Saturday may have been a long day but it was mostly definitely a great one with one thrilling match after another. The day started off with the two-time defending NCAA Champs Virginia facing some resistance but ultimately pulling away from No. 10 Texas and winning 4-1. The match of the tournament was taking place on the McWhorter Courts as No. 3 Ohio State outlasted No. 6 TCU 4-3 in a match that lasted 3 hours and 30 minutes. The late afternoon session turned into the late night session after a five-hour rain delay interrupted play during singles. Play would resume at 11 p.m. ET and surprisingly almost 500 of the announced crowd of 2324 returned to see the hosts Georgia upset No. 5 UCLA 4-2. The final match to finish was an All-ACC affair on McWhorter that saw No. 9 North Carolina upset the top seed Wake Forest 4-2.
Photo by Bill Kallenberg (CapturedInAction.com)
The rubber meets the road on Saturday afternoon in Athens with an extremely competitive schedule lined up. In the noon session you'll have the two-time defending champs Virginia taking on Texas and the other match could be the match of the tournament as No. 3 Ohio State takes on No. 6 TCU. In the late-afternoon session they'll be huge crowd on hand to see if Georgia can get past UCLA while a pair of ACC rivals, Wake Forest and North Carolina, will tangle on the back courts. The temperature is expected to be in the upper 80s and may hit 90 so it'll be interesting to see how the teams from outside of the south handle the elements.
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.
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.
The latest USTA Top 25 is out with both the Wake Forest men and Florida women remaining at No. 1. The men's top four stayed the same with TCU moving up one spot to No. 5. The women's top 10 remained largely unchanged with the only real move coming when North Carolina and Stanford swapped spots at No. 3 and No. 4. Oklahoma State and Northwestern made the biggest jumps on the men's side with each coming up three spots to No. 6 and No. 21 respectively. Kentucky took the biggest fall dropping five spots to No. 24 after a loss at home to Alabama.
On the women's side, Arizona State and Texas each came up three spots to No. 17 and No. 18 respectively while Kentucky took the biggest fall dropping five spots to No. 20 after losing to LSU and Texas A&M.
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.