Big 12 Earns Three Semifinal Berths in NCAA Men's Division I Team Championships; Host Baylor Ousts Defending Champion USC
©Colette Lewis 2015--
Saturday's weather finally cooperated, with all four of the NCAA Men's Team Championships quarterfinals played outdoors at the Hurd Tennis Center at Baylor University. The hot, humid and windy conditions proved to be to the liking of the three Big 12 teams in action, with top seed Oklahoma, No. 5 seed TCU and No. 2 seed Baylor advancing to Monday's Final Four, with No. 3 Virginia rounding out the semifinals.
The host Bears rode the roaring support of a large home crowd to a 4-2 win over defending champion Southern California, who had won five team titles in the previous six years.
After playing outstanding doubles at the No. 1 and No. 2 positions to secure the first point, Baylor came out strong in singles, taking four first sets. But coach Matt Knoll knew USC would find its way back into the match.
"Good teams are going to make runs," Knoll said. "They're a great team, with great players, great coaches, and we knew they were going to make runs. They did, but our guys were able to finish it."
Two tiebreakers at lines 5 and 6 went the Bears' way, but had a few points gone differently for USC's Jonny Wang and Nick Crystal, the three remaining matches would have been gone to third sets. At 5, Wang had two set points with Diego Galeano serving at 4-5, but Galeano saved both. Crystal had three set points serving at 6-5, but Felipe Rios fought them off to force a tiebreaker.
With most of the crowd moved directly behind courts 5 and 6, sensing the end would come there, especially after USC's Yannick Hanfmann took the second set from Julian Lenz at line 1. Roaring on every Baylor point, whether a winner or a USC error, chanting "BU" at every opportunity, the fans had plenty to cheer about in the two tiebreakers. Rios took a 6-3 lead over Crystal, who fought off two match points, but not the third, posting a 7-5, 7-6(0) win. By then, Galeano had built a 5-0 lead on Wang, and the Baylor crowd was not about to lose its focus. At the 6-0 changeover, they continued their chants, and erupted when Wang netted Galeano's forehand, closing out the 6-3, 7-6(0) match for the 4-2 victory.
"I guess I ran out of magic dust, I don't know," said USC coach Peter Smith. "We were getting our butts kicked for what seemed like three hours, playing from behind. I really challenged the guys between singles and doubles, and I'm happy we came back to at least put ourselves in a position to extend the match. We've usually always gotten those points, but we didn't today. That's a credit to Baylor. They fought with a great attitude, great spirit. It was a great college match."
Smith agreed the atmosphere had an impact on the outcome.
"I'd certainly love to play in front of a thousand Trojans, but that's life. They deserve the crowd; they've built a beautiful facility, put all this time and money into hosting, so they've invested. And that's the payoff, really."
USC's points came from Eric Johnson, who defeated Max Tchoutakian 6-3, 6-4 at line 3, and Roberto Quiroz, who beat Tony Lupieri 6-3, 6-3, with Lupieri getting a game penalty for a second unsportsmanlike conduct call to end the match. Baylor's first singles point came from Mate Zsiga, who defeated Max de Vroome 6-3, 6-3 at line 5.
Baylor will now face No. 3 seed Virginia, who cruised past No. 6 seed Texas A&M 4-0 in less than two and a half hours, but Knoll is not quite ready to prepare for that contest.
"I haven't really thought about it," said Knoll, who last coached a team to the semifinals in 2007. "I'm just really excited for these guys, this moment. We're fortunate that this is the year we have a day off tomorrow (men and women alternate on that), so we have the luxury of not having to think about it. We're just going to be really happy for our kids, our fans, and for college tennis. This is a special day."
Such is the success of the Virginia program that making the semifinals is not special, with the Cavaliers reaching the semifinals for the sixth consecutive year, losing to Southern Cal four times in that stretch and earning the title in 2013.
Against Texas A&M, Virginia was able to keep their momentum throughout, sustaining the advantage they had from taking the doubles point and posting five first sets in singles.
