Friday afternoon's Battle for LA between UCLA and USC went down to the wire, as many of these encounters do, and in the end it was the No. 13 Bruins prevailing with a close as it gets 4-3 win over the No. 9 Trojans. UCLA jumped out to the early 1-0 lead after a 6-4 win at No. 1 doubles and a 6-3 win at No. 2. Each team claimed three opening sets in singles and four of the six matches would finish in straight sets. USC took a 3-2 lead after getting straight set wins from Brandon Holt, Laurens Verboven, and Mor Bullis at No. 1, No. 3, and No. 6 while Keegan Smith won in straights at No. 2 for UCLA.
UCLA tied it up at 3-3 after Ben Goldberg knocked off Logan Smith 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 at No. 5 which meant the decider would come at No. 4 between UCLA freshman Patrick Zahraj and USC junior Riley Smith. Zahraj won the opening set in a tiebreak 7-4 while Smith claimed the second set 7-5. Smith led 4-2 in the third set before Zahraj held, broke, and held to take a 5-4 lead. After an exchange of holds, Smith fought off a match point by holding on the no-ad point to send it to a match-deciding tiebreak. Zahraj jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the tiebreak but Smith took the next four to go up 5-4. Zahraj got the mini-break back to even it at 5-5 before Smith retook the lead at 6-5. Zahraj won both points on his serve to go up 7-6 and then after Smith tied it at 7-7 Zahraj went up 8-7. Zahraj closed it out on the next point to give UCLA the win.
The USC men finished off a weekend sweep in the Bay Area by following up a 4-2 win over #40 Cal with a 4-1 win over #10 Stanford. The Trojans won a close doubles point with Brandon Holt and Riley Smith winning 7-5 at No. 1 while Daniel Cukierman and Tanner Smith prevailed 7-6(3) at No. 3. Stanford tied it up at 1-1 with a 6-4, 6-3 win from Timothy Sah at No. 6 but USC was in control everywhere else and would add straight set wins from Daniel Cukierman, Laurens Verboven, and Riley Smith at No. 2, No. 3, and No. 4 with Verboven getting the clinch.
The Stanford women looked like they were going to be upset at #16 USC but senior Caroline Lampl refused to lose and gutted out a third set tiebreak to secure the 4-3 Cardinal win. With the score even at 3-3, USC's Rianna Valdes served for the match on two occasions at 5-4 and 6-5 but she wouldn't come close to a match point on either occasion so off to a tiebreak they went. The tiebreak was tied at 3-3 at the changeover but Lampl would take the next 3 points to go ahead 6-3 and would go on to take it 7-4. The win was Lampl's 15th straight and it came on a day when the Cardinal needed it with Emily Arbuthnott out of the singles lineup.
Friday was a stacked day with nine matchups between top 25 teams with six of those coming on the women's side. The highest profile match on the men's side took place in Waco with sixth-ranked Baylor hosting ninth-ranked TCU. The Bears claimed the doubles point with a 6-4 win at No. 1 and a 7-6(5) win at No. 3 and then in singles each team won three opening sets. Only two of the six matches would finish in straight sets with Baylor's Sven Lah winning 6-3, 6-3 at No. 5 while TCU's Alex Rybakov won 7-5, 6-3 at No. 1.
Baylor's Will Little put the Bears up 3-1 with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win at No. 4 and Jimmy Bendeck clinched at No. 6 with a 7-6, 3-6, 6-2 win. The other two matches were played out with Baylor's Johannes Schretter winning at No. 2 while TCU's Reese Stalder won at No. 3.
Baylor Head coach Brian Boland on the win…
"We enjoyed it. It was a tremendous crowd, and everyone came out and supported a great college tennis match and it was everything (and) more than we thought it would be. I'm just happy for the guys. They really prepared well all week, and now we have to get ready to play Texas, so we do not have a lot of time. But a tribute to our leaders, they played really hard tonight and did a really good job preparing this week, along with the rest of the team. Once again, doubles is pivotal in terms of the momentum, especially in matches that are as competitive as this one. And congratulations to TCU, they played a great match, and I look forward to another opportunity to play them again down the road. The Big 12 is a big challenge, and now we have another top-five team in front of us on Sunday."
