If you are a fan of college tennis and didn't enjoy the two men's semifinal matches that were played on Monday evening then you need to go see a doctor. Both matches had it all, from the multiple weather delays due to lightning and rain, to the back and forth swings that came with each time they restarted play, and wow how about that doubles point in the Ohio State/UCLA match. It was an unbelievable night that kept me up past 2 a.m. here in London but it was worth every second.
So let's start out with the match on lower courts between No. 2 UCLA and No. 3 Ohio State. The Bruins served first to start the matches at No. 1 and No. 2 but quickly went down a break on No. 1 and trailed 3-1. UCLA's Martin Redlicki and Evan Zhu would trail 4-2 at No. 1 but Redlicki would hold on the deciding point for 3-4, they'd break JJ Wolf for 4-4, and then Zhu held on the deciding point for 5-4. Ohio State's Martin Joyce held for 5-5, Redlicki held for 6-5, and then Redlicki and Zhu broke Wolf again to win it 7-5.
Next door at No. 2 dubs, UCLA's Austin Rapp and Keegan Smith opened up a 4-1 lead over John McNally and Mikael Torpegaard. McNally and Torpegaard took the next three to tie it at 4-4 and then they had a pair of break points on Smith's serve but Smith managed to hold for 5-4. After three more holds the match would head to a tiebreak.
On the other court at No. 3, UCLA's Maxime Cressy and Bryce Pereira broke on the deciding point for 3-2 and they'd eventually extend the lead to 5-3. Cressy and Pereira had a match point when Ohio State served at 3-5, but Matt Mendez and Hunter Tubert fought it off to hold for 4-5. Cressy then had a pair of match points at 40/30 but Mendez and Tubert broke on the deciding point to even it at 5-5. Cressy and Pereira would break back to go up 6-5 but once again they'd be unable to serve it out with Mendez and Tubert breaking back to force a tiebreak.
We started with 64 teams and now we're down to the final 2 after SEC Champion Vanderbilt and Pac-12 Champion Stanford advanced to Tuesday's NCAA championship match. Vanderbilt will be making its third appearance in the final (2015/2001) and will be seeking its second championship after pulling away late to defeat Georgia Tech 4-2.
Vanderbilt got off to a quick start in doubles and went up early breaks at No. 1 and No. 2 while Georgia Tech took the early lead at No. 3. Vandy's No. 2 team of Emma Kurtz and Emily Smith jumped out to a 2-0* lead and would add one more break, via a double fault on the deciding point, to defeat Ida Jarlskog ad Victoria Flores 6-3.
Vandy's No. 3 team of Christina Rosca and Amanda Meyer improved to 19-2 in dual-match by coming back from an early 0-2 deficit to defeat Johnnise Renaud and Nami Otsuka. Rosca and Meyer reeled off three straight games after dropping the first two but Renaud and Otsuka would break back and hold for 4-3. Rosca and Meyer then took the next three games, with the last one coming down to a deciding point, to win 6-4.
Rosca and Meyer's win extended Vanderbilt's doubles winning streak to 15 with the Commodores now 23-7 on the season in doubles play.
Just four men's and women's teams remain as we head into the second to last day of the dual-match season. The women's semifinals will kickoff the day at 10 a.m. and both matches should be able to be played outdoors however the men's matches scheduled for 2 p.m. may not be as fortunate. The forecast currently shows a 50% chance of scattered thunderstorms starting around 2 p.m. and staying around for most of the day so hopefully the other 50% with no rain is what we get.
On the women's side, Vanderbilt is appearing in its fourth consecutive NCAA semifinal and will be seeking its third appearance in the championship match while Georgia Tech is trying to get back to the championship match for the first time since it won it all in 2007. Stanford will be attempting to reach the championship match for the 26th time while Duke will be seeking its third championship appearance with its last coming in 2009 which also happened to be the only time the Blue Devils won it all.
On the men's side, both Wake Forest and Texas A&M are first-time semifinalists so whoever wins that match will be making its first championship appearance. UCLA has made it to the championship match 12 times with its most recent appearance in 2013 while Ohio State will try to get back for the second time in school history with its only previous appearance coming in 2009 when it lost to USC.
For the first time since play began on Thursday all matches would start and finish outdoors and the fans in attendance were treated to one good match after another. Pac-12 Champion UCLA defeated its crosstown rival USC for the fourth time this season with the doubles point being the difference. Big Ten Champion Ohio State came back from 2-0 down to defeat SEC Champion Mississippi State 4-3. In the All-SEC quarterfinal it was Texas A&M edging Florida 4-3 and in the match that the locals packed the house for Wake Forest shutout Illinois 4-0.
The semifinal matches, which will be played at the same time, have been moved up from 4 p.m. eastern tomorrow to 2 p.m. eastern since there is a chance of rain later in the day. Wake Forest and Texas A&M, which will be playing for the first time in 10 years, will play on the main stadium courts while UCLA and Ohio State, which played back in February, will play on the back six courts. If you're watching from home the live stream and scoring setup is much better on the back six courts but if you are there in person then the best sight-lines are on the stadium courts.
