Ohio State's Buchanan and Rola Will Play for Second Straight Major; Unseeded USC Team Reaches Women's Final
©Colette Lewis 2011--
Flushing Meadows, NY--
The season's second major is down to the last two teams, with both familiar faces and newcomers reaching the finals of the USTA/ITA Indoor Intercollegiate Championships at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
Ohio State's Chase Buchanan and Blaz Rola, seeded second, reached their second consecutive collegiate major with a hard-fought 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over No. 4 seeds Nick Andrews and Christoffer Koningsfeldt of Cal.
The All-American champions were down 2-0 in the final set, but got their first break of Konigsfeldt in the fourth game, and then broke the junior from Denmark again to give Rola an opportunity to serve for the match at 5-3. The sophomore from Slovenia missed a couple of forehands at 30-all however, and it was back on serve, with Andrews serving to keep the Bears, the consolation champions at the All-Americans, in the match.
Ohio State went up 15-40, but Cal saved both those match points, when Rola netted a forehand and Koningsfeldt put away an overhead. A Konigsfeldt volley winner gave Cal its only game point, but Andrews hit a forehand long to bring it back to deuce.
Then the net cord gods got involved, as Buchanan's forehand clipped the tape and dropped behind Andrews and Konigsfeldt to give Ohio State their third match point. This time Buchanan made sure his forehand wasn't subject to any luck, blasting a cross court winner to seal the win.
It was Buchanan's 13th straight win in doubles this fall, but Rola is only 12-1, because Buchanan and Peter Kobelt defeated Rola and Connor Smith in the regional final.
Buchanan and Rola are hoping to emulate Buckeye doubles greats Ross Wilson and Scott Green, who won both the All-American and the Indoor championships in 2004.
"You don't get a lot of opportunities in your career to play finals, unless you're Roger Federer," said Buchanan. "So it's awesome to have a chance to win."
"And to be in New York as long as we can," Rola added.
Buchanan and Rola will face No. 3 seeds Ashley Watling and Clifford Marsland of Tulsa, who defeated the unseeded team of Billy Federhofer and Nassim Slilam of Florida 6-3, 7-5.
Marsland and Watling moved forward relentlessly, and the Florida team was unable to pass them, as the Tulsa pair was able to pick off nearly everything blasted at them.
While there were plenty of baseline rallies in the other semifinal, Marsland, of Australia, and Watling, of Great Britain, played the match on their terms.
"We weren't trained to serve-and-volley on every point, but we have learned the craft because we're from England and Australia, where we play on grass more as youngsters," Marsland said, explaining their comfort at the net."We learned old tricks that some people around here don't know about volleying. I'd say we have an advantage in that respect, but it's a double-edged sword because the courts are so slow these days that you can't use it in singles anymore really."
Marsland and Watling have already made history for their school, becoming the first team to reach the finals of the Indoor championships.
There is plenty of history with the Notre Dame women in the Indoor championships, and senior Kristy Frilling is back in the final again, as she was in 2008. Frilling and Shannon Mathews defeated top seeds Mallory Burdette and Nicole Gibbs of Stanford 7-5, 7-6(4) to return the final, where she and current Notre Dame assistant Kelcy Tefft lost to Renata Kucerkova and Anastasia Petukhova of Fresno State.
Tefft, who won the Indoor title with Brook Buck in 2007, was on the bench as the No. 3 seeds managed to overcome some late match jitters against the All-American champions from Stanford.
After breaking Burdette, Mathews served for the match at 5-4, but didn't get to match point, and after breaking Gibbs for a 6-5 lead, Frilling couldn't finish it, sending it to a tiebreaker. But Mathews hit a couple of great shots--a volley and a return winner--for a 4-0 lead in the tiebreaker. Burdette and Gibbs won the next three points, but made too many errors, and their comeback ended there.
"I remember being really nervous in all of those situations," Frilling said of their two chances to serve out the match.
"But our coach Kelsey kept telling us: 'Try and stay aggressive and keep playing the game. Don't do anything special. Keep doing what you've been doing the whole time.' It sounds really easy, but you've gotta focus on that plan and stick to it."
Playing against the two seniors in Sunday's final are freshman Sabrina Santamaria and sophomore Kaitlyn Christian of USC, who defeated No. 4 seeds Nida Hamilton and Linda Abu Mushrefova of Northwestern 6-2, 6-3.
Christian and Santamaria were at-large entries, having fallen to UCLA's freshman team of Robin Anderson and Skylar Morton in the Southwest regional final. Christian and Santamaria avenged that loss in the second round here in New York, and against the Wildcats, the USC pair were outstanding.
"Today was a great match," said Christian. "They were a very good team and they put a lot of pressure on us from the very get go. But we came out there swinging and we were on fire. We knew we had to get off to a good start, which is what we did."
Both doubles finals are scheduled for 10 on Sunday morning, and admission is free. The Live Chat will be up and running again Sunday here.