"I was pleased with how well the guys played and how focused and disciplined they were throughout the entire match," said coach Brian Boland.
As for playing against Baylor and their vociferous fans, Boland is looking forward to it.
"We're fortunate that in Charlottesville we get big crowds and the players are used to it," said Boland, whose team lost twice to Baylor this year, 4-3 at the ITA Indoor and 5-2 in Waco in a non-conference match. "Often times, because we've been ranked very high, when we go in for out of conference teams, we tend to see bigger crowds. I don't think it's anything the guys haven't faced over the years, particularly this year, and I don't think it will be an issue at all. I think they'll embrace every bit of it."
The semifinal in the top half of the draw is all-Big 12, with TCU earning its first trip to the semifinals since 2001 with a 4-1 win over No. 13 seed North Carolina, while Oklahoma, which reached the final just last year, fought off a stubborn eighth-seed in Georgia 4-2.
TCU won the doubles point, decided in two tiebreaks going on simultaneously, and took a 2-0 lead when Facundo Lugones defeated Jack Murray 6-3, 6-1 at line 4. North Carolina got a boost when Ronnie Schneider closed out Guillermo Nunez 7-6(5), 6-1 at line 2, but the purple-clad TCU fans who had made their way south from Fort Worth, had plenty to cheer about. It was Arnau Dachs who closed out the win for the Horned Frogs, defeating Robert Kelley 6-4, 7-5 at line 5, but the third point, Nick Chappell's 6-4, 6-2 win over Brayden Schnur at line 1, was huge for TCU.
"What a huge win," said coach David Roditi, in his fifth year at TCU. "We talk about cutting the snake's head. If you want to kill a snake you cut off its head, and Nick got the head today, their emotional leader and No. 1. I'm so happy for him. It's hard when you're playing No. 1 and playing all these top players in the nation, it's hard to get Ws. He deserves it. He's worked his butt off, and that was coming. At some point it was going to happen, and no better day than today."
TCU lost to Oklahoma 4-1 in Norman during conference play in March, their only meeting of the year.
The Sooners, who had struggled to win the doubles point during the regular season, won it for the third match in a row, getting a particularly impressive win at line 1, with Andrew Harris and Alex Ghilea beating the nation's top-ranked team of Austin Smith and Ben Wagland 8-3.
Georgia was a break in several matches early in the first sets, but when all six first sets were complete, each team had won three. Axel Alvarez, the country's top-ranked singles player, saw his undefeated dual match winning streak come to an end against UCLA's Mackenzie McDonald on Thursday, but he was back on track and then some Saturday, beating Wayne Montgomery 6-1, 6-1 to make it 2-0 Sooners.
"To go out and rebound like that, that's a pretty good effort," said coach John Roddick. "To beat Wayne Montgomery 1 and 1, and not even give the guy a chance. I think Wayne would probably say the same thing. Axel played a really high level of tennis. It's hard to breathe out there when a guy is hitting the ball that big and making that few errors."
Georgia got on the board with Nathan Pasha's 6-2, 6-3 win over Dane Webb at line 3, but Florin Bragusi, who clinched the 4-3 victory over UCLA on Thursday, made it 3-1 with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Paul Oosterbaan at line 6. Ghilea was up 7-6(4), 4-1 over Wagland at line 3, with points for 5-1, but Wagland hung tough, hitting some excellent finishing volleys, while Ghilea showed a few nerves, and suddenly it was 5-5.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma's Andrew Harris had forced a third set against Austin Smith at line 2, with Harris building a 4-1 lead, but Smith got one of the two breaks back. Georgia's Nick Wood made it 3-2, with an arduous 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 win over Spencer Papa at line 5, so the focus would be on courts 2 and 4, side-by-side in the court configuration at the Hurd Tennis Center.
