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.
Georgia Tech junior Chris Eubanks accepted a main draw wild card into the BB&T Atlanta Open, which is an ATP 250 event, with his opening round match scheduled for Tuesday, July 25. Eubanks has played in the main draw of the Atlanta event two years in a row though he had to go through qualies last year to do so. Eubanks has been ranked in the ITA Top 10 all year and was recently named the ACC Men's Player of the Year for the second year in a row. For more information see the release from the BB&T Atlanta Open.
The NCAA Division II Men's Round of 16 got underway today in Altamonte Springs, Florida, with #1 West Florida, #2 Barry, #3 Columbus State, #4 Hawaii Pacific, #14 Azusa Pacific, #16 Ferris State, #18 Drury, and #23 Southwest Baptist moving on to tomorrow's quarterfinal round. Of those eight winners the only lower ranked team to win was Southwest Baptist which defeated #20 St. Mary's (TX) 5-3. The highest profile matchup in the quarterfinals will be #1 West Florida taking on #4 Hawaii Pacific. For the men's bracket click here and to see individual match results click here. The women's round of 16 gets started tomorrow though I see that #1 BYU-Hawaii and #2 Barry are in the same quarterfinal so I'm not sure what's going on with the bracket making at the D2 level. The bracket is available here and the box scores from each match are available here. The brackets don't have any seeds listed (guess they don't do that?) so it's kind of hard to tell who is the better team without going through the rankings.
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.
UCLA and Ohio State both won outright regular season conference titles on Friday night with the Bruins defeating crosstown rival No. 6 USC 4-1 while the Buckeyes beat up No. 21 Northwestern 6-1. UCLA jumped out to the early 1-0 lead after claiming the doubles point with wins at No. 1 and No. 2 and then the Bruins added four first sets in singles. Evan Zhu and Logan Staggs won in straight sets at No. 3 and No. 4 to make it 3-0 but USC would get on the board with a straight set win from Thibault Forget at No. 5. USC was getting close to a win at No. 6 and had an early break lead in the third at No. 1 but UCLA's Martin Redlicki would squash any hopes of a comeback after he closed out Nick Crystal 7-6, 7-6 at No. 2. UCLA and USC will both gets byes into the semifinals of the Pac-12 Tournament which begins on Wednesday in Ojai.
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.
Thursday was a busy day in the SEC with eight teams in action since the conference is playing on Thursday and Saturday this week. Three of the four matches saw the road team pick up a win while No. 17 Kentucky was the only team to win at home. TCU finished off its West Coast trip with another win while just down the road UCLA knocked off Duke.