Men's Final Four Has Three Familiar Teams and a Newcomer: Southern Cal, Virginia, UCLA and Oklahoma into Semifinals After Indoor Victories
©Colette Lewis 2014--
Rain was the story again Sunday, as all four men's quarterfinals were played indoors, two at the University of Georgia in Athens, and two at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
Top seed Southern California (the higher seeds were not required to travel) started its 4-1 win in Athens over No. 9 Texas with the loss of the doubles point, but the veterans of the 2012 National Championship team recovered quickly, taking all four first sets in singles.
Raymond Sarmiento at line 2, Yannick Hanfmann at line 1 and Roberto Quiroz at line 3, all members of the Trojans fourth straight team title in 2012, cruised through their first sets against Lloyd Glasspool, Soren Hess-Olesen and Adrien Berkowicz, but it was sophomore Max de Vroome who tied the score with a 6-3, 6-2 win over freshman George Goldhoff at line 4.
The Longhorns began their fight back with Glasspool breaking Sarmiento serving for the match at 5-4, but the resulting tiebreaker went to the Trojan senior, who was at the top of his game most of the match. With their second point secured with Sarmiento's 6-1, 7-6(3) win, Southern Cal was looking to end the match before lines 5 and 6 got deep into their first sets, but Texas had other ideas.
Hess-Olesen forced a third set against Hanfmann, which was no surprise to USC coach Peter Smith.
"You know they're going to make a run," said Smith, who admitted the Lindsey Hopkins Indoor facility in Athens is the source of good memories after his team defeated Virginia 4-2 in the final two years ago. "Olesen is such a good player, we knew he had some more left in the tank."
Berkowicz also forced a third set, winning a tiebreaker in the second to extend Quiroz.
"I was really close to closing out the match, but I have to give credit to him," said the junior from Ecuador. "He came on really strong, he never gave up, he played really good, so I just tried to be positive and play one point at a time."
"Mentally Berkowicz never gave in," echoed Smith. "The whole key to the match, he was down 1-0 (in the second set) and he was on the ropes, ready for the knockout punch, and he came up with some incredible shots in that game. A real credit to him, he just fought through that game, got the break, and the whole match flipped."
Quiroz fashioned a 4-1 lead in the third set, and once Hanfmann closed out Hess-Olesen 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, it was up a tossup where the clinch would come. Down 3-0 to Texas' Nick Naumann at line 5, Eric Johnson found his form, taking the first set 6-4, and leading 5-3 when Quiroz secured the fourth point with a 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-3 victory.
Next up for USC is No. 4 seed Virginia, in a rematch of the 2012 final, who had a surprisingly easy 4-0 victory over No. 5 Baylor at Georgia Tech. After winning a tight doubles point with a tiebreaker at No. 1 doubles, Virginia rolled to five first sets in singles and never looked back.
"Look we've had some great, great matches with them," Smith said when asked about the prospect of facing Virginia in the semifinals. "Hopefully, tomorrow's another great match. We know what it's like, they know what it's like. It's kind of what everybody wants, I think, so let's go."
Men's quarterfinals: #1 USC (30-3) def. #9 TEXAS (23-6), 4-1 - Lindsey Hopkins Indoor Facility
Doubles (Order of finish: 3,1)
1. #16 Lloyd Glasspool/Søren Hess-Olesen (TEXAS) def. #1 Yannick Hanfmann/Ray Sarmiento (USC), 8-7(4)
2. Connor Farren/Roberto Quiroz (USC) vs. Adrien Berkowicz/George Goldhoff (TEXAS), 6-6, unf.
3. David Holiner/Jacoby Lewis (TEXAS) def. Max de Vroome/Eric Johnson (USC), 8-6
Singles (Order of finish: 4,2,1,3)
1. #10 Yannick Hanfmann (USC) def. #16 Søren Hess-Olesen (TEXAS), 7-5, 3-6, 6-2
2. #9 Ray Sarmiento (USC) def. #40 Lloyd Glasspool (TEXAS), 6-1, 7-6(3)
3. #42 Roberto Quiroz (USC) def. Adrien Berkowicz (TEXAS), 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-3
