The first day of Super Regional play brought us a few good matches and a few shutouts but they all ended with the home team coming out on top. The two closest matches of the day took place on the West Coast with Stanford edging Big XII Champion Kansas 4-3 while Pepperdine fought off a scrappy UCF team 4-2.
Stanford won its 20th straight match and advanced to the Elite 8 for the 10th year in a row but it was far from easy. The Cardinal found themselves in a 1-0 hole after Kansas won the doubles point for the 25th time in 26 matches with a 6-2 win at No. 2 and a 6-3 win at No. 3.
Each team claimed three opening sets in singles with three of the matches finishing in straight sets while the other three went the distance.
Stanford seniors Melissa Lord and Caroline Lampl gave the Cardinal the lead at 2-1 after Lord won 6-2, 7-5 at No. 2 singles while Lampl stayed perfect in dual-match play (21-0) with a 6-3, 6-3 win at No. 3.
Kansas's Maria Toran Ribes tied it at 2-2 with a 7-5, 6-4 win at No. 6 singles. Ribes's opponent Niluka Madurawe was playing in just her fifth dual-match of the season with Stanford's usual No. 6 Emma Higuchi out for unknown reason.
Stanford would go back in front after Emily Arbuthnott completed her comeback with a 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 win at No. 4 singles but Kansas's Anastasia Rychagova knotted it up at 3-3 with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win at No. 1.
By the time Rychagova closed out Michaela Gordon at No. 1, Stanford's Janice Shin was nearing the finish line in the decider at No. 5. Shin dropped the opening set 6-4 but she'd come back to take the final two sets 6-4, 6-2 to send the Cardinal to Lake Nona where they'll meet No. 6 Pepperdine on Friday.
The Sweet 16 is almost set on the men's side with 15 of the 16 spots filled on Saturday (Texas A&M/Oklahoma to play on Sunday) while 8 women's teams punched their tickets as well with the other 8 to come on Sunday.
Since the field was expanded to 64 teams in 1999, in each subsequent year there has always been at least one men's national seed that has failed to advance out of its own regional and thanks to the Cal Bears, 2019 will be no different. The Pac-12 Tournament Runner-Ups knocked off Drake in the opening round on Friday and then on Saturday they got past No. 15 Illinois 4-1.
Illinois looked like it was position to take the early lead after taking No. 1 doubles 6-3 but Cal managed to win both No. 2 and No. 3 in tiebreaks to claim 1-0 lead.
Cal used the momentum from the doubles point and took four opening sets in singles. While Illinois managed to get a 7-5, 5-2 ret. win by Aleks Kovacevic at No. 1, Cal would get straight set wins from Jack Molloy, Ben Draper, and Bjorn Hoffman at No. 2, No. 4, and No. 6 with Draper's 6-4, 7-5 win the clincher. Cal's Jacob Brumm also had a commanding lead at No. 5 in a match that went unfinished.
Next up for the Bears will be a trip to Austin to face No. 2 Texas who overcame the loss of the doubles point to defeat South Florida 4-1.
After a rough few days in Austin there was reason to smile on Thursday night after the fourth-ranked Longhorns avenged their only loss of the year by knocking off top-ranked Ohio State 4-1. Coming into the match the Buckeyes were a perfect 17-0 in doubles but for the second match in a row they'd be without the service of their top player JJ Wolf who was in Canada playing an ATP Challenger event. A large crowd in the stands and a national television audience on the Longhorn Network saw the Longhorns take the early lead after winning the doubles point with a 6-3 win at No. 3 and a 7-6(4) win by Leo Telles and Colin Markes at No. 2.
Each team would take three opening sets in singles with Texas winning both of the sets that went to a tiebreak. Yuya Ito put the Horns up 2-0 with a 6-0, 6-3 win at No. 2 but James Trotter, who was playing in just his fourth dual-match of the season, put the Buckeyes on the board with a 6-2, 7-5 win at No. 5 which snapped Colin Markes's 14-match winning streak.
Rodrigo Banzer made it 3-1 after a 7-6, 6-2 win at No. 6. Banzer came back from a 3-0 deficit in the opening set and after taking the tiebreak he sprinted out to a 4-1 lead.
The clinching point would come about 30 minutes later with Leo Telles coming back from a set down to defeat Martin Joyce 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 at No. 3.
The other matches were abandoned with Texas up a break on 1 and up a set on 4. Texas had a really good recap of the match so make sure you give it a read.
While there were several matches played on Tuesday the big story was the names released in a federal investigation into a college admissions scheme where coaches were taking payments to label prospective applicants as athletes to increase their chances of getting accepting. University of Texas head coach Michael Center was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud after reportedly accepting approximately $100,000 to designate a 2015 applicant as a tennis recruit. The unnamed applicant was accepted at Texas and subsequently enrolled in school but never played tennis. Center was placed on administrative leave by the school with associate head coach Bruce Berque named interim head coach. The charges against Center are linked here and and an article from Hook'Em is linked here. Center appeared in court on Tuesday and plead not guilty and was released on a $50,000 bond.
Current Rhode Island women's head coach Gordon Ernst, who was hired in August after serving as head coach at Georgetown for 12 years before departing unexpectedly, was charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering. Ernst is reported to have accepted approximately $2.7M in bribes to help facilitate the acceptance of multiple applicants over a six year period at Georgetown. Ernst has been placed on administrative leave according to this statement from Rhode Island. The full details of Ernst's case are at this link. The school website doesn't list any other coaches so I'm not sure who has taken over in the interim. Ernst appeared in court on Tuesday and was released on a $200,000 bond.