After two days of rain the skies finally cleared up some on Saturday which allowed for 2 1/2 of the 4 women's quarterfinal matches to be played outdoors. The first three matches were pretty uneventful, except for a coach getting ejected in the Duke/Texas Tech match, however the nightcap between Georgia Tech and UCLA lived up to its billing.
Georgia Tech played late into the night on Thursday in a 4-3 thriller against Pepperdine but the Jackets were ready for another showdown against a west coast on Saturday. The match began outdoors but midway through singles rain forced a 75 minute delay and then 10 minutes after play resumed it started raining against which ultimately forced the match indoors 30 minutes later.
UCLA won the doubles point for the 24th time in 29 matches with a 6-2 win at No. 2 and a 6-4 win at No. 3. The Bruins jumped out to early break leads on both courts and despite Georgia Tech getting it back on serve at No. 3 at 4-4 the UCLA duo of Alaina Miller and Ena Shibahara would break back and then serve it out for their 19th consecutive win.
Georgia Tech had dropped the doubles point against Pepperdine as well so they knew they could overcome it but it wouldn't be easy.
The first pair of men's quarterfinal matches was originally set for noon eastern on Sunday but with rain expected later in the day the NCAA has adjusted the schedule and moved the two early matches up to 10 a.m. with the later two pushed up from 4 p.m. to 2 p.m. Three of the four matches will be rematches from the regular season with the Ohio State/Mississippi State match the only one that will be a first time meeting.
UCLA, USC, and Ohio State have been frequent visitors to the semifinals over the last 20 years while Illinois (2007), Florida (2005), and Mississippi State (1998) will be trying to get back to the promised land for the first time in a decade plus. Wake Forest and Texas A&M have never been to the semifinals but there's a good chance that will change in less than 24 hours.
Down below I have each team's path to the quarterfinals, any notable streaks, regular season meeting box scores, singles/doubles lineups with UTR, and my crazy predictions at the end.
There won't be any scheduling issues in the quarterfinals because the NCAA has decided to play all the matches at Wake Forest and space them out three hours apart starting at 10 a.m. eastern. If it rains they'll go indoors but there's a good chance that some will be played outdoors since the rain isn't due to come in until later in the day.
The top seed Vanderbilt will try to beat Florida State for a second time this season while the No. 15 seed Stanford will try to take out another higher seeded team when it plays Georgia. Duke and Texas Tech will kick the day off while Georgia Tech and UCLA will close the night out.
The men's Elite 8 is set with some great matchups in store for Sunday. Another day of rain forced play indoors with all eight matches played under a roof so after two days of play 14 of 16 matches have been played indoors in the national outdoor championship. The tournament host and top seed Wake Forest got some resistance from Ivy League champion Columbia and will now meet Illinois who ran right over TCU. The second seed UCLA got all it wanted and more from Michigan in the day's first match in Chapel Hill but advanced and will play a familiar foe on Sunday in crosstown rival USC who upset North Carolina with some strong, strong play in singles. The Big Ten champions Ohio State will meet the SEC champions Mississippi State after both won 4-1 matches over Minnesota and Texas. The last quarterfinal will be another All-SEC affair with Texas A&M set to meet Florida for the third time this season.
A rainy Thursday in Winston-Salem forced six of the eight matches indoors with three matches being sent 90 miles away in Chapel Hill. The three matches played indoors at Wake Forest were all fairly lopsided with Vanderbilt, Duke, and Stanford cruising to victories while the three matches in Chapel Hill had more substance with Texas Tech, Georgia, and Florida State coming out on top. The rain had finally cleared out by late evening so the final two matches were played outdoors at Wake Forest. In those two night matches, both of the teams that won avenged regular season losses with Georgia Tech gutting out a 4-3 win over Pepperdine while UCLA defeated Ole Miss 4-1.
In just a few hours the women will kick things off in Winston-Salem though it looks like with the amount of rain expected there's a better than average chance of plenty of indoor tennis over the next several days. If play goes indoors the highest seeded team in the two-match block will stay in Winston-Salem while the other match will be sent 90 miles away to the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. The only exception to that rule will be if North Carolina is playing; in those instances they will remain in Winston-Salem regardless of seed so as not to give them a home-court advantage. There will be live streaming available at both indoor sites as well as at all 12 outdoor courts at Wake. Wake's NCAA site will have updated schedules and links throughout the tournament so stay tuned for time and venue changes.
The two teams from Southern California (UCLA/USC) got stuck playing in the early morning 9 a.m. ET/6 a.m. PT slot and to make it worse they are playing east coast teams and the matches will probably be indoors. Both teams have been in town for several days so I'm sure they are getting acclimated but it would still make sense for those doing the scheduling to make adjustments to give the participating student-athletes the best chance to perform at their peak levels.
Unfortunately I won't be able to make the trip across the pond this year so I'll be following the live stream like everyone else. I'm expecting more close matches on Friday than blowouts however that could change if some of the underdogs (Columbia/Ole Miss/Alabama/Minnesota/Michigan) can't find a way to get the doubles point - if that happens then all five of those could end up 4-0.