4. #91 Max de Vroome (USC) def. #102 George Goldhoff (TEXAS), 6-3, 6-2
5. Eric Johnson (USC) vs. Nick Naumann (TEXAS), 6-4, 5-3, unf.
6. Michael Grant (USC) vs. Clement Homs (TEXAS), 5-5, unf.
MEN'S QUARTERFINALS: #4 VIRGINIA (27-2) def. #5 BAYLOR (26-6), 4-0 - Bill Moore Tennis Center (Atlanta)
Doubles (Order of finish: 2,3,1)
1. #38 Alex Domijan/Justin Shane (VIRGINIA) def. #21 Patrick Pradella/Mate Zsiga (BAYLOR), 8-7(5)
2. Thai-Son Kwiatkowski/Mac Styslinger (VIRGINIA) def. Diego Galeano/Tony Lupieri (BAYLOR) , 8-5
3. Julian Lenz/Michael Dornbusch (BAYLOR) def. Ryan Shane/Mitchell Frank (VIRGINIA), 8-6
Singles (Order of finish: 5,3,1)
1. #6 Alex Domijan (VIRGINIA) def. #3 Julian Lenz (BAYLOR), 6-4, 6-3
2. #4 Mitchell Frank (VIRGINIA) vs. #14 Patrick Pradella (BAYLOR), 6-7(4), 2-2, unf.
3. #46 Ryan Shane (VIRGINIA) def. #31 Diego Galeano (BAYLOR) , 6-3, 6-4
4. #113 Thai-Son Kwiatkowski (VIRGINIA) vs. Michel Dornbusch (BAYLOR), 7-5, 4-4, unf.
5. Justin Shane (VIRGINIA) def. Mate Zsiga (BAYLOR) , 6-1, 6-3
6. J.C. Aragone (VIRGINIA) vs. Tony Lupieri (BAYLOR), 6-4, 6-5, unf.
In the late match in Athens, No. 2 seed Oklahoma also overcame the loss of the doubles point, with the Sooners earning the first Final Four berth in program history with a 4-2 win over No. 7 seed North Carolina.
With only four courts at the Lindsey Hopkins Tennis Center at the University of Georgia, it's difficult to gauge the tenor of a match, but the only court of the four definitively in Oklahoma's favor was at No. 4, where Andrew Harris quickly took the first set from Oystein Sterio 6-1. Brett Clark gave the Tar Heels a first set, winning it 6-3 over Dane Webb at line 3, with the first sets at 1 and 2 going to simultaneous tiebreakers.
Freshman Ronnie Schneider of North Carolina served for the first set three times, at 5-2, 5-4 and 6-5, but Axel Alvarez broke to stay in the set, and actually had a set point at 6-5 in the tiebreaker, but a good return by Schneider saved it and he went on to win the set 7-6(7), when Alvarez double faulted.
On court 1, Guillermo Alcorta of Oklahoma had served for the first set against Brayden Schnur at 5-4, and although he was broken, he won the tiebreaker easily 7-3, with Schnur's level dropping a bit in those ten points.
Just as Alcorta was winning the first set, Webb was earning a third against Clark, but it was Alvarez's play against Schneider that Oklahoma coach John Roddick identified as the key to the match.
"Alvarez had started to turn it around even in the first, you could see the momentum, even though Ronnie won the first set," said Roddick, who watched as Alvarez won 12 straight games for a 6-7(7), 6-0, 6-0 win. "Maybe it's because I know Axel so well, but I could see him getting his rhythm and zeroing in, and the other guy sensed that too. When Axel gets rolling, he can roll, and that's what he did. It was a great effort."
Keeping Schneider off balance with one perfectly executed drop shot after another, Alvarez posted the Sooners' third point, following Webb's 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Clark. With lines 3 and 4 going to Oklahoma, lines 5 and 6 could take the court, and by then the Tar Heels were in need of all three points still undecided.
Schnur had taken the second set from Alcorta, and Jack Murray had taken the first from Oklahoma's Austin Siegel at line 5, but with Alex Ghilea's outstanding play at line 6 against Nelson Vick, those points didn't seem to matter. Ghilea took the first set 6-2, and got stronger as the match went on, leading 4-0, when Schnur finally got a break in the third set, after saving a match point serving at 4-5, and served it out for a 6-7(3), 6-3, 7-5 win over Alcorta and the second point for the Tar Heels.
The Schnur - Alcorta match featured some breathtaking tennis, with the freshman from Canada and the senior from Spain showing power, touch, creativity and speed in equal measure. Most errors were forced, and although Schnur missed several crucial volleys, that didn't deter him from continuing to move forward. Alcorta rarely hits a backhand when he can help it, but his speed makes up for any position problems that creates. When the the exactly three-hour match came to an end, Schnur dropped his racquet and let out a huge roar, but the Tar Heel crowd, loud and confident at the start, was beginning to face the reality of a loss.
Ghilea was up 5-0 over Vick and Siegel had taken the second set from Murray, so the focus went to Ghilea, who finished the 6-2, 6-0 victory with no drama.
