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Monday, February 16, 2009

Virginia Repeats as National Indoor Champions


©Colette Lewis 2009--
Chicago IL--

The fifth-ranked Virginia Cavaliers defended their ITA Team Indoor title Monday afternoon with a 4-1 victory over No. 3 Georgia at the Midtown Tennis Club.

When Virginia's Drew Courtney pounded a serve that Georgia's Josh Varela couldn't handle to close out the No. 6 singles match, the freshman from Clifton, Virginia put an end to the Bulldogs' recent dominance of the Cavaliers.

"Playing Georgia is a huge thing in Virginia tennis," Courtney said. "Coming out here knowing I was playing Georgia for the first time, I knew I had to step up and do what I can to help the team."

Although Courtney was playing Georgia for the first time, some of his teammates recall the disappointing losses to the Bulldogs in the past two NCAAs, with the 2008 Georgia loss, when Virginia was undefeated and ranked No. 1, still fresh in their collective memories.

"I think losing in the semifinals last year brought a lot of hunger, particularly the way it happened," said Virginia head coach Brian Boland, referring to the cramping that Sanam Singh experienced when playing Jamie Hunt in the deciding match. "They wanted to get back and have another shot this year."

Although the score was 4-1, the same score that Virginia posted in their victory at the 2008 Indoor over Ohio State, it was a very close match, as personified by the doubles point.

In some of the most amazing doubles displayed outside of the ATP tour, the two teams went back and forth, as first Virginia established momentum, up a break on all three courts, and then Georgia fought back to even it.

At one stage, Virginia had match points on two courts-- No. 3 when Georgia's Drake Bernstein and Javier Garrapiz were down four match points serving at 6-7 against Courtney and Lee Singer; and No. 2, when Virginia's Dom Inglot and Michael Shabaz were up 7-4 and serving on Georgia's Borja Malo and Christian Vitulli. But Bernstein and Garrapiz fought off all those points to hold for 7-7, and Inglot needed several more deuces and ads, before he and Shabaz finally secured the match, on a controversial ace.

At No. 1 doubles, Virginia's Houston Barrick and Singh were up 6-4, but were unable to serve it out against Hunt and Nate Schnugg, and they reached a tiebreaker just moments before the No. 3 court got to their 17th game. It was Barrick and Singh who excelled in that pressure-backed stanza, taking a 9-8(2) victory and the precious first point.

When the singles began, Virginia took the lead with first sets at No. 4 and No. 5, with Barrick getting in front of Malo at 4 and freshman Steven Rooda taking the opener from Bernstein at 5. But the Bulldogs had earned a first set of their own at No. 6, when the energetic Varela recorded a 6-0 set against Courtney.

On the front three courts, where the vast majority of the hundreds of spectators were seated, Schnugg posted the first set against Inglot at No. 1 and Shabaz took a one set lead on Garrapiz at No. 3. In the rematch of that unforgettable NCAA match in Tulsa, Hunt and Singh were the last to finish a set, and twice--at 5-4 and 6-5--Singh was serving for the opening set, only to be broken. Hunt won the tiebreaker, but by that time, Barrick and Rooda were close to finishing their matches, and a few minutes later Barrick had recorded a 6-4, 6-0 win, and Rooda a 6-3, 6-2 victory.

It was 2-0 Virginia, but Georgia had gained a split at No. 3, and shortly thereafter, Schnugg got the Bulldogs on the board with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Inglot, although Rooda's win gave Virginia their two-point cushion again. Courtney had come back with a 6-0 set of his own to even that match, and with the finishes on courts 2 and 3 still a ways off, a few dozen spectators began to focus exclusively on Court 6.

Serving at 4-5, Courtney got down 0-30, but fought back to take the next four points to make it 5-5. And when he broke Varela in the next game, Courtney knew he had to keep his composure for the upcoming game.

