Schedule a training visit to the prestigious Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, MD by clicking on the banner above

Monday, February 17, 2014

Ohio State Claims First Division I National Team Title with 4-1 Victory Over USC at ITA Team Indoor Championships

After Ohio State's dramatic 4-3 third-set tiebreaker victory over top seed Virginia on Sunday, a letdown in Monday's final against No. 3 seed Southern California would have been understandable.  Instead, the fifth-seeded Buckeyes shed the bridesmaid role with a 4-1 win over the Trojans, claiming their first national team title after three runner-up finishes at the Indoor(2007, 2008, 2012) and one at the NCAAs(2009).

Ohio State had dropped the doubles point to Virginia on Sunday, making their comeback from 3-1 down all the more impressive. The Buckeyes avoided a similar scenario in the final, with Peter Kobelt and Kevin Metka taking a 6-4 decision from Raymond Sarmiento and Yannick Hanfmann at line 1, and Chris Diaz and Ralf Steinbach clinching it at line 3 with a 6-4 win over Eric Johnson and Max DeVroome. USC's Roberto Quiroz and Connor Farren led Herko Pollanen and Hunter Callahan 5-3 when play was halted.

In singles, the teams split first sets, with Kobelt, Steinbach and Callahan winning at lines 1, 4, and 6, and Hanfmann, Quiroz and DeVroome taking the opening sets at 2, 3, and 5. Unfortunately for the Trojans, they were unable to get a quick point from any of those three.

Instead, Ohio State took a 2-0 lead when Callahan, who won all four of his singles matches in the tournament, beat Jonny Wang 6-3, 6-4 at line 6. Hanfmann closed the gap with a 6-5(4), 6-3 decision over Diaz at 2, but it didn't last long, with Kobelt making it 3-1 with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Sarmiento at 1.  USC's Quiroz and DeVroome were up a set over Pollanen and Metka at lines 3 and 5, with the second sets in those two matches at 4-all.  But Steinbach had broken Connor Farren at line 4 and was serving for the championship leading 6-5(4), 5-4. Farren had two chances to put the match back on serve in the second set, but lost both the 30-40 point and the deciding deuce point, with Steinbach coming into the net and hitting a tough backhand volley, then an easy forehand one to set off a huge celebration for the Buckeyes. (Match point was filmed by the ITA staff and is available here.

The Ohio State website has quotes from head coach Ty Tucker, Steinbach and Kobelt in its article on the final.  CollegeTennisOnline, which has a point-by-point account of the Metka - Thai Kwiatkowski third-set tiebreaker that decided the Virginia match, also will provide its account of the final, I'm sure.

I will be seeing the newly crowned National Indoor champions for the first time this year on Saturday, when they travel to Notre Dame in what promises to be an excellent non-conference match. The Fighting Irish went 2-1 in Houston, beating both Florida and Mississippi State, with their only loss of the weekend to Virginia.

For all the results and the ITA recap of the final, see their tournament page.
#5 Ohio State 4, #3 Southern Cal 1
1. #23 Peter Kobelt (OSU) def. #7 Ray Sarmiento (USC) 6-3, 6-4
2. #16 Yannick Hanfmann (USC) def. Chris Diaz (OSU) 6-5 (7-4), 6-3
3. Roberto Quiroz (USC) vs. Herkko Pollanen (OSU) 6-2, 4-5, unfinished
4. Ralf Steinbach (OSU) def. Connor Farren (USC) 6-5 (7-4), 6-4
5. Max De Vroome (USC) vs. Kevin Metka (OSU) 6-5 (7-5), 5-4, unfinished
6. Hunter Callahan (OSU) def. #47 Johnny Wang (USC) 6-3, 6-4

1. #2 Peter Kobelt/Kevin Metka (OSU) def. #35 Ray Sarmiento/Yannick Hanfmann (USC) 6-4
2. Roberto Quiroz/Connor Farren (USC) vs. Herkko Pollanen/Hunter Callahan (OSU) 5-3, unfinished
3. Ralf Steinbach/Chris Diaz (OSU) def. Eric Johnson/Max De Vroome (USC) 6-4

Match Notes:
Order of finish: Doubles (1,3); Singles (6,2,1,4)


Video stream a must said...

How was there no video feed/stream at the second largest event in college tennis? For us minions out here who follow obsessively, thanks to Twitter and a special shout out to TopDawg on his smartphone or tablet - whatever his tool of choice. Because of him, we got to "feel" some of the action since the "live" scoreboard was so behind (games not points). They change the format of the game to accommodate some kind of media yet can't even get a video stream at the Indoor Championships? Really? Time to go back to real scoring and video please. Your summaries are great Colette (and thanks for getting something up so quickly on a 3 day weekend), but seeing all the action as it happens is the best, you know that well!

Congrats to Ohio State for winning and to USC for reaching the finals again and again when they don't play indoors all year!

russ said...

Great Tennis, exciting performances at this years NTI. Congratulations to Ohio State. I didn’t think this was going to be their year after losing Blaz Rola, the best player in college last year, now ranked #154 in the world, Devin Mccarthy who was 28-2, Connor Smith who was 36-7, and Ilie van Engelen who was 27-4 in doubles. Definitely a great job in creating the depth and this year having that depth perform at a championship level. After congratulating Ty, he replied, “We have to get better.” It’s going to be a fun NCAA championship with more contending teams than in recent years. There are the four semifinalists, plus Baylor (who demonstrated their ability to compete despite losing Lenz to injury and having Galeano hobbled by a rolled ankle) and Oklahoma. Georgia may bounce back as well and given that the NCAA’s are being held in Athens, they will definitely be a threat.

