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Friday, May 16, 2014

Metka Saves Two Match Points, Wins Third Set Tiebreaker to Move Ohio State into Quarterfinals; Georgia Falls to North Carolina in Men's Sweet 16

©Colette Lewis 2014--
Athens, GA--

The first day of play for the men in the NCAA Division I Sweet 16 was mostly without drama, but it built to a crescendo for the day's final match, with No. 3 seed Ohio State thwarting the upset bid of No. 14 Florida in a match that ended just prior to midnight at the Dan Magill Tennis Center.

Ohio State junior Kevin Metka fought back from 4-1 down in the final set against Michael Alford at line 6, then saved two match points in the third set tiebreaker that decided his team's fate, earning a 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(8) victory.

The Buckeyes took the doubles point with little difficulty, but the two teams split the first sets, and as dusk turned into darkness on an unseasonably cool day it was still 1-0 Ohio State.

Hunter Callahan made it 2-0 with a 6-2, 7-5 win over Elliott Orkin at line 5, but the next three singles matches went the way of the Gators, with Maxx Lipman defeating Ralf Steinbach 6-4, 7-6(5) at line 3, Diego Hidalgo downing Chris Diaz 6-2, 6-2 at line 4 and Gordon Watson beating Herkko Pollanen 7-5, 6-2 at line 2.

Ohio State still had an opportunity to close out the match without a third set, with Peter Kobelt serving for his match against Florent Diep at 6-4, 5-4, and Metka fighting back from a break down in the second set, after winning the first to make it 5-5.

But Alford broke Metka serving at 5-6 to force a third set, and Kobelt dropped his serve to give Florida hope.  Kobelt kept the crowd, most wrapped in blankets, the opportunity to focus on just one match when he closed out Diep 6-4, 7-6(3), making it 3-3.

It was 2-1 on serve in the third set in the Metka - Alford match, but Alford broke and held to take a 4-1 lead. Metka got back on serve with a break in the seventh game, then held for 4-4.  Both teams took up their positions along the sidelines of court 6, near the women's locker room building, with constant encouragement shouted after every point.
Alford, a senior, found himself down 15-40 serving at 4-4, but he came up with an ace to save one break point and another good serve and short ball putaway to save the second, and he took the lead 5-4.

Metka, who seems incapable of any negative emotion on the court, kept serving and volleying, or chipping and charging, regardless of the importance of the point, and he cracked an ace to make it 5-5.

Two more holds and the match was in the tiebreaker; the only match of the eight played Friday that got to 3-all was going to be decided in the ultimate pressure cooker.

Alford, whose second serve had been reliable throughout the third set, double faulted to open the tiebreaker, with that mini-break giving Metka a 4-2 lead at the change of ends. But Alford got it back with a forehand passing shot, only to fall behind 5-3 when he netted a forehand.  Metka missed a passing shot of his own just wide for 5-4, and had the match on his serve, but he lost both points, the first on a running forehand winner by Alford that Metka called out but was overruled on. AT 5-5, Metka missed a forehand volley long, giving Alford his first match point.

A rapid-fire net exchange, with Metka ripping one backhand after another at Alford eventually resulted in Alford netting a volley for 6-6. Alford hit a good first serve to earn his second match point, and with Metka serving, he missed his first serve.

Down match point on a second serve, Metka still charged the net, and Alford missed a backhand return for 7-7.  Metka made his next first serve and put away virtually the same forehand volley he had missed at 5-5, and he had his first match point.  Alford saved it, when Metka missed a backhand volley long, and it was 8-8. Metka then won a point in a fashion he had not previously employed, hitting a backhand return winner to make it 9-8.  Metka got a first serve in, then headed for the net, and when Alford's forehand failed to make it over, the nearly unbearable tension was released.

