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Monday, February 15, 2016

North Carolina Surges Past Top Seed Virginia for First National Team Title; Qualifying Complete at Plantation Futures

Photo courtesy North Carolina Sports
North Carolina had never reached a national team final prior to this week, while Virginia was playing in its eleventh, seven in the ITA National Team Indoors and four in the NCAA Team Championships.  The Tar Heels' inexperience appeared to show when they lost the doubles point and lost four first sets to the top-seeded hosts in the final of the 2016 Team Indoors, but the No. 3 seeds continued to hang around, eventually emerging with an improbable 4-2 victory.

Virginia took the doubles point in less than half an hour, but North Carolina had lost the doubles point against Texas Tech in the first round and UCLA in the semifinals, so that wasn't likely to be seen as a insurmountable problem. But Virginia took four first sets: Ryan Shane at 1, Thai Kwiatkowski at 2, Collin Altamirano at 3 and JC Aragone at 5. Only Aragone was able to post a point however, and he gave Virginia a 2-0 lead with a quick 6-3, 6-2 win over Robert Kelly, who had won all three of his previous matches over the weekend.

The next match to finish gave the Tar Heels a much needed psychological boost when Anudeep Kodali defeated Henrik Wiersholm 6-2, 6-2 at 6, in a match in which Wiersholm was the clear favorite.  

It was 2-1 then, and Virginia still looked a good bet for their sixth National Indoor title, but Cavaliers couldn't close out any of the three other matches in which they taken the first set. Right before Kodali posted his win, Brayden Schnur had taken the second set from Shane at 1, with Brett Clark taking big lead at 3 and Ronnie Schneider at 2 forcing a third set. Virginia's Mac Styslinger had mounted a comeback of his own, taking the second set from Jack Murray, so all four matches were in a third set, once Clark, after a major struggle, won the second set from Altamirano.

Murray took a 4-0 lead over Styslinger, while Altamirano went up 4-1 on Clark.  The difficulty of closing out a match was demonstrated over and over again in the last 15 minutes however.  Kwiatkowski failed to serve out the match against Schneider at both 5-4 and 6-5. Murray, who lost his 4-0 lead, broke for 5-4, but was unable to serve out the match.  Altamirano watched his lead slip away, but if Virginia could win the two tiebreakers going on at that same time, that would not matter.  But it was North Carolina who came though in those two third-set tiebreakers, with Schnur taking out Shane and Schneider beating Kwiatkowski.  Suddenly, North Carolina was in front, and Murray could close it out.  He got a second chance at 6-5, earning two match points at 40-30.  He put a backhand into the net on the first, but after a rally on the no-ad deciding point, Styslinger hit a backhand wide giving North Carolina the point and the championship.

As you can see and hear from the video, the Tar Heels were a happy group.

The win also snapped an impressive streak. Virginia had not lost a dual match to an ACC opponent since April 23, 2006, a streak of 140 matches.

For more on the Tar Heels first national team championship, see the North Carolina website.

For more from the Virginia perspective, including the end of the streak, see this article from the Virginia website.
Feb 15, 2016 ITA National Team Indoors Final
(Boar's Head Sports Club, Charlottesville)
No. 3 seed North Carolina 4, No. 1 seed Virginia 2
1. Brayden Schnur def. #27 Ryan Shane 2-6, 7-5, 7-6(4)
2. #23 Ronnie Schneider def. #2 Thai-Son Kwiatkowski 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5)
3. #29 Brett Clark vs. Collin Altamirano 1-6, 7-6(2), *5-4, unf.
4. #89 Jack Murray def. #78 Mac Styslinger 6-4, 0-6, 7-5
5. JC Aragone def. #62 Robert Kelly 6-2, 6-3
6. Anu Kodali def. Henrik Wiersholm 6-2, 6-2
1. #42 Ryan Shane/Luca Corinteli (UVA) def. #3 Brett Clark/Robert Kelly (NC) 6-3
2.  #5 Mac Styslinger/Thai-Son Kwiatkowski (UVA) vs. J Murray/B Schnur (NC) 4-3* (40-15)
3. J.C. Aragone/Collin Altamirano (UVA) def. Blaine Boyden/Ronnie Schneider (NC) 6-3
Match Notes:
Virginia 8-1; National ranking #1
North Carolina 10-0; National ranking #7
Order of finish: Doubles (1,3); Singles (5,6,1,2,4)

There are two USTA Pro Circuit events this week, with the men in the first of two back-to-back $10,000 Futures in Plantation, Florida and the women at a $25,000 tournament in Surprise, Arizona.

Qualifying is complete in Plantation, despite some rain, with five Americans through to the main draw: Wil Spencer, Winston Lin, Junior Ore, Brandon Holt and Robert Levine.  Three lucky losers also got in, including Hunter Callahan and Gonzales Austin.  The wild cards are teens Stefan Kozlov, Reilly Opelka and Patrick Kypson and Sahr Timothy Kpulun of Sierra Leone.
I will be in Florida late this week and will be covering some of both this week and next week's tournaments.

Wild cards in Surprise went to Hurricane Tyra Black, Megan McCray, Alexandra Sanford and Grace Min.  


Uncle Mike said...

Why wasn't the chair umpire using long line umpires for the final match? There were five officials standing around doing nothing. Placing extra officials on the long lines, especially indoors where lighting is suspect, ensures no cheating determines the match outcome. They all get paid the same money so it makes no sense not to use them.