I tell you there is nothing quite like the first two days at the NCAA Championship site because it's action-packed from sunrise to sunset with one good match after another. The day started off with gray skies and temperatures in the 70s but as the day progressed the sun made its way out and the temperatures shot up into the mid-80s (high humidity all day though). The morning slot saw Virginia roll over Florida on the Henry Feild Stadium courts while Texas overcame the loss of the doubles point to defeat Baylor on the McWhorter courts. Then in the noon slot it was Ohio State overcoming the loss of the doubles point to defeat Oklahoma 4-3 while TCU held off a hard charging Illinois 4-1. In the late afternoon window the hometown Georgia Bulldogs upset USC 4-3 while UCLA roughed up Texas A&M 4-1. The day was capped off with the top seed Wake Forest handling Stanford 4-0 while North Carolina defeated California 4-1. The announced crowd of 1,781 hit its peak during the Georgia/USC match with many sitting up high in the grandstand to stay out of the sun.
I'll go back through each match to give you some of the highlights though with two matches going on at the same it was hard to stay on top of both. I stuck with the Texas/Baylor match to start the day, then during the second slot I started with Ohio State/Oklahoma then watched most of singles in the TCU/Illinois match and then finished up back at the OSU/OU match. I watched just about the entire Georgia/USC match since UCLA/Texas A&M wasn't that close and then in the nightcap I spent most of my time watching UNC/Cal since the result of the Wake/Stanford match wasn't ever in doubt.
The opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament were completed last weekend so now it's time to look at the Sweet 16 matchups that will take place on Thursday in Athens, Georgia. There will two matches taking place at the same time with one on the main Henry Feild Stadium Courts and the other on the McWhorter Courts. The first matches start at 9 a.m. ET with the final two set to start at 7 p.m. ET though it wouldn't surprise me to see both of the 4 p.m. matches run late. Six of the eight matches will be rematches from the regular season so it'll be interesting to see how those teams do the second time around.
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.
Former Virginia Tech Hokie Sebastien Jacques is making his way across the country, by foot, after not being able to walk across a room just a few years ago. Jacques played at Virginia Tech from 2007 to 2010 but during his senior year he had to quit playing due to a lack of energy. After graduating with a degree in marketing he returned home to Magog, Canada, and after seeing several doctor he was eventually diagnosed with a pineal cystic tumor in his brain which was the cause of the energy drain. The doctors in Canada determined the procedure was too risky and the health care system wouldn't cover the cost so Jacques ended up raising $80000 and had the surgery performed in California. The surgery was a success and Jacques returned to a normal life but he decided to embark on the cross-country walk to show people that it is possible to overcome obstacles in life. Virginia Tech had a write-up on Jacques a few days ago plus there are plenty of details on his website.
The NCAA Division II Men's Championship has reached the semifinals with #1 West Florida advancing after a 5-0 win over #4 Hawaii Pacific. UWF's top player, #4 Alex Peyrot, played doubles but sat out in singles which was interesting because in the round of 16 its #2 player, Gabriel Dias, did the same thing. Next up for UWF will be #23 Southwest Baptist after the Bearcats held off #16 Ferris State 5-4 with Raul Cabalero winning the deciding match 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(1) at #4 singles. The other semifinal match will be between #2 Barry and #3 Columbus State. Barry cruised past #18 Drury 5-1 with the Bucs taking two of three in doubles and winning every completed set in singles. Columbus State ran through #14 Azusa Pacific 5-1 with the Cougars sweeping all three doubles courts (count as a point each) and then getting two straight set wins at #3 and #4. APU got its lone point when Oliver Frank, D2s top ranked player, cruised to a 6-1, 6-3 win at #1.
Texas Tech came into this week knowing that it's only way to earn an NCAA Tournament berth was to win the conference tournament and amazingly they now sit just one match away from accomplishing that goal. On Saturday afternoon, Texas Tech picked up its third top 10 win in the last six days after coming back from 2-0 down to defeat No. 8 Oklahoma State 4-3. Oklahoma State jumped out to the early lead after winning a close doubles point and then Artur Dubinski made it 2-0 with a straight set win at No. 5. Texas Tech came back with three-set wins from Bjorn Thomson, Alex Sendegeya, and Connor Curry to go in front 3-2 before Oklahoma State's Lukas Finzelberg won in straight sets at No. 6. Texas Tech senior Jolan Cailleau would put the Red Raiders over the top with a match clinching 6-7, 6-4, 6-1 win over No. 24 Julian Cash at No. 1.