I have to say there was a lot of phenomenal tennis being played this weekend. Clay Thompson played an outstanding match in his dismantling of Alcorta and Mitchell Frank put on an impressive performance against Greg Andrews of Notre Dame. Mitchell hit the ball harder and deeper than I remember from the last time I saw him in the summer and his serves were spot on the target areas. He didn’t play badly in his loss against Peter Kobelt, either. Peter, on hard, indoor surfaces, is a terror, especially if he is serving well. And he was. In his match clinching game he served three aces and a good enough serve to create a weak reply. Beating Mitchell, who I still think is the best college player this year, is also not a fluke for Peter. Two years ago at the National Indoors on Virginia’s home court he also beat Frank in three to help propel OSU’s upset win. Ohio State's upset win this year in Houston was pyrotechnical. Down three-one and coming back to win in a 12-10 third set tiebreak is bound to be emotionally explosive especially if it is fueled by great points and gutsy performances.

Thai-Son Kwiatowski was the epitome of a valiant loser. He saved four match points, made a number of incredible gets and passes, and seemed to savor the moment and the crowd. I think he might have that elusive “it” quality. When the match on line four finished in a third set tiebreak and the crowd scurried over to see the deciding match on line five, you could see the beginnings of a player desiring to be in command of those dramatic situations. But on Sunday Kevin Metka didn’t flinch either and as a result the crowd got a riveting performance of two players giving every ounce of physical, mental and spiritual energy.

(continued in following post)

russ said...

Sports are great when there are those moments of high drama and I have to say that I have changed my mind about the experimental scoring system. My reservations originally stemmed from two concerns. One, I thought that creating a scoring system vastly different from the current traditional style used by the ITF, ATP, WTA, that promising juniors would forgo college tennis as a viable option; and two, where is this TV and that fantasy pot of gold? Well, with these college match days now appearing on ESPN I think that concern has been alleviated. The other remains, at least in the short term; but the mitigating factor is that I think the no ad game is a great evolution (or if you prefer revolution) for tennis. It creates more big points, more heightened moments of drama. How many years ago did James van Allen suggest that sets be decided by tiebreakers? And how was that innovation greeted? With derision by most. But now tiebreaks to finish sets are commonplace and eventually there will be fifth set tiebreaks at Wimbledon as well. I think everyone will agree that the integrity of the game has not been damaged and that in fact the aesthetic and dramatic value of tiebreaks is indisputable. Really, no one wants to see Isner v Mahut more than once. I think a tiebreak to end games will, forty five years from now be looked upon exactly the same way.

So what are some of the aesthetic and dramatic virtues of the game tiebreak? From this weekend it is undeniable that match times are shortened and that matches with scores of 6-5, 5-6, 6-5 will finish in 3 hours 10 minutes at the max. Other than OSU v Virginia, I think every dual match finished under three hours. Is that a good thing? I say yes. Marathon matches can have long boring stretches as they build to their climaxes. Sometimes in Slam matches one can even skip a set to get to the next pivotal, crucial moment. The no ad eliminates those stretches. In no ad you could have crucial moment upon crucial moment coming at a pace that the intensity of games is heightened. As the intensity rises so does the pressure to perform and isn’t that what we celebrate most in sport, the ability of athletes to rise to the occasion and perform at a level that seems unbelievable. When Thai-Son makes a running forehand pass of Metka isn’t it more exciting when it comes at match point than at 15-15? With no ad there are more opportunities for that dramatic moment. And those moments are undeniably fun. Coach Smith related me to a comment a fan had given him, “Now I can really enjoy the entire match instead of enduring.”

(continued on next post)

russ said...

Now there are some people who say that the shortened scoring system and its crap shoot element weakens the stronger player, devalues endurance and physical fitness. Maybe true, but the no ad might require a different skill set that is no less valuable in champions. The ability to preform under pressure. The skill to focus intensely throughout the entire match because any sort of lapse might kill you. The absolute necessity of being resilient, because you are going to lose no ads and those will hurt, sometimes badly. So more pain and suffering for sure, but as Rafa would say, “That is sport, no?” And as Jimmy said, (and I’m paraphrasing here) That’s what the fans want to see, our blood and guts.

I also ran into an number of first time spectators at both venues. Every single one of them couldn’t believe how great the show was. Now of course that isn’t just because of the scoring system, but I do think it helps. When I explained to them the scoring and a no ad point came up, their attention to the moment was total. That is a good thing and I think that the elusive casual fan can be drawn in with the new scoring format. I think this will help grow the game and I would love to see it in the pros which will then eliminate my first concern: juniors going directly to pros instead opting for college. As much as I like tennis, I don’t like four, five, and six hour “classics”. The reasons they are classics are: 1) the quality of tennis being played and 2) the intensity of the drama not the length of time. I think after watching the NTI this weekend no ad will improve both those elements. And if no ad gives a slight advantage to the theoretically weaker player, that’s not a bad outcome either. Competitive tennis is far more interesting than routine, upset free executions.

As for the venues? Definitely not ideal. But if college tennis captures fan interest, college tennis will have to improve the viewing experience.

Wondering said...

Any news on Puget? Is he going to be back this spring or is he red shirting because of his knee?

I know matches are now three hours or less. Any thoughts about the many matches under 2 hours? Some were only 1:45 or so. It is it, the shorter the better?

russ said...

Puget is on court practicing. Coach Martin says they are not going to rush him and hope to have him back in the lineup by mid March.