After a pretty ho-hum Saturday, Sunday brought us several good matches with a few upsets and a few near-upsets. #15/#11 USC pulled off the biggest upset of the day by going to Austin and defeating #3/#1 Texas 4-2. The Trojans grabbed the early lead with doubles wins at No. 2 and No. 3 and then the teams split opening sets in singles. All matches that finished did so in straight sets with USC getting wins from Brandon Holt, Riley Smith, and Mor Bulis at 1, 5, and 6 while Texas picked up wins from Yuya Ito and Harrison Scott at 2 and 4 while Leo Telles led 6-4, 4-4 on 3.
#8/#12 Mississippi State extended its home winning streak to 24 with a late rally to get past #22/#19 Georgia 4-3. Georgia claimed the doubles point with wins at No. 1 and No. 3 but Mississippi State fought back in singles with four opening sets. Strahinja Rakic and Nuno Borges rolled to straight set wins at No. 4 and No. 1 to make it 2-1 but Georgia's Trent Bryde would tie it at 2-2 with a straight set win at No. 3. Georgia senior Walker Duncan made it 3-2 with a 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 win at No. 6 and it looked like match at No. 4 was all but over with Georgia freshman Philip Henning serving up 4-6, 6-2, 5-2 (30/0) against MSU senior Trevor Foshey. However on the 30/0 point Henning would go down on the baseline with what appeared to be a pretty severe ankle sprain.
Henning did his best to continue after a lengthy medical timeout but he could barely put any weight on his injured ankle and Foshey quickly won point after point. With the outcome of that match all but certain the focus went to No. 2 where MSU junior Giovanni Oradini led Georgia senior Jan Zielinski 5-4 in the third. Oradini had jumped out to a 4-1 lead early in the set but Zielinski managed to get it back on serve at 4-4. After Oradini held for 5-4 he'd get the pivotal break to close it out 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 to make it 3-3. Moments later Foshey would close out Henning 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 to extend the home winning streak to 25. Unlike most match clinchers there was no celebration in this one with Foshey and Henning hugging at the net while the teams exchanged handshakes.
A pair of top 20 matches highlighted the day on the men's side while there was a top 7 showdown on the women's side.
In Winston Salem, second-ranked Wake Forest avenged an early season loss to third-ranked Virginia with a convincing 6-1 win. The Demon Deacons opened things up by taking the doubles point with a 6-4 win at No. 3 and a 7-5 win at No. 3. Wake would add five opening sets in singles, with three of them coming in tiebreaks, and they'd close four of those out in straight sets with freshman Melios Efstathiou clinching at No. 4 with a 7-6, 6-3 win. Full results available at this link.
#6 Baylor won the BNP Paribas Collegiate Challenge in Indian Wells with a 4-2 win over #16 USC. The Bears won the doubles point and added straight set wins from Matias Soto, Sven Lah, and Jimmy Bendeck at 2, 5, and 6 while USC got straight set wins from Brandon Holt and Riley Smith at 1 and 4. The match at No. 3 went unfinished with USC's Laurens Verboven leading 5-3 in the third.
The second-ranked Georgia women improved to 13-0 and 5-0 in the SEC after picking up a nice 4-2 win on the road over seventh-ranked South Carolina. Georgia dropped the doubles point for the first time since the National Team Indoors and then the teams split opening sets in singles. Georgia picked up straight set wins from Lourdes Carle and Vivian Wolff at No. 3 and No. 4 while South Carolina's Paige Cline won in straight sets at No. 2.
Georgia's Elena Christofi gave the Dawgs its first lead of the match with a 0-6, 6-3, 6-3 win at No. 5 and Meg Kowalski would clinch at No. 6 with a 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 win. The match at No 1 went unfinished at 5-5 in the third after SC's Ingrid Gamarra Martins reeled off four straight games from 1-5 down.
The Pepperdine women are more accustomed to being ranked inside the 10 and that's most likely where they'll be come Tuesday because the Waves picked up their second top 10 victory of the week with a 5-2 win over #8/#6 Texas in Austin. The Waves won the doubles point in dominating fashion with a 6-1 win at No. 2 and a 6-2 win at No. 3. In singles each team claimed three opening sets and Pepperdine would convert each of its to set leads to straight set wins. Dzina Milovanovic made it 2-0 with a 6-2, 6-1 win at No. 4 and Ashley Lahey upped the lead to 3-0 with a 6-4, 6-1 at No. 1.
Texas trimmed the deficit to 3-2 with straight set wins from Anna Turati and Petra Granic at No. 2 and No. 3 but Daria Kuczer put the Waves over the top with a 6-4, 6-4 win at No. 5.
