Tuesday, 23 May 2017 01:16

Florida & Stanford To Play For It All

It was another crazy of tennis with the rain wrecking havoc on the women's schedule and ultimately one match was sent 70 miles away to Atlanta. The two teams that made the finals are familiar faces with 19-time champion Stanford set to meet Florida who will be playing in its 14th NCAA Final while attempting to win No. 7. 

Stanford and Ohio State were the two teams sent to Atlanta with it being the second day in a row that the Buckeyes got sent there. Ohio State jumped on Stanford in doubles and took the point with a 6-2 win at No. 2 and a 6-1 win at No. 3. Stanford came back in singles and took five opening sets but the one first set that Ohio State got turned into a quick straight set win as Francesca Di Lorenzo defeated Caroline Doyle 6-1, 6-0 at No. 1.

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Sunday, 21 May 2017 20:17

Women's Elite 8 Recap

The 2017 NCAA women's semifinalists are now set and it'll be a pair of SEC superpowers, a newcomer from the Big Ten, and perennial powerhouse from the Pac-12. The day was supposed to begin at 10 a.m. ET but due to rain everyone was put in a holding pattern. After the skies opened up and it began to pour, the decision was made that North Carolina and Stanford would go indoors in Athens at 2 p.m while Ohio State and Texas Tech would be shipped to Atlanta with a 4 p.m. start (I went to Atlanta to follow the match). Both of the late matches were put on hold but due to the skies eventually clearing they would both be played outdoors starting just 30 minutes after the original 4 p.m. start time.

The longest match of the day took place between the No. 7 seed Stanford and the No. 2 seed North Carolina. A big reason for the length, 3 hours and 18 minutes, was because Georgia's indoor facility only has four courts and the other reason was because four of the six singles matches went three sets.  

Stanford got off to great start in doubles and rolled to 6-1 wins at both No. 1 and No. 2 while North Carolina had a 5-1 lead at No. 3 in a match that went unfinished. 

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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. 

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Wednesday, 17 May 2017 09:30

Men's Sweet 16 Previews

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. 

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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.  

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

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Prior to Sunday, it'd been 16 years since Oklahoma State had last defeated a top 3 team but that's exactly what they did on Sunday afternoon in Waco. Third-ranked Baylor jumped on Oklahoma State in doubles and picked up a pair of 6-2 wins at No. 1 and No. 2 to take the early 1-0 lead. Oklahoma State got back in the match by taking four opening sets in singles and Lukas Finzelberg would tie the match up with a quick 6-3, 6-0 win at No. 6. Baylor answered with straight set wins from Max Tchoutakian and Johannes Schretter at No. 2 and No. 3 to go in front 3-1. Oklahoma State's Artur Dubinski followed with a straight set win at No. 4 and then Julian Cash won in three sets at No. 1 to even the match at 3-3. 

As Cash was closing out his match, Oklahoma State's Tristan Meraut and Baylor Jimmy Bendeck were headed to a second set tiebreak at No. 5 with Meraut having taken the first set. Meraut led the tiebreak 4-2 at the changeover and he would pull away and close it out 7-3 with Bendeck double faulting on the match point. 

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