"I knew I had to just be calm," Courtney said. "I was so psyched that I broke, I just wanted to settle down and focus, bring it back in and make first serves."

He didn't make one until he was up 30-15, but then the 6-foot-5 Courtney got all his considerable power into two first deliveries, and Varela wasn't able to direct either into the court.

By the time the rest of Courtney's teammates got the word and arrived on court 6, the excitement was still in the air.

"It feels good," said Boland. "We're happy to be champs in Chicago. And it is nice to beat Georgia. The last three years, we've lost five matches and three of them have been to Georgia. And credit to them. Someone said, oh, you have a rivalry with Georgia, and I said it's not a rivalry until we can beat them, so maybe it is now."

"Is 14-1 a rivalry?" joked Georgia coach Manny Diaz, noting that the Bulldogs are still well out in front in the overall competition between teams. "No, it's been a rivalry for a long time, and for me to say something like that is almost insulting to the great program they have and have had for quite a while now. We've had a tremendous amount of success against a lot of people, especially the last four years or so. We might have come up a little bit short today, but we've had a tremendous week."

Georgia won the ITA Team Indoor in 2006 and 2007. They did not win the NCAAs in 2006, losing to Pepperdine in the final, but did take the title in 2007. Virginia, last year's Team Indoor champions. fell short in 2008 at the NCAAs, but they are hoping the pattern their rivals from Georgia established continues when the NCAAs convene in College Station, Texas in May.

For the complete scores, see the ITA Tournament page.

In Madison, Wisc., the Northwestern Wildcats became the first Big Ten team to win the Women's Indoor championship, defeating the University of Georgia 4-1. For more on the women's tournament, see the ITA tournament website.

21 comments:

East Coast said...

I think it's hard to dispute that right now and over the last couple years the Virginia and Georgia are clearly the premier programs in Mens College Tennis.

way to go out on a limb said...

duh

Brent said...

Weak call by Diaz with the 'Is 14-1 a rivalry?' Show some class.

Wahoo Fan said...

Colette, thanks for your coverage of the Indoors. The Virginia fans appreciate your coverage of college events. Go Hoos!!!

NESCAC 10s said...

I still wouldn't count out UCLA and Ohio State for the national championship. I think both those teams ought to be ahead of Georgia when the next rankings come out. USC, Stanford, Texas, Tennessee and Ole Miss all have solid teams too. In all there are at least 4 and possibly as many as 12 teams with a shot at winning it all.

collegefan said...

Colette, thanks to you and your husband for the outstanding coverage as always . I wish you both continued success !

westcoasttennis said...

Pac-10 schools, made their presence known in Chicago, so don't count them out - East Coast .

Austin said...

Congrats to UVA, but enough of this cramping in last years Final Four already. People who didnt watch that match may think now that Singh had the match won with so much being said about it since then. I watched the whole match, I always thought Hunt was going to win, before and after the cramping ensued.

I think Ohio State and UCLA are the two best teams come May IF they are healthy.

Brent said...

I think that Stanford will win the whole thing. They need time to incorporate the freshmen into the doubles lineup, but that is an awfully tough #1-6.

Joe said...

Well it's hard to say Hunt would have won that match, they've now split 4 sets in their matches.

The Hoos have got to be incredibly pleased to even be a top-5 team after losing their top two from last year and a guy who played 6 who went undefeated for the year. Shows how much better UGA and UVA were than everyone else last year.

I think OSU at this point, is likely counterfeit. They've had the same team for years and it's always the same. They don't play doubles well, someone in that top 3 has an off-day and they lose.

I'd say UCLA is the favorite to win the outdoor, their depth is unreal, but as they don't have TOP guys at the top of the lineup, they could be upset as well. UVa probably second favorite at this point. Their wildcard is this guy Rooda who played 5 in the indoors. He wasn't eligible until just before the indoors but he was killing people, including guys with top-1000 rankings, at the UVA fall money tournaments.

gsm said...