Serving at 5-6 to force a tiebreaker, Wagland hit a stunning forehand volley at 30-40 to save one match point, and forced an error with another volley to save a second. A third was too much however, as Wagland missed his second serve wide, although he didn't think so, protesting when the chair umpire agreed with Ghilea's call. But with the 7-6(4), 7-5 win, Ghilea had put his team into the semifinals, with Oklahoma fans showing their appreciation with the 'Boomer Sooner' chant.
With three teams from the same conference in the semifinals for the first time since 1999, when the SEC had representatives in Georgia, Ole Miss and LSU, the Big 12 is cementing its position as the top men's conference. Roddick attributes that status to the players the conference has been able to attract.
"It's really the players that you recruit that at the end of the day make your program," Roddick said. "We try to put them in a position to win and they go out and win. David (Roditi) has done a great job recruiting and we've had some good players over the last few years come into our program too."
"I'm happy for the Big 12," said Roditi. "We've done some things differently and it's paying off. I know some people out there don't agree, but I think it's paid off. I'm just excited to play such a tremendous program, and such a good team in a stage like this."
The women's quarterfinals are set to begin at 9 a.m. on Sunday, rather than noon as originally scheduled, due to a forecast of rain. The schedule is below:
9 a.m. - #2 North Carolina vs. #7 UCLA
Noon - #6 Georgia vs. #14 Stanford
4 p.m. - #1 USC vs. #8 Baylor
4 p.m. - #4 Vanderbilt vs. #5 Florida
For more on the men's quarterfinals, see the Tournament Central page, and Bobby Knight's College Tennis Today.
#5 TCU (25-7) def. #13 NORTH CAROLINA (24-11) 4-1 - Hurd Tennis Center Riverside Courts - 10 am
Head Coaches: David Roditi (TCU) and Sam Paul (UNC)
Doubles (Order of finish: 1, 3, 2)
1. #30 Cameron Norrie/Trevor Johnson (TCU) def. Esben Hess-Olesen/Brayden Schnur (UNC) 8-6
2. Nick Chappell/Facundo Lugones (TCU) def. #45 Brett Clark/Robert Kelly (UNC) 8-7(6)
3. Jack Murray/Ronnie Schneider (UNC) def. Guillermo Nuñez/Hudson Blake (TCU) 8-7(5)
Singles (Order of finish: 4, 2, 1, 5)
1. #49 Nick Chappell (TCU) def. #11 Brayden Schnur (UNC) 6-4, 6-2
2. #28 Ronnie Schneider (UNC) def. #59 Guillermo Nuñez (TCU) 7-6(5), 6-1
3. #39 Cameron Norrie (TCU) vs. #73 Brett Clark (UNC) UNF (3-6, 7-6(6), 1-0)
4. Facundo Lugones (TCU) def. Jack Murray (UNC) 6-3, 6-1
5. Arnau Dachs (TCU) def. Robert Kelly (UNC) 6-4, 7-5
6. Will Stein (TCU) vs. Esben Hess-Olesen (UNC) UNF (3-6, 6-5)
#1 OKLAHOMA (29-2) def. #8 GEORGIA (24-5) 4-2 - Hurd Tennis Center Grandstand Courts - 10 am
Head Coaches: John Roddick (OKLAHOMA) and Manuel Diaz (GEORGIA)
Doubles (Order of finish: 1, 3)
1. #57 Andrew Harris/Alex Ghilea (OKLAHOMA) def. #1 Austin Smith/Ben Wagland (GEORGIA) 8-3
2. Dane Webb/Spencer Papa (OKLAHOMA) vs. Wayne Montgomery/Nathan Pasha (GEORGIA) UNF (6-7)
3. Axel Alvarez/Jose Salazar (OKLAHOMA) def. Eric Diaz/Paul Osterbaan (GEORGIA) 8-5
Singles (Order of finish: 1, 3, 6, 5, 4)
1. #1 Axel Alvarez (OKLAHOMA) def.#24 Wayne Montgomery (GEORGIA) 6-1, 6-1
2. #7 Andrew Harris (OKLAHOMA) vs. #30 Austin Smith (GEORGIA) UNF (4-6, 6-4, 5-4)
3. #31 Nathan Pasha (GEORGIA) def. #44 Dane Webb (OKLAHOMA) 6-2, 6-3
4. #103 Alex Ghilea (OKLAHOMA) def. Ben Wagland (GEORGIA) 7-6(4), 7-5
5. Nick Wood (GEORGIA) def. Spencer Papa (OKLAHOMA) 6-2, 2-6, 6-3
6. Florin Bragusi (OKLAHOMA) def. Paul Oosterbaan (GEORGIA) 6-4, 6-2
#3 VIRGINIA (27-3) def. #6 TEXAS A&M (24-5) 4-0 - Hurd Tennis Center Riverside Courts - 2 p.m.
