Illinois Men Stage Huge Comeback to Beat Memphis and Reach Sweet 16; Notre Dame Women Edge No. 15 Seed Northwestern to Earn Trip to Athens
Illinois was the state for excitement in the Division I NCAA tournament today, with two 4-3 thrillers deciding who would make the trip to Athens next week for the Sweet 16.
Ranked No. 28, the Notre Dame women were certainly underdogs in the match against No. 15 seed and host Northwestern, especially after they dropped the doubles point. All three doubles matches were decided in a tiebreakers, with the Wildcats winning at lines 2 and 3 to take a 1-0 lead. Unranked Britney Sanders of Notre Dame beat No. 43 Veronica Corning at line 1 to make it 1-1, then Belinda Niu beat Quinn Gleason at No. 2 to put Northwestern ahead again 2-1. Monica Robinson of Notre Dame drew her team even with a three-set win at line 4. Northwestern regained the lead with Lok Sze Leung's 7-6(4) 6-3 victory over Mary Closs at 5, but Jennifer Kellner made it 3-all with a tense 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 win over Alicia Barnett at line 3 after trailing 4-1 in the third. So it came down to line 6 with sophomore Julia Vrabel for Notre Dame and senior Nida Hamilton for Northwestern, who were at 5-5 in the third set after Hamilton had won the first set 6-3 and Vrabel the second by the same score.
Vrabel held according to @jokelley_tennis on twitter, who was there, five match points, all of which were saved by Hamilton. Hamilton led 3-0 in the final tiebreaker, but Vrabel won the next five points. Vrabel had another match point at 6-5, but Hamilton saved that one too, and got one of her own at 7-6. Vrabel saved that one, and two points later, on her seventh match point, she sent the Fighting Irish to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2010, when they reached the semifinals in Athens.
For more on the match, see the Northwestern and Notre Dame websites.
150 miles south, the No. 12 seed Illinois men were looking down and out against Memphis, ranked No. 22. After dropping the doubles point and seeing Alex Jesse at line 5 and Farris Gosea at line 2 lose quickly in straight sets to Ian Chadwell and Joe Salisbury, it was 3-0 Memphis. In any 3-0 comeback there are four heroes--and the first was Jared Hiltzik. With Memphis leading 3-0, Connor Glennon served for the match at 6-4, 5-3 and had two match points at line 1. Hiltzik saved both, won the second set tiebreaker and took the lead in the third set.
Shortly after Hiltzik saved those two match point Tim Kopinski collected the first Illinois point, beating Johnny Grimal at line 3 6-3, 2-6, 6-0. Blake Bazarnik, who had dropped the first set, as had four other of his teammates, came back to post a 2-6, 6-0, 7-5 win over David O'Leary at No. 5. Then came Ross Guignon's turn at line 6, taking a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 decision from David O'Hare. By that time, Hiltzik had a 4-1 lead over Glennon and he finished the remarkable comeback with a 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-1 win. For more on the match, see the Illinois website.
It was not quite as dramatic, but No. 15 seed Kentucky found itself down 3-1 to Clemson in a match moved indoors due to rain, with only four courts causing the matches to be staggered. Clemson took the doubles point, and a 2-0 lead when Kentucky's Tom Jomby retired to Hunter Harrington at line 1 at 2-2 in the first set. Beck Pennington won for Kentucky to make it 2-1 at line 3, but Dominque Maden defeated Alejandro Gomez to give Clemson the 3-1 lead. Kentucky's Jerry Lopez then won over Austin Ansari at line 4 to close the gap to 3-2.
Luke Johnson of Clemson had won the first set 6-4 from Kevin Lai at No. 5, at it was 3-3 in the second set, but Lai won the final three games of the set to force a third. By that time Kentucky's Grant Roberts had taken the court at line 6 and he was cruising over Brent Lett, so Clemson's window was closing fast. Lai won 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 to make it 3-3, and Roberts finished off the Kentucky win 6-2, 6-1. For more on the match, and on Jomby's injury (in the post match quotes section), see the Kentucky website.
The complete results from today are below, with teams reaching the Sweet 16 in bold. For the men's first round, the teams in italics are No. 33 seeds over No. 17 seeds. The asterisks denote host school.
Women's second round:
(1) Georgia* def. Florida St 4-0
(16) Southern Cal* def. Michigan 4-2
(9) Vanderbilt* def. Georgia Tech 4-2
(8) Florida* def. Oklahoma St 4-1
(5) UCLA* def. Ole Miss 4-0
(12) Miami* def. Oklahoma 4-0
(13) Clemson* def. Auburn 5-0
(4) Duke* def. South Carolina 4-0
(3) Virginia* def. Kentucky 4-1
(14) Baylor* def. Rice 4-1
(11) Stanford* def. Long Beach St 4-0
(6) Cal* def. Pepperdine 4-0
(7) North Carolina* def. Georgia St. 4-0
(10) Texas A&M* def. Texas 4-2
Notre Dame def. (15) Northwestern* 4-3
(2) Alabama* def. Princeton 4-2
Men's second round:
(9) Texas* def. Mississippi St 4-1
(12) Illinois* def. Memphis 4-3
(3) Ohio St* def. Wake Forest 4-0
(15) Kentucky* def. Clemson 4-3
Men's first round:
(1) Southern Cal* def. Idaho 4-0
Oklahoma St def. Michigan 4-2
Vanderbilt* def. Virginia Tech 4-0
(16) Columbia def. East Tenn St 4-0
Cal def. Texas Tech 4-0
(8) Texas A&M* def. Alcorn St. 4-0
(5) Baylor* def. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 4-0
Tulsa def. Stanford 4-2
(13) Notre Dame* def. Green Bay 4-0
Ole Miss def. Northwestern 4-1
Penn St def. UNC Wilmington 4-2
(4) Virginia* def. Army 4-0
South Florida def. Florida St 4-2
(14) Florida* def. St. John's 4-0
(11) Duke* def. Winthrop 4-0
Tennessee def. Elon 4-1
San Diego def. Boise St 4-2
(6) UCLA* def. Cal Poly 4-0
(7) North Carolina* def. So Carolina St 4-0
South Carolina def. George Washington 4-1
North Carolina St. def. Oregon 4-2
(10) Georgia* def. Jacksonville St 4-0
Harvard def. Auburn 4-1
(2) Oklahoma* def. Montana 4-0