It was an exciting morning/early afternoon of tennis in Norman that ended with a pair of seeding upsets. For the second time in five days Texas Tech upset Baylor with the Red Raiders riding a hot start in both singles and doubles to take the match 3-2. Baylor's Max Tchoutakian fought off several match points at No. 2 to force a third set but shortly thereafter Texas Tech's Connor Curry clinched the win at No. 4. Check out Texas Tech's recap for all the details.
In the other match that was taking place at the same time it was the host Oklahoma knocking off Texas 4-3. The Sooners won a crucial doubles point and then with the match tied at 3-3 senior Alex Ghilea came back from 2-0 down in the third set to win the final six games to clinch the win. Check out Oklahoma and Texas's recaps for more details.
A year ago Texas Tech won 28 matches and hosted a NCAA Regional but going into tonight's match against No. 4 Baylor the Red Raiders were winless in the Big 12 while having an overall record of just 10-14. Baylor was down a man with Jimmy Bendeck (#4 singles/#2 doubles) a late scratch so BU had to make adjustments to both its doubles and singles lineup. Texas Tech took advantage of the shift and picked up wins at No. 2 and No. 3 to take the early 1-0 lead. In singles play, Texas Tech would add five first sets and both Jolan Cailleau and Jackson Cobb would win in straight sets to make it 3-0. Baylor fought back to get splits at No. 3, No. 4, and No. 5 while Texas Tech got a split at No. 2.
Baylor's Johannes Schretter, Max Tchoutakian, and Will Little would each pull through to tie the match at 3-3. Texas Tech senior Carlos DiLaura led Baylor freshman Constantin Frantzen 4-1 in the third at No. 5 but Frantzen took the next two to pull within 4-3. DiLaura broke back for 5-3 but Frantzen broke and held for 5-5 and two games later it went to a tiebreak. DiLaura went up 4-0 in the tiebreak but Frantzen rallied to tie it at 6-6. Frantzen had match points at 7-6 and 8-7 but DiLaura pulled it out 10-8.
It may have been wet on the east side of the San Francisco Bay (UCLA/Cal rained out) but on the south side it stayed dry long enough for Stanford to upset No. 5 USC 4-1. Stanford came into the match having lost its last four to USC and after dropping the doubles point it may have thought No. 5 wasn't too far off. Stanford refocused in singles and took all six first sets and then one-by-one it managed to close them out in straight sets. Sameer Kumar tied the match at 1-1 with a 6-4, 6-2 win at No. 2 and then David Wilczynski made it 2-1 with a 6-1, 6-4 win at No. 3. Tom Fawcett put the Cardinal within a point of the clinch after winning 6-4, 6-2 at No. 1 and then senior Brandon Sutter closed it out with a 7-6, 6-1 win at No. 5.
Both TCU and Oklahoma State picked up big wins on Sunday with OSU defeating Texas for the first time in 10 years while TCU won in Norman for the first time since April 1977. We'll start with the Oklahoma State/Texas match which started outdoors before going indoors after the doubles point due to rain. Oklahoma State won the doubles point for the 17th time in 22 matches after picking up wins at No. 1 and No. 2 while Texas won at No. 3. Oklahoma State took four opening sets in singles and Arjun Kadhe and Lucas Gerch won in straight sets at No. 2 and No. 3 to make it 3-0. Texas's Leo Telles won in straight sets at No. 5 and Texas earned splits at No. 1 and No. 6 after dropping the first set while George Goldhoff dropped the second set at No. 4 after winning the first.
Goldhoff ended up winning in three sets to close the gap to 3-2 but Oklahoma State was right at the finish line at both No. 1 and No. 6. OSU's Julian Cash was serving up 6-3 in the third set tiebreak at No. 1 but before he could hit that next serve his teammate Tristan Meraut held on the no-ad point to close out Rodrigo Banzer 6-1, 6-7, 6-3 at No. 6. Below are clips of the match point from two different angles courtesy of Oklahoma State and below that is head coach Jay Udwadia talking about the big W.
For the second time this week No. 2 Ohio State came up short in the state of Texas after No. 11 Texas A&M rallied to win 4-3.
Ohio State jumped out to the early 1-0 lead after claiming the doubles point with wins at No. 1 and No. 3. Ohio State's No. 1 team of Mikael Torpegaard and Herkko Pollanen broke for 2-1 and then they'd break again for 5-2 and would serve it out for 6-2. Ohio State's No. 3 team of JJ Wolf and Hunter Tubert came back from 0/40 down to hold for 3-2 and then they broke from 30/40 for 4-2. After two more holds they'd serve it out from 40/15 to win 6-3. The match at No. 2 went unfinished with Texas A&M serving at 3-4 (30/30) though A&M's Valentin Vacherot and Arthur Rinderknech had led 2-0 before Ohio State's Hugo Di Feo and Martin Joyce won three straight to go up 3-2.