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Friday, May 18, 2012

Ohio State Advances to Quarterfinals with Tough 4-1 Victory Over Florida; UCLA Holds Off Ole Miss 4-1

©Colette Lewis 2012
Athens, GA--

A golden set is beyond rare, but circumstances conspired to put Connor Smith in the position to win one, as well as an NCAA third round match for his Ohio State teammates.  With No. 5 seed Ohio State leading No. 12 Florida 3-1, having gotten the doubles point and wins by Buchanan at No. 1 and Rola at No. 2, Smith was facing a cramping Michael Alford at 6, having taken a critical second set 6-1.

Alford received a time violation warning and a point penalty to close the second set, and when a limping Alford did not return to his position within the required time to open the third set, he received a game penalty. Smith won the next 20 points, earning a 5-7, 6-1, 6-0 victory and the Buckeye's fourth point.  Given Alford's obvious distress, and the fact that Smith and Alford are both from the Tampa area and practiced together as juniors, there was no celebration, but the Buckeyes were happy to advance to the quarterfinals.

"I tried focusing on every point, trying to just block out what he's doing and take care of each shot the best you can," said Smith, who said he'd never been in a similar situation in a match, nor had he seen an opponent quite that immobile before. "It looks brutal."

Ohio State coach Ty Tucker was did admit to some concern when his team lost four first sets in singles.

"In the first 45 minutes to an hour in the singles, we were in some trouble," said Tucker. "But we put a lot time in on the practice court and have guys who like to compete and fight, so I thought if we could make a move in the second set of a match, I felt confident with Buchanan and Rola, we just needed to find one other point."

Florida coach Andy Jackson wasn't surprised how the match unfolded.

"The match kind of played out along the lines of what we thought it might," said Jackson. "They're very good at three spots--doubles and 1, 2. We felt like we had a chance at 4 and 5 and 6 was a toss up."

Jackson's team took the first sets at 3,4,5 and 6, but Ohio State managed to force third sets at three of the four.  Alford, who had come into the match with a knee injury that had limited his practice time, was unable to sustain that effort over the course of two sets, and Jackson was blunt in his assessment of the way the match ended.

"He's had an issue with his knee, but let's be clear," said Jackson. "Connor was just tougher, Ohio State was tougher. It's isn't like we didn't have our chances, but congratulations to them."

Tucker admitted that although his team is over the loss in the Big Ten final to Illinois, he isn't.

"It gave us a lot of motivation in the last two weeks," said Buchanan. "We've had really good practices. It was a good wakeup call for the team."

"The guys tell me to get over it, but it still hurts," said Tucker, who lost to a Big Ten opponent for the first time in 93 dual matches. "They tell me enough of that talk, let's move forward, but I can't. They kind of pull me along and I lag behind."
#5 OHIO STATE (34-3) def. #12 FLORIDA (16-10), 4-1 - McWhorter Courts
Head Coaches: Ty Tucker (OHIO STATE) and Andy Jackson (FLORIDA)

1.         #1 Chase Buchanan/Blaz Rola (OHIO STATE) def. Tripper Carleton/Nassim Slilam (FLORIDA), 8-1
2.         #32 Devin McCarthy/Ille Van Engelen (OHIO STATE) vs. #64 Spencer Newman/Bob van Overbeek (FLORIDA), 5-6, unfinished
3.         Peter Kobelt/Connor Smith (OHIO STATE) def. Mike Alford/Florent Diep (FLORIDA), 8-3

1.         #10 Chase Buchanan (OHIO STATE) def. #42 Bob van Overbeek (FLORIDA), 6-3, 6-3
2.         #9 Blaz Rola (OHIO STATE) def. #48 Tripper Carleton (FLORIDA), 6-4, 6-1
3.         #67 Peter Kobelt (OHIO STATE) vs. #53 Nassim Slilam (FLORIDA), 2-6, 7-5, 0-1, unfinished
4.         Ille Van Engelen (OHIO STATE) vs. #66 Spencer Newman (FLORIDA), 4-6, 5-2, unfinished
5.         Florent Diep (FLORIDA) def. #85 Devin McCarthy (OHIO STATE), 6-4, 6-2
6.         Connor Smith (OHIO STATE) def. Mike Alford (FLORIDA), 5-7, 6-1, 6-0
Order of Finish
Doubles: 3,1
Singles: 2,5,1,6*

Ohio State will meet No. 4 seed UCLA in Sunday's quarterfinals. The Bruins, whose late surge and win over USC propelled them past Ohio State in the rankings, were able to overcome a determined Ole Miss team 4-1.

The No. 13 Rebels won the doubles point with wins at 1 and 3, but they couldn't sustain that momentum in singles.  UCLA won all six first sets, and quickly took a 3-1 lead with wins by Puget at 5, Giron at 4 and Novikov at 3.  It looked as if Dennis Mkrtchian would put the Bruins in the quarterfinals at 6, but he lost the second set tiebreaker, and Ole Miss's Nik Scholtz and Marcel Thiemann at 1 and 2 also reached third sets, with Bruins Clay Thompson and Nick Meister respectively. 

"The Ole Miss boy (at 6) toughed it out and the other ones got close. I was starting to get really worried that they were going to do to us what we did to them last May," said coach Billy Martin, referring to UCLA's 4-3 win over the Rebels in the NCAA regional final last year, when the Bruins came back from 3-1 down to take a third set tiebreaker for the win. "So glad to get through it, and looking forward to another tough opponent in Ohio State."

Mkrtchian finished out his 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-2 victory over Chris Thiemann to give UCLA a 4-1 win, while the matches at 1 and 2 were both 2-2 in the third set.

UCLA dealt USC its only loss of the season and its first in over a year in April, and senior Nick Meister said that win has given the Bruins confidence.

"All the guys just pretty much believe they can beat anybody," said Meister. "There's not a team out there we can't beat. When we step on the court with these teams that are top 5 in the country, we believe we can win."

"Like Nick said, we certainly respect all these teams," said Martin. "But I think on a given day I think we feel we have a chance to beat an Ohio State. We're going to come out with the hope that we get a little lucky, and then maybe we can do it."

#4 UCLA (25-3) def. #13 OLE MISS (15-9), 4-1 - Henry Feild Stadium
Head Coaches: Billy Martin (UCLA) and Billy Chadwick (OLE MISS)

1.         #13 Jonas Lutjen/Nik Scholtz (OLE MISS) def. #44 Alex Brigham/Adrien Puget (UCLA), 8-5
2.         #85 Nick Meister/Dennis Novikov (UCLA) vs. #17 Chris Thiemann/Marcel Thiemann (OLE MISS), 6-6, unfinished
3.         Johan Backstrom/William Kallberg (OLE MISS) def. Marcos Giron/Warren Hardie (UCLA), 9-8(4)        

1.         #62 Clay Thompson (UCLA) vs. #14 Nik Scholtz (OLE MISS), 7-6(8), 2-6, 2-2, unfinished
2.         #16 Nick Meister (UCLA) vs. #20 Marcel Thiemann (OLE MISS), 6-3, 4-6, 2-2, unfinished
3.         Dennis Novikov (UCLA) def. #45 Jonas Lutjen (OLE MISS), 6-4, 6-2
4.         #84 Marcos Giron (UCLA) def. #83 William Kallberg (OLE MISS), 6-2, 6-4
5.         #46 Adrien Puget (UCLA) def. Johan Backstrom (OLE MISS), 6-1, 6-2
6.         Dennis Mkrtchian (UCLA) vs. Chris Thiemann (OLE MISS), 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-2

Order of Finish
Doubles: 1,3
Singles: 5,4,3,6*