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.
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.
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.
Virginia won its 12th ACC Tournament Championship by defeating the top seed and top ranked team in the country Wake Forest 4-3. The Cavaliers came into the match having lost two straight against Wake Forest after the Demon Deacons beat them in last year's ACC Championship and then earlier this year in Winston-Salem. Virginia jumped out to the early 1-0 lead after picking up doubles wins at No. 2 and No. 3. UVA's No. 2 team of Thai-Son Kwiatkowski and Alexander Ritschard broke for 5-3 and then served it out for 6-3 while its No. 3 team of Collin Altamirano and JC Aragone clinched the point by breaking to win 6-4.
Virginia came out strong in singles and took four opening sets but Wake Forest's Petros Chrysochos put the next point on the board with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Alexander Ritschard at No. 1. The match didn't stay tied for long because UVA senior Thai-Son Kwiatkowski closed out Borna Gojo 6-4, 6-4 and a little while later junior Collin Altamirano made it 3-1 after defeating Dennis Uspensky 6-3, 6-4. Wake trimmed the deficit to 3-2 after Alan Gadjiev got past Henrik Wiersholm 6-4, 6-3 and then the Deacs would force third sets on each of the remaining courts.
USC won its third Pac-12 Tournament Championship with a thrilling 4-3 win over crosstown rival UCLA. The Trojans jumped out to the early 1-0 lead after winning the deciding doubles match in a tiebreak and then they tacked on four first sets in singles. UCLA junior Martin Redlicki tied the match at 1-1 with a straight set win at No. 2 but USC retook the lead after Logan Smith won 7-5, 6-1 at No. 3. Thibault Forget made it 3-1 after a 6-2, 7-5 win at No. 3 but UCLA wasn't ready to go away. Maxime Cressy pulled out a 7-6, 6-4 win at No. 6 and Logan Staggs came back from a set down to win 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 at No. 4. The match came down to a deciding third set at No. 1 between USC freshman Brandon Holt and UCLA senior Gage Brymer. While Holt was holding comfortably, everyone of Brymer's service games was a battle. Brymer held on the no-ad point in three consecutive service game including when he fell behind 15/40 while serving at 3-4. Holt held for 5-4 and then after going up 0/40 he'd break Brymer from 30/40 to clinch the championship.
It was senior day in Raleigh but unfortunately for the host Wolfpack they only had five healthy players and their opponent happened to be No. 1 Wake Forest. Wake took the doubles point after only dropping three games and then the Deacs won five of six matches in singles with NC State freshman Alexis Galarneau salvaging the day for the Pack with a win over Borna Gojo at No. 2.
The women's SEC Tournament in Nashville had it all on Thursday with three matches coming down to the final court and one that started outside on the back courts and then and finished inside on just five courts after the rain came. Mississippi State won the opener over Tennessee 4-1 and then Auburn's Andie Dikosavljevic came back from *4-1 and *5-4 down in the third set of the deciding match at No. 1 to propel the Tigers past Arkansas 4-3 in a match that took over four hours.
The third match of the day between LSU and Texas A&M started doubles on the back courts due to the Auburn/Arkansas match running long and then once singles started they could only use four courts for the same reason. A little past the midway point of singles, with rain on the horizon, they moved indoors to Vanderbilt's five-court indoor facility. Texas A&M managed to go ahead 3-2 but LSU's Ryann Foster won in straight sets at No. 3 to tie it up and then a short while later Joana Valle Costa clinched the match by breaking Rutuja Bhosale to win 7-6, 1-6, 6-4.
What a night of tennis it was in Winston-Salem as top-ranked Wake Forest fought through the wind and a tough as nails opponent to defeat previously undefeated No. 3 Virginia 5-2. The match was originally scheduled to start at 4 p.m. ET but due to a late shower the start was delayed two and a half hours until 6:30 p.m. Once play began both teams had to fight through windy conditions and as the sun dropped so did the temperature.
Virginia got off to a quick start at No. 3 doubles with JC Aragone and Collin Altamirano holding on a no-ad point and then breaking on a no-ad point to go up 2-0. Wake's Petros Chrysochos and Dennis Uspensky would break back back on a no-ad point and then hold on another no-ad point for 2-2. After an exchange of holds, Wake would break the Aragone serve at love to go up 4-3. Chrysochos would hold from 40/30 to make it 5-3 and then Wake broke the Altamirano serve from 30/40 to win it 6-3.
Virginia also went up an early break at No. 2 doubles when Thai-Son Kwiatkowski and Alexander Ritschard broke the Alan Gadjiev serve from 30/40 to put Virginia in front 3-2. Gadjiev and Borna Gojo would put it back on serve at 4-4 when they broke the Ritschard serve from 30/40 on a point that ended with Gadjiev putting a volley away right on top of the net. Virginia claimed that Gadjiev's racquet came over the net on the final volley but the chair disagreed and the break stood. If you watch the clip just as the point ends Wake also breaks on 3 so that 25 seconds was a big sequence for the Deacs. After Gadjiev held from 40-15 for 5-4, Kwiatkowski fought off a match point on the no-ad point when the chair overruled Wake's out call on the serve. The match would end up going unfinished with Wake leading 6-5.
For a while on Sunday it looked like the top ranked team in the land was going down but when the going got tough the tough got going. Wake Forest started off the day by claiming the doubles point with wins at No. 1 and No. 3 but Georgia Tech came back strong in singles and took five opening sets. Georgia Tech junior Chris Eubanks tied the match at 1-1 with a fairly routine 6-1, 6-4 win over the ITA second-ranked Petros Chrysochos at No. 1. Eubanks led the match from start to finish by breaking Chrysochos's opening service game in each set. Georgia Tech junior Daniel Yun put the Yellow Jackets ahead with a straight set win over Alan Gadjiev at No. 6. The opening set stayed on serve until Yun broke for 6-5 and then after serving out the set he'd open up a 4-0 lead in the second and close it out 7-5, 6-1