Full details on the entire case and all the charges brought against multiple individuals are linked here and there's plenty of other info out there all over the internet.
Sunday was a day of near upsets with a pair of top 5 men's teams narrowly avoiding a big loss on the road. Second-ranked Wake Forest, who was playing without Borna Gojo (playing Canada Challenger) got all it wanted and more from #49 UCF.
The Knights took the early lead with 6-2 wins at No. 1 and No. 2 doubles and then the teams split opening sets in singles. Wake senior and ITA #1 Petros Chrysochos evened the match at 1-1 with a straight set win at No. 1 and freshman Siddhant Banthia put the Deacs ahead with a straight set win at No. 6. UCF freshman Trey Hilderbrand tied it back up with a straight set win at No. 5 but Wake freshman Melios Efstathiou won a close 7-6, 7-5 match at No. 4. Both of the remaining matches went three sets with UCF freshman Bogdan Pavel finishing first with a 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 win at No. 3 which evened the match at 3-3. In the final match on court at No. 2, Wake sophomore Bar Botzer broke UCF sophomore Alan Rubio to go ahead 2-1 in the final frame and then he added one more break to clinch with a 6-7, 6-1, 6-3 win.
Wednesday afternoon brought us a top 3 showdown on the women's side with North Carolina hosting rival Duke. The Tar Heels, ranked No. 1 by the ITA and No. 2 by the USTA, jumped out to the early 1-0 lead on #3/#4 Duke after rolling to 6-2 win at both No. 1 and No. 3 doubles. UNC added four opening sets in singles however the first match to finish came at No. 6 with Duke's Ellyse Hamlin winning convincingly 6-0, 6-1. Unfortunately for the Blue Devils that'd be the only point they'd muster because UNC's Sara Daavettila would make it 2-1 with a 6-4, 6-0 win at No. 3 and Cameron Morra would up the lead to 3-1 with a 6-2, 7-5 win at No. 4.
UNC senior Jessie Aney would close it out at No. 5, in the only match to go three sets, with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win.
A Tennis Channel national audience, along with 1200 fans in the stands at the USTA National Campus, witnessed UCF knocking off ITA No. 48/USTA No. 18 Florida for the first time in school history with a thrilling 4-3 win. The Knights dropped the doubles point and then in singles each team claimed three opening sets. UCF won the first two matches to finish with Natalia Serrano and Rebeka Stolmar winning in straight sets at No. 3 and No. 5 but Florida's Victor Emma evened it up with a straight set win at No. 4. UCF's Ksenia Kuznetsova put the Knights in front 3-2 with a 6-2, 7-6 win at No. 2 but Florida's No. 1 Ida Jarlskog countered with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 win at the top of the lineup.
The match would be decided in a third set at No. 6 between UCF redshirt freshman Nandini Sharma and Florida freshman Anastasia Kharitonov. Kharitonov served for the match up 5-4 in the third but Sharma would break, hold, and break again to set off a wild celebration.
The opening day of the NCAA Tournament brought us a few good matches but for the most part it was blowout city as 23 of the 32 matches ended in 4-0 shutouts. All regional hosts won their matches 4-0, which was expected, but I was surprised that only one No. 3 seed was able to get past a No. 2 seed.
#42 Louisville was the No. 3 seed that pulled off the upset as the Cards knocked off #28 UCF in the lone 4-3 match of the day. UCF jumped out to the early 1-0 lead by claiming the doubles point with a 7-5 win at No. 2 and a 7-6(5) win in the decider at No. 3. Louisville came back strong in singles and picked five opening sets and both Parker Wynn and Clement Filho would win in straight sets to make it 2-1. UCF came back and forced three third sets and after Korey Lovett won at No. 1 and Mariano Porter at No. 4 the Knights led 3-2. Louisville's Nicolas Rouanet and Brandon Lancaster each went up early breaks in the third set on the two remaining courts and both would win 6-3 in the third with Rouanet getting the clincher. Below are some quotes from Louisville's recap:
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.
After watching a top 10 men's showdown on Friday night in Winston-Salem, I took in a top 10 women's showdown on Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill. Fourth-ranked North Carolina hadn't dropped a regular season conference match in three years and was riding a 50-match home court winning streak but both of those streaks would come to an end courtesy of tenth-ranked Georgia Tech. North Carolina was playing without Alexa Graham (#4S/#2D) who was out with an illness so they had to change one doubles pairing and move everyone in the lower half of the singles lineup forward one spot.
North Carolina's Hayley Carter and Jessie Aney jumped out to an early break lead at No. 1 doubles and would add another to win 6-2. Georgia Tech's Kenya Jones and Paige Hourigan followed a similar path at No. 2 doubles and also won 6-2. The point would be decided at No. 3 between Georgia Tech's Nami Otsuka/Luca Fabian and North Carolina's Sara Daavettila/Rachael James-Baker. Georgia Tech won three of the first four games to go up 3-1 but North Carolina broke and held for 3-3. A few games later Georgia Tech held for 5-4 and then they broke UNC from 15/40, via a double fault, to take the match 6-4.