Austin, you can say that in your opinion Hunt was always going to win but at least clarify that Singh had won the first set 6-4 & it was 2-2 or 3-2 in the second when the cramping started. Not sure if you could pick that up on the video coverage. I think Singh managed to win one more game. By the start of the 3rd he was done& everyone there knew it. Now that is not to say Hunt couldn't have come back anyway. But I think it's a bit biased to say that a guy (Hunt) who was down a set & on serve in the 2d was always going to come back, regardless of the cramps. One other note, I don't think you can convey how much electricity was in the air on a hot evening. For a Fr who had not "been there before" it's possible to burn a lot of nervous energy without realizing it. IMO that's what caused the cramps at such an early stage of the match. Seniors like Devvarman & Angelinos played demanding 3 set matches & did not have any trouble

Stephen said...

There are a lot of very deep teams this year. I think 10-12 teams are capable of winning the whole thing come May.

Bobby said...

I think uVA is good but a MUCH better indoor team. Put them in wind and sun with Inglot, Cortney,Barrick, Shabaz, and they are #5. Illinois always used to be like that. Big servers who won indoors and then lost in quarters at NCAA's when it really mattered. Time will tell. I pick Ohio State outside. You cannot even compare UGA and UVA in terms of rivalry. OMG

Robert said...

Rumor has it that Chase Buchanon will join OSU for the third trimester in a few weeks. In time for the Big 10 dual meets and the post-season action.

Any truth to this?

If so, a tough team, one that under-performed in Chicago, will be that much tougher. IMHO, they would have to be the favorites (with Chase).

Colette Lewis said...

It is possible that Buchanan will join the Buckeyes yet this season, but it is by no means a certainty.

curious said...

How can Buchanan join Ohio this late in the semester?
Is that possible? Especially with the new additional core requirements ? I'm wondering, how some of the other players that joined in January, got cleared.

College Fan said...

Barrick and Shabaz have proved in past years that they can play outdoors just find (Shabaz outside of college, of course)... Courtney it remains to be seen but he's playing #6 so I have a feeling he'll be able to simply over-power a lot of his opponents there. Inglot is the only one on the team that we know for sure has a significant drop off from indoor to outdoor.

Final 4 should be UVA, OSU, UCLA and UGA/other and from there anything could happen. OSU seems like they're ALWAYS overrated in singles rankings and if one of their top 3 loses, I don't like their chances against UVA or UCLA given how badly they play doubles, too. CB could make them the favorite though a healthy UCLA is still probably better but until they win something, I won't be sold on them no matter what. A NCAA favorite (especially a Big 10 team) wouldn't have lost to Tennessee at the National Indoor.

not_guga said...

Diaz has always bordered on the edge of class. He is a bit arrogant and tries to intimidate other coaches in recruiting battles. That being said, his record speaks for itself.

Hunt is awesome, as is Singh. They should require those guys to play at the NCAAs even if the teams don't face one another and sell tickets.

I think Standford will be around with UVa, UGa and UCLA when it all comes down to it in College Station. tOSU is a tad overrated with a lack of depth compared to aforementioned and Texas is not really a top-10 team, except on days when they are playing out of their you-know-whats.

Fan said...

how can you intimidate other coaches in recruiting battles? what's he going to do, kick their ass?

Stephen said...

I'm not an Ohio State fan, but how can you say that their singles players are overrated? Look at their results over the last few years.

The fact that they've been upset in the NCAA's doesn't negate the rest of their results.

not_guga said...

I know of one instance where Diaz called another coach in his hotel room and told him to stop recruiting one kid.

As for tOSU, they are overrated because people look at their #1-3 and assume they are going to win. I just think some of the others are a bit deeper. I meant they are NOT #1, but rather a more likely 5-8 team. That's all. Now if Chase B shows up, that changes things. They would have four of the best singles players in the country and some of the best doubles. That extra line changes things.