Saturday was a busy day across the Pac-12 with 8 of the 9 men's schools in action while there were 4 in action on the women's side. On the men's side #7/#6 Stanford and Cal finished off weekend sweeps of #21 Arizona and Arizona State. Stanford won a top 25 showdown over Arizona in convincing fashion with the Cardinal winning every completed set in singles. Cal came back from 2-0 down with four straight set wins in singles to defeat Arizona State 4-2.
#12/#21 Oregon overcame a slow start at home to defeat Washington 5-1. The Ducks dropped the doubles point but won a lot of close first sets and used that as a springboard to collect four straight set wins.
#19/#12 USC was playing without one of its top players, Daniel Cukierman, but managed to pull through on the road over #41 Utah 4-2. The Trojans jumped out to a 3-0 lead but Utah won the top two spots in straight sets to pull within 3-2. Both of the remaining matches went three sets and it'd be USC freshman Jack Sands clinching at No. 5 with a 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 win while the match at No. 3 went unfinished with Utah junior Slava Shainyan leading 6-5.
USC avoided its second three-match losing streak of this young season after knocking off crosstown rival No. 14 UCLA 4-1 in a non-conference tilt at USC's Marks Stadium. USC struck first by claiming the doubles point with wins at No. 2 and No. 3 and then the Trojans added four opening sets in singles. USC freshman Jake Sands cruised to a 6-0, 6-3 win at No. 6 but UCLA freshman Govind Nanda answered with a 6-2, 6-3 win at No. 2. USC senior Logan Smith, who was only playing in his second dual-match of the year, rolled to a 6-4, 6-2 win at No. 3 and junior Riley Smith clinched at No. 4 with a 6-1, 7-6(3) win. Both teams were playing without their No. 2 singles players (Keegan Smith & Daniel Cukierman).
USC will have two weeks off before starting Pac-12 play at Utah while UCLA returns to action on Tuesday at home against Grand Canyon.
The semifinals are set in Chicago with the early matches providing plenty of excitement while the later matches were a pair of shutouts. It looked like No. 3 Wake Forest, the defending National Team Indoor Champions, were going to make an early exit but thanks to freshman Melios Efstathiou the Deacs lived to fight another day.
Wake found itself down 1-0 after the doubles point with UCLA picking up wins at No. 1 and No. 3 but the Deacs came back in singles with four opening sets (note: UCLA was without its No. 2 player Keegan Smith who injured his ankle the previous day). UCLA junior Ben Goldberg put the Bruins in front 2-0 with a 6-2, 6-3 win at No. 5 but Wake senior Petros Chrysochos became the school's all-time wins leader in singles (120) with a 6-1, 6-4 win at No. 2. Wake evened it at 2-2 after sophomore Yuval Solomon won 6-2, 6-2 at No. 6 but UCLA senior Maxime Cressy put the Bruins back ahead after a 6-4, 7-5 win at No. 1. Wake sophomore Bar Botzer tied the match at 3-3 with a 6-4, 7-6 win at No. 3 which meant the match would be decided at No. 4.
UCLA freshman Mathew Tsolakyan dropped the opening set 6-3 but then he won 10 of the next 13 games to take a 3-6, 6-3, *4-1 lead against Wake freshman Melios Efstathiou. Tsolakyan had a game point for 5-1 but Efstathiou broke on the deciding point and then reeled off another three games to take a 5-4 lead. Efstathiou had three match points at 15/40 but Tsolakyan came back to hold for 5-5. Efstathiou held on the deciding point for 6-5 and then he broke from 15/40 to close it out 6-3, 3-6, 7-5.
The opening day of the Men's National Team Indoor Championships in Chicago was a day of upsets and near-upsets as No. 2 Mississippi State and No. 4 Florida went down while No. 3 Wake Forest and No. 5 Texas survived and held on. The top seed Ohio State had no issues, North Carolina blanked a less than 100% Baylor, UCLA overcame the loss of one of its top players to get past Notre Dame, and Virginia surged past Stanford 4-2.
The day started off with the biggest upset by seeding as No. 15 TCU defeated No. 2 Mississippi State 4-1. The Horned Frogs overcame the loss of the doubles point after dropping the decider at No. 1 in a tiebreak 7-5 but they rebounded in singles and took all six opening sets. Unlike the match against Florida last Sunday, this time TCU was able to close out its courts in straight sets with Reese Stalder, Bertus Kruger, Luc Fomba, and Sander Jong winning at No. 3, No. 4, No. 5, and No. 6.