"It was one of the most important matches I've played," said Ghilea, who admitted playing indoors and waiting for a match to finish before going on was challenging. "Clinching for the team, winning the match, qualifying the team for the semifinals, it's just a great feeling."
Roddick, who has led the Sooners to an array of firsts this year, including the program's first No. 1 ranking, is now in his first final four, and reaching it in Athens, where he played and coached, adds an extra level of excitement to the accomplishment.
"Yeah it's great," said Roddick, in his fifth season as coach of the Sooners. "Being in here, having played here and played in it myself, coaching here, it's something special."
Oklahoma will play No. 6 seed UCLA Monday evening in the semifinals, after the Bruins defeated No. 3 seed Ohio State 4-2 at Georgia Tech.
The Buckeyes took the doubles point and the first singles point, with Peter Kobelt downing Clay Thompson at No. 1 7-5, 7-6(5), but the Bruins came back, with wins by Adrien Puget, Karue Sell, Mackenzie McDonald and the clincher by Gage Brymer. Three of the four winning teams Sunday lost the doubles point, but won four singles matches to advance.
The Sooners are the new face in the final four, with Virginia making its fifth straight appearance, UCLA its third, and USC winning four of the last five NCAA team championships, although they fell in the quarterfinals last year at Illinois.
The weather is expected to allow outdoor tennis for the women's semifinals at 1 p.m. and the men's semifinals at 5 p.m. Monday.
Men's Quarterfinals: #2 OKLAHOMA (27-3) def. #7 NORTH CAROLINA (27-6), 4-2 - Lindsey Hopkins Indoor Facility
Doubles (Order of finish: 3,1)
1. #25 Brett Clark/Brayden Schnur (NORTH CAROLINA) def. Axel Alvarez/Dane Webb (OKLAHOMA), 8-5
2. Guillermo Alcorta/Andrew Harris (OKLAHOMA) vs. Oystein Steiro/Nelson Vick (NORTH CAROLINA), 7-6, unf.
3. Jack Murray/Ronnie Schneider (NORTH CAROLINA) def. Alex Ghilea/Nick Papac (OKLAHOMA), 8-6
Singles (Order of finish: 4,3,2,1,6)
1. #15 Brayden Schnur (NORTH CAROLINA) def. #5 Guillermo Alcorta (OKLAHOMA), 6-7(3), 6-3, 7-5
2. #7 Axel Alvarez (OKLAHOMA) def. #33 Ronnie Schneider (NORTH CAROLINA), 6-7(7), 6-0, 6-0
3. #41 Dane Webb (OKLAHOMA) def. #78 Brett Clark (NORTH CAROLINA), 3-6, 6-3, 6-2
4. #53 Andrew Harris (OKLAHOMA) def. Oystein Sterio (NORTH CAROLINA), 6-1, 6-1
5. Austin Siegel (OKLAHOMA) vs. Jack Murray (NORTH CAROLINA), 3-6, 6-2, 1-4, unf.
6. Alex Ghilea (OKLAHOMA) def. Nelson Vick (NORTH CAROLINA), 6-2, 6-0
MEN'S QUARTERFINALS: #6 UCLA (26-3) def. #3 OHIO STATE (33-4), 4-2 - Ken Byers Tennis Complex (Atlanta)
Doubles (Order of finish: 3,1,2)
1. #24 Peter Kobelt/Ralf Steinbach (OHIO STATE) def. #10 Marcos Giron/Mackenzie McDonald (UCLA), 8-6
2. Herkko Pollanen/Kevin Metka (OHIO STATE) def. Adrien Puget/Karue Sell (UCLA), 8-7(3)
3. Joseph Di Giulio/Clay Thompson (UCLA) def. Chris Diaz/Hunter Callahan (OHIO STATE), 8-4
Singles (Order of finish: 1,5,6,3,4)
1. #11 Peter Kobelt (OHIO STATE) def. #1 Clay Thompson (UCLA), 7-5, 7-6(5)
2. #2 Marcos Giron (UCLA) vs. #109 Herkko Pollanen (OHIO STATE), 6-3, 3-6, 4-2, unf.
3. #35 Mackenzie McDonald (UCLA) def. #101 Ralf Steinbach (OHIO STATE), 6-3, 3-6, 6-3
4. #71 Gage Brymer (UCLA) def. Chris Diaz (OHIO STATE), 4-6, 6-2, 6-4
5. Adrien Puget (UCLA) def. Hunter Callahan (OHIO STATE), 6-2, 7-6(3)
6. #95 Karue Sell (UCLA) def. Kevin Metka (OHIO STATE), 6-4, 6-4