Head Coaches: Brian Boland (VIRGINIA) and Steve Denton (TEXAS A&M)
Doubles (Order of finish: 3, 2)
1. #2 Luca Corinteli/Ryan Shane (VIRGINIA) vs. #10 Harrison Adams/Shane Vinsant (TEXAS A&M) 4-7, UF
2. #42 Thai-Son Kwiatkowski/Mac Styslinger (VIRGINIA) def. #56 Jeremy Efferding/Jordan Szabo (TEXAS A&M) 8-4
3. Collin Altamirano/J.C. Aragone (VIRGINIA) def. Arthur Rinderknech/AJ Catanzariti (TEXAS A&M) 8-5
Singles (Order of finish: 5, 4, 6)
1. #8 Ryan Shane (VIRGINIA) vs. #47 Jeremy Efferding (TEXAS A&M) 6-2, 2-3, UF
2. #20 Mitchell Frank (VIRGINIA) vs. #80 Shane Vinsant (TEXAS A&M) 6-3, 2-1, UF
3. #77 Collin Altamirano (VIRGINIA) vs. #84 Arthur Rinderknech (TEXAS A&M) 1-6, 6-1, 0-1, UF
4. #19 Thai-Son Kwiatkowski (VIRGINIA) def. #78 Harrison Adams (TEXAS A&M) 6-1, 6-2
5. Alexander Ritschard (VIRGINIA) def. #92 AJ Catanzariti (TEXAS A&M) 6-2, 6-1
6. J.C. Aragone (VIRGINIA) def. Jordi Arconada (TEXAS A&M) 6-4, 6-3
#2 BAYLOR (25-5) def. #7 USC (25-5) 4-2 - Hurd Tennis Center Grandstand Courts - 2 p.m.
Head Coaches: Matt Knoll (BAYLOR) and Peter Smith (USC)
Doubles (Order of finish: 2, 1)
1. #8 Julian Lenz/Diego Galeano (BAYLOR) def. #3 Yannick Hanfmann/Roberto Quiroz (USC) 8-4
2. #79 Tony Lupieri/Mate Zsiga (BAYLOR) def. #74 Max de Vroome/Eric Johnson (USC) 8-5
3. Vince Schneider/Felipe Rios (BAYLOR) vs. Nick Crystal/Thibault Forget (USC) 6-6, UF
Singles (Order of finish: 3, 5, 2, 6, 4)
1. #2 Julian Lenz (BAYLOR) vs. #15 Yannick Hanfmann (USC) 7-5, 3-6, 1-1, UF
2. #25 Roberto Quiroz (USC) def. #35 Tony Lupieri (BAYLOR) 6-3, 6-3
3. #85 Eric Johnson (USC) def. #58 Max Tchoutakian (BAYLOR) 6-3, 6-4
4. Diego Galeano (BAYLOR) def. #45 Jonny Wang (USC) 6-3, 7-6(0)
5. #116 Mate Zsiga (BAYLOR) def. #94 Max de Vroome (USC) 6-3, 6-3
6. Felipe Rios (BAYLOR) def. #61 Nick Crystal (USC) 7-5, 7-6(5)