"I got a little lucky there at 6-5 (in the tiebreaker) there," said Metka, a junior. "I hit a couple of backhands as hard as I could, and I've been struggling with the backhand in a lot of my matches. But I happened to go right at him and he missed a volley.  And I hit a really good return at 8-all, that just felt so good, it was incredible."

Ohio State coach Ty Tucker was happy it came down to Metka.

"It was tough, and I'm not sure if we deserved to win, but we had the right horse. For the last match on, we had who we wanted out there," said Tucker. "He misses a first serve, he says 'Go Bucks', he makes an error he says 'Go Bucks', he wins a point, it's 'Go Bucks'. It's Groundhog Day for sure, but we had the right guy out there. He wasn't thought about, he wasn't recruited at the Division I level. And all the guy ever wanted to do was be relevant in Division I tennis, and he's put his heart and soul into it."

Florida coach Bryan Shelton, in his second year coaching Florida, was equally impressed with Metka and Alford.

"We went up 3-2, but we knew it was going to come down to Number 6, and their guy Metka, he just kept coming up with one big volley after another throughout that third set," said Shelton. "He's tough, and he's got a big heart, and we kind of matched heart against heart, because our guy was just so tough out there. I'm so proud of Mike, what a way to go out his senior year. In my mind, it was a positive way to go out. He didn't get the win, but man, it'll be an experience he'll never forget."

Ohio State will play No. 6 seed UCLA on Sunday, after the Bruins dominated unseeded Tennessee 4-0.

Top seed Southern Cal had no difficulty with Columbia, posting a 5-0 win, and they will play Texas in Sunday's quarterfinals, after the No. 9 seeds downed unseeded Cal 4-1.

No. 5 seed Baylor blanked No. 12 Illinois and No. 4 seed and defending champion Virginia beat No. 13 Notre Dame 4-1 to set up their quarterfinal encounter.

Second seed Oklahoma beat No. 15 seed Kentucky 4-0, with the Wildcats forced to play without their No. 1 player, Tom Jomby, who broke his ankle in the Regional final against Clemson last week. Oklahoma's quarterfinal opponent will be No. 7 North Carolina, who sent the large crowd home unhappy by downing No. 10 seed Georgia 4-2.

North Carolina has three freshmen in their lineup, and their top three players are new to the Sweet 16 experience, but they showed absolutely no signs of nerves or fear playing in front of the 2000 plus Bulldog faithful.

Georgia's Nathan Pasha, who did not play in the regional due to a knee injury, was held out of doubles, and North Carolina came away with the point.  North Carolina freshman Brayden Schnur posted a quick first set over Georgia's Austin Smith, but the Bulldogs had enough success in singles to keep the crowd roaring enthusiastically.

Georgia took a 2-1 lead with wins from Hernus Pieters at line 6 and Ben Wagland at line 4, but North Carolina had first sets in the remaining matches, and Schnur was up a break in the third set against Smith. Ronnie Schneider took out Pasha, who said his knee was fine, 7-6(7), 6-3 at line 2 to tie it up, and Schnur made it 3-2 Tar Heels with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 win at 1.

Georgia senior Garrett Brasseaux forced a second set tiebreaker against sophomore Brett Clark on court 3, but it was Clark who came up big in those final moments, serving well, ignoring the crowd and focusing on his game, not the atmosphere.

"It's a great atmosphere here, but the thing I kept telling myself was to focus on each point, and then after each point find my teammates, don't worry about the big crowd," Clark said. "My teammates helped me out a bunch, they were all fired up for me and that's how I got through it."

The 18-year-old Schnur, who joined North Carolina this semester, said the talent level of the North Carolina team wasn't in question, but how they would handle the moment was key.

"For a lot of us, it was the most amount of people we've ever played in front of before, and I knew if we could handle playing in front of such a big crowd, block out the noise, we'd be able to through with the win."

Head coach Sam Paul said the Tar Heels experience two years ago in Athens was partially responsible for the win, even though only one of his players, Oystein Sterio, was competing in that 4-0 Round of 16 loss to Georgia.

"I think we learned a lot, honestly, as a coaching staff when we were here two years ago," said Paul. "We try to keep our guys loose, their focus on playing tennis. Last time, I think the crowd affected us a little bit, a night match, 7 o'clock, so credit to these guys. I think it was a great crowd today, a great atmosphere and they embraced it all the way through."

Georgia coach Manny Diaz agreed.

"They did a tremendous job keeping their composure," Diaz said. "They had guys who really handled, for the most part, themselves with super, great composure."

"We fought a very good battle today. They were just a little bit better, especially the way they took care of their serves."

See georgiadogs.com for complete draws and links to live scoring and streaming.

Friday's results are below.

MEN'S ROUND OF 16: #9 TEXAS (23-5) def. #17-32 CALIFORNIA (17-8), 4-1 - McWhorter Courts

Doubles (Order of finish: 2,1)

1. #16 Lloyd Glasspool/Søren Hess-Olesen (TEXAS) def. #28 Gregory Bayane/Chase Melton (CALIFORNIA), 8-3
2. Adrien Berkowicz/George Goldhoff (TEXAS) def. #86 Andre Goransson/Ben McLachlan (CALIFORNIA), 8-1
3. David Holiner/Jacoby Lewis (TEXAS) vs. Filip Bergevi/Mads Engsted (CALIFORNIA), 6-4, unf.

Singles (Order of finish: 1,6,3,4)

1. #16 Søren Hess-Olesen (TEXAS) def. #55 Ben McLachlan (CALIFORNIA), 6-4, 6-3
2. #40 Lloyd Glasspool (TEXAS) vs. Campbell Johnson (CALIFORNIA), 5-7, 0-3, unf.
3. Filip Bergevi (CALIFORNIA) def. Adrien Berkowicz (TEXAS), 6-3, 6-3
4. #102 George Goldhoff (TEXAS) def. Andre Goransson (CALIFORNIA), 7-5, 6-3
5. Nick Naumann (TEXAS) vs. Gregory Bayane (CALIFORNIA), 4-6, 5-4, unf.
6. Clement Homs (TEXAS) def. Nikhil Jayashankar (CALIFORNIA), 6-1, 6-2

#1 USC (29-3) def. #16 COLUMBIA (22-2), 5-0 - Henry Feild Stadium

Doubles (Order of finish: 1,3)

1. #1 Yannick Hanfmann/Ray Sarmiento (USC) def. #12 Ashok Narayana/Max Schnur (COLUMBIA), 8-4
2. Connor Farren/Roberto Quiroz (USC) vs. Winston Lin/Mike Vermeer (COLUMBIA), 5-6, unf.
3. Max de Vroome/Eric Johnson (USC) def. Richard Pham/Dragos Ignat (COLUMBIA), 8-6

Singles (Order of finish: 6,3,5,2)

1. #10 Yannick Hanfmann (USC) vs. #17 Winston Lin (COLUMBIA), 6-3, 2-4, unf.
2. #9 Ray Sarmiento (USC) def. Max Schnur (COLUMBIA), 6-3, 6-2
3. #42 Roberto Quiroz (USC) def. Dragos Ignat (COLUMBIA), 6-2, 6-1
4. #91 Max de Vroome (USC) vs. Ashok Narayana (COLUMBIA), 4-6, 5-4, unf.
5. Eric Johnson (USC) vs. Bert Vancura (COLUMBIA), 6-4, 6-4
6. Michael Grant (USC) def. Mike Vermeer (COLUMBIA), 6-0, 6-1

#4 VIRGINIA (26-2) def. #13 NOTRE DAME (21-10), 4-1 - Henry Feild Stadium

Doubles (Order of finish: 1,3,2)

1. Greg Andrews/Alex Lawson (NOTRE DAME) def. #61 Alex Domijan/Harrison Richmond (VIRGINIA), 8-6
2. Thai-Son Kwiatkowski/Mac Styslinger (VIRGINIA) def. Josh Hagar/Billy Pecor (NOTRE DAME), 8-6
3. Justin Shane/Mitchell Frank (VIRGINIA) def. Matt Dooley/Quentin Monaghan (NOTRE DAME), 8-6

Singles (Order of finish: 6,5,4,2)

1. #6 Alex Domijan (VIRGINIA) vs. #24 Greg Andrews (NOTRE DAME), 7-6(8), 4-1, unf.
2. #4 Mitchell Frank (VIRGINIA) def. Ryan Bandy (NOTRE DAME), 6-3, 6-2
3. #46 Ryan Shane (VIRGINIA) vs. Quentin Monaghan (NOTRE DAME), 7-5, 3-4, unf.
4. Josh Hagar (NOTRE DAME) def. #81 Mac Styslinger (VIRGINIA), 6-2, 7-5
5. #113 Thai-Son Kwiatkowski (VIRGINIA) def. Eddy Covalschi (NOTRE DAME), 6-2, 6-2
6. Justin Shane (VIRGINIA) def. Eric Schnurrenberger (NOTRE DAME), 6-2, 6-2

MEN'S ROUND OF 16: #5 BAYLOR (26-5) def. #12 ILLINOIS (24-9), 4-0 - McWhorter Courts

Doubles (Order of finish: 3,2)

1. #21 Patrick Pradella/Mate Zsiga (BAYLOR) vs. #5 Tim Kopinski/Ross Guignon (ILLINOIS), 6-5, unf.
2. Diego Galeano/Tony Lupieri (BAYLOR) def. Alex Jesse/Jared Hiltzik (ILLINOIS), 8-6
3. Julian Lenz/Michael Dornbusch (BAYLOR) def. Blake Bazarnik/Farris Gosea (ILLINOIS), 8-3

Singles (Order of finish: 1,3,4)

1. #3 Julian Lenz (BAYLOR) def. #8 Jared Hiltzik (ILLINOIS), 6-2, 6-2
2. #14 Patrick Pradella (BAYLOR) vs. #18 Farris Gosea (ILLINOIS), 7-6(4), 3-4, unf.
3. #31 Diego Galeano (BAYLOR) def. #63 Tim Kopinski (ILLINOIS), 6-4, 6-3
4. Michel Dornbusch (BAYLOR) def. Blake Bazarnik (ILLINOIS), 6-4, 6-4
5. Mate Zsiga (BAYLOR) vs. Ross Guignon (ILLINOIS), 6-2, 5-2, unf.
6. Tony Lupieri (BAYLOR) vs. Julian Childers (ILLINOIS), 5-7, 3-5, unf.

#2 OKLAHOMA (26-3) def. #15 KENTUCKY (23-10), 4-0 - McWhorter Courts

Doubles (Order of finish: 1,3,2)

1. Axel Alvarez/Dane Webb (OKLAHOMA) def. Alejandro Gomez/Beck Pennington (KENTUCKY), 8-3
2. Guillermo Alcorta/Andrew Harris (OKLAHOMA) def. Jerry Lopez/Kevin Lai (KENTUCKY), 8-5
3. Ryuji Hirooka/Nils Ellefsen (KENTUCKY) def. Alex Ghilea/Nick Papac (OKLAHOMA), 8-6

Singles (Order of finish: 1,4,3)

1. #5 Guillermo Alcorta (OKLAHOMA) def. #86 Alejandro Gomez (KENTUCKY), 6-1, 6-2
2. #7 Axel Alvarez (OKLAHOMA) vs. Beck Pennington (KENTUCKY), 6-4, 3-4, unf.
3. #41 Dane Webb (OKLAHOMA) def. Jerry Lopez (KENTUCKY), 6-3, 6-3
4. #53 Andrew Harris (OKLAHOMA) def. Kevin Lai (KENTUCKY), 6-1, 7-5
5. Austin Siegel (OKLAHOMA) vs. Grant Roberts (KENTUCKY), 6-4, 4-1, unf.
6. Alex Ghilea (OKLAHOMA) vs. Ryuji Hirooka (KENTUCKY), 6-1, 3-3, unf.

MEN'S ROUND OF 16:#7 NORTH CAROLINA (27-5) def. #10 GEORGIA (18-8), 4-2 - Henry Feild Stadium

Doubles (Order of finish: 3,1)

1. #25 Brett Clark/Brayden Schnur (NORTH CAROLINA) def. #8 Hernus Pieters/Ben Wagland (GEORGIA), 8-6
2. Oystein Steiro/Nelson Vick (NORTH CAROLINA) vs. Eric Diaz/Austin Smith (GEORGIA), 6-6, unf.
3. Jack Murray/Ronnie Schneider (NORTH CAROLINA) def. Garrett Brasseaux/Nick Wood (GEORGIA), 8-7(1)

Singles (Order of finish: 6,4,2,1,3)

1. #15 Brayden Schnur (NORTH CAROLINA) def. #23 Austin Smith (GEORGIA), 6-2, 3-6, 6-2
2. #33 Ronnie Schneider (NORTH CAROLINA) def. #30 Nathan Pasha (GEORGIA), 7-6(7), 6-3
3. #78 Brett Clark (NORTH CAROLINA) def. #70 Garrett Brasseaux (GEORGIA), 6-4, 7-6(3)
4. #82 Ben Wagland (GEORGIA) def. Oystein Sterio (NORTH CAROLINA), 7-5, 6-3
5. Jack Murray (NORTH CAROLINA) vs. Nick Wood (GEORGIA), 7-5, 6-5, unf.
6. Hernus Pieters (GEORGIA) def. Nelson Vick (NORTH CAROLINA), 6-3, 6-3

MEN'S ROUND OF 16: #6 UCLA (25-3) def. #17-32 TENNESSEE (19-11), 4-0 - McWhorter Courts

Doubles (Order of finish: 3,2)

1. #10 Marcos Giron/Mackenzie McDonald (UCLA) vs. #2 Mikelis Libietis/Hunter Reese (TENNESSEE), 2-7, unf.
2. Adrien Puget/Karue Sell (UCLA) vs. Jarryd Chaplin/Andrew Dromsky (TENNESSEE), 8-7(3)
3. Joseph Di Giulio/Clay Thompson (UCLA) def. Brandon Fickey/Bartosz Sawicki (TENNESSEE), 8-3

Singles (Order of finish: 4,5,2)

1. #1 Clay Thompson (UCLA) vs. #27 Hunter Reese (TENNESSEE), 7-6(3), 3-0, unf.
2. #2 Marcos Giron (UCLA) def. #34 Mikelis Libietis (TENNESSEE), 6-3, 6-3
3. #35 Mackenzie McDonald (UCLA) vs. Jarryd Chaplin (TENNESSEE), 6-4, 4-3, unf.
4. #71 Gage Brymer (UCLA) def. Brandon Fickey (TENNESSEE), 6-2, 6-2
5. Adrien Puget (UCLA) def. Andrew Dromsky (TENNESSEE), 6-4, 6-2
6. #95 Karue Sell (UCLA) vs. Bartosz Sawicki (TENNESSEE), 6-2, 5-4, unf.

#3 OHIO STATE (33-3) def. #14 FLORIDA (17-10), 4-3 - Henry Feild Courts

Doubles (Order of finish: 2,1)

1. #24 Peter Kobelt/Ralf Steinbach (OHIO STATE) def. #20 Gordon Watson/Florent Diep (FLORIDA), 8-3
2. Herkko Pollanen/Kevin Metka (OHIO STATE) def. Maxx Lipman/Elliott Orkin (