and South Florida while Texas Tech has only played 1 match in the last 3 weeks though has wins this year over Auburn and Mississippi State.
#24 Florida State (10-4) at #19 Wake Forest (9-4) - 4pm est - Live Scoring & Streaming - FSU is coming off a weekend where the Noles beat Louisville and gave North Carolina all it wanted despite FSU playing without its #1 Benjamin Lock who was playing in the Davis Cup. Wake has played its last 3 matches without its #1 Noah Rubin (wrist) going 1-2 in that stretch with respectable losses to Texas and Virginia and a win over TCU. This should be a very competitive match that probably finishes 4-3 on way or the other.
#28 Louisville (13-3) at #37 NC State (10-5) - 4pm est - Live Scoring & Streaming - Louisville comes off a weekend where they split with Notre Dame (W) and Florida State (L). NC State on the other hand went 0-2 last week with a close 4-3 loss to North Carolina (playing w/o Schnur) before getting plowed by Virginia 7-0. Like the FSU/Wake match this too will likely be a 4-3 match.
#42 Mississippi State (11-3) at #18 Florida (6-5)- 5pm est - Live Scoring - State has won 4 in a row with a pair of recent wins over Alabama and Arkansas while Florida has dropped 3 of its last 4. I think Florida should get the win here though State is more than capable of the upset.
#11 Vanderbilt (13-3) at #9 Texas A&M (7-2) - 7pm est - Live Scoring - Last year Texas A&M rolled into Nashville and rolled over the Dores 4-0 so this year it'll be Vandy trying to return the favor. Vandy is a stout 11-3 in doubles while Texas A&M is an equally impressive 8-1. College Station is a tough place to play so for Vanderbilt to win this one they really need the doubles point. Unfortunately for them I think Texas A&M gets the point but Vandy will put up a fight in singles. The matchup at #1 should be a good one with Gonzales Austin bringing a 14-1 dual match record into this one while Jeremy Efferding is 6-1.
Projected Singles Lineup:
1. #10 Gonzales Austin (VU 14.34) vs. #65 Jeremy Efferding (aTm 14.03)
2. Rhys Johnson (VU 13.43) vs. #71 Shane Vinsant (aTm 14.19)
3. Daniel Valent (VU 13.73) vs. #48 Harrison Adams (aTm 13.73)
4. Kris Yee (VU 13.66) vs. Arthur Rinderknech (aTm 14.15)
5. Suresh Eswaran (VU 12.87) vs. #89 A.J. Catanzariti (aTm 13.96)
6. Baker Newman (VU 12.93) vs. Max Lunkin (aTm 12.91)
Others who could play: Jordi Arconada (aTm 13.54)
#1 singles - Austin has a 14-1 dual match record and has won 2 straight after dropping his only match to Ole Miss's Nik Scholtz while Efferding is 6-1 but 2-0 playing at #1. Efferding has won 3 straight and led Georgia's Wayne Montgomery 3-0 in the 3rd in a match that didn't finish. This one will likely have a few close 7-5 type of sets and might not get to finish. I'll say Austin is ahead when the match is clinched.
#2 singles - Johnson is 5-8 on the year and has lost 2 straight while Vinsant is 2-2, with 4 additional matches not finishing, though he got blown out 6-3, 6-0 his last time out against South Carolina's Andrew Adams. I see Vinsant rebounding in this one and winning in 2.
#3 singles - Valent is 13-1 on the year and 3-0 since moving up from 4 to 3. Valent has also won 5 straight with 2 of those wins over ranked opposition. Adams on the other hand has really struggled this year with an 0-6 record and he actually was pulled from the lineup for the Aggies last match against South Carolina. I've got to go with Valent in this one though if Adams sits and Rinderknech gets moved up I could see it going the other way.
#4 singles - Yee is 8-7 in dual match play and 1-1 since dropping down from 3 to 4 in the lineup. Yee blew out Auburn's Joseph Van Dooren 6-1, 6-0 last weekend with that win stopping a 4 match losing streak. Rinderknech is a solid 7-1 and has won 7 straight since dropping his 1st dual match. Rinderknech played at #3 the last time out and picked up a 6-1, 1-6, 7-6 win over South Carolina's Thiago Pinheiro. Outside of #1 singles I think this will be the 2nd closest match and I'm going to take Rinderknech in 3.
#5 singles - Eswaran is 8-5 this year and 1-1 since moving up from 6 to 5 while Catanzariti is 5-3 though he's won 4 of his last 5. Anything other than Catanzariti in 2 would be surprising.
#6 singles - Newman is 5-5 on the year and 3-0 since moving down from 5 to 6 while Lunkin is 3-1 and the last time out he was up 4-1 in the 3rd against South Carolina's Thomas Mayronne when the team match was clinched. I'll go with Lunkin in 2 tight sets.
In my opinion Vanderbilt's best path to an upset would be to take the doubles point and pick up singles wins from Austin, Valent, and Newman. If this were in Nashville I'd probably take Vanderbilt but I think that home court advantage pays off for the Aggies. Prediction: Texas A&M 4-1
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