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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Texas Surprises Ohio State; UCLA Surprises Their Coach by Reaching Men's Final Four

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Tulsa, OK--

Ohio State's Ty Tucker was searching for answers when he spoke to the press about the No.2 Buckeye's 4-2 loss at the hands of No. 7 seed Texas Sunday evening.

"We just didn't do what we needed to do at the start of the doubles match," Tucker said of his team's loss at the No. 1 and No. 3 positions. "We gave up 15 minutes of play that I just hadn't seen guys play like that in a while. I don't know if they were tight," he said trailing off, failing to complete the sentence. "Last year the day before the match I overpracticed them in the quarterfinals, we lost; this year I underpracticed them. I just haven't been able to find the right mix. I don't feel I had them ready to play doubles."

Once the singles began, Ohio State took the first set in three of four singles matches including at No. 1 and No. 2 singles. But the Longhorns earned point number two at No. 4 singles when Luis Diaz Barriga closed out Shuhei Uzawa, who did not play in the Buckeyes' tense 4-3 win over Illinois in the Round of 16, 6-1, 2-6, 6-1. About that time, Texas's Kellen Damico and Dimitar Kutrovsky had earned splits at 1 and 2 against Bryan Koniecko and Steven Moneke, and the Buckeyes were in deep trouble. Ohio State's Matt Allare lost 7-6(4), 6-4 to Milan Mihailovic to make it 3-0, meaning that Ohio State needed to win all four matches still on the courts.

Buckeye freshman Balazs Novak gave them hope, with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Miguel Reyes Varela, and Moneke added a 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 win over Damico, but Kutrovsky was up a break, serving for the match at 5-3 against Koniecko. Koniecko took a medical time out at that juncture, but Kutrovsky was determined to keep his energy and focus.

"I was thinking I had to stay warm, I have to stay active, I can't let this throw me off," said the sophomore from Bulgaria. "I have to play solid points, but still be aggressive."

Koniecko did earn a break point at 30-40, but Kutrovsky confidently put away a short forehand, and a service winner on the next point had the Longhorn fans holding their breath. When Koniecko couldn't keep a forehand in the court, Kutrovsky's teammates leapt down from the stands behind court three, and hurdled the net to engulf him, shouting the Texas....Fight chant all the while.

Coach Michael Center thought his team matched up well against the Buckeyes.

"I felt like we had an edge in the doubles today, and we got that point, and I liked the fact that we had two seniors at 4 and 5 playing two freshmen, felt we had a little bit of an edge there. But I knew knocking out one of the other four guys was going to take a heck of an effort, and we produced it today, with the guy next to me (Kutrovsky) getting it done."

The Longhorns will meet the UCLA Bruins in the semifinals, and no one is more surprised by his team's performance than coach Billy Martin.

"I've said all year long in my 15 years as coach and 10 years as an assistant, that I thought this would be our worse year ever," Martin said of the team that would enter the semfinals 25-1. "We've never not gotten to the quarterfinals, and I thought our ultimate goal would be possibly getting here (round of 16), at the very, very best. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that this team would perform like they have."

Martin credited his two freshman as major factors in the Bruins 4-2 win over Southern California, the third time this season that the Trojans have lost to their crosstown rivals. Freshman Holden Seguso, who had fallen to USC's Kaes Van't Hof in their previous two meetings, took a huge point, the Bruin's third, with a 7-5 7-6(5) win at No. 2 singles, and freshman Nick Meister earned UCLA's second point with a 6-4 6-4 win over Andrew Piotrowski at No. 6.

After taking the doubles point with wins at Nos. 2 and 3, UCLA took the first set in four of the six singles, but USC's Abdullah Magdas evened it with a 6-4, 6-3 decision over Jeremy Drean at No. 5, before Meister and Seguso made their contributions. It was up to USC's Robert Farah at No. 1 to keep his team in it, but he had dropped a tiebreaker to Harel Srugo in the first set, and couldn't fight back when down a break late in the second, with Srugo taking it 7-6(4), 6-3. Srugo was prepared for a physical match, and got it, so winning the first set was crucial.

"The first set was just so long," said Srugo, a senior transfer from Old Dominion. "So I thought whoever is going to win the breaker is going to win the match, because it was going to be so physical. And I'm happy I won it."

Monday's action begins at noon central with the women semifinals: No. 8 Cal versus No. 5 Baylor and No. 7 UCLA versus No. 6 Florida, the first time in women's final four history that none of the top four seeds are represented. The men are scheduled to play at 5 p.m., with No. 4 Georgia against No. 1 Virginia and No. 7 Texas against No. 3 UCLA.

For complete results of the men's quarterfinals, see the Tulsa website.


Buckeye Fan said...

The Seguso match had a lot of breaks in it. Seguso's returns look amazing but serve needs a bit of work. Otherwise he plays right on top of the baseline beautifully. It'll be interesting to see how he fares versus Damico today. It seems like a very strong freshman class across the board.

Austin said...

Once again Ohio State underachieved, I thought they had what it took to win it this year, but Texas seemed to play very well. I think OSU should have sat Uzawa again today. They pretty much have everyone coming back next year so they should be favored again with UCLA next year.

Collette, were you watching the end of the Seguso-Vant Hof match? Kaes should have already won the set when he served for it, plus he missed the easy volley at 5-5 in the breaker after leading 5-3 in it. If he would have won that set I think USC would have taken the match. Sacks was serving for it at #4 when Srugo clinched. Remember Farah failed to put a volley away then hit the next shot, an overhead, into the net that would have given him a break and serving at 4-3. Goes to show a couple points make the difference.

Im still going with UGA over UVA today and I think Texas will take out UCLA leaving Helgeson to face his former team in the finals. Just think if he had not transferred, they would probably be the #1 or 2 seed.

Both matches should be great today. The womens matches should be really tight as well. '05 and '06 singles champs playing against each other at #1 in the Cal-Baylor match.

scott said...

Georgia looked really good taking down UVA, esp. rallying after losing doubles. Wasn't sure that was possible. Texas looks great, they are just rolling right now. Should be a great men's final tomorrow.

All Pac 10 final on the women's side, as UCLA was too much for Florida. I figured the doubles point would be the key. Florida hadn't lost doubles all year, but UCLA had 3 ranked teams and they were much better. Cal-Baylor was a good battle, with the Bears coming out on top. Should be a great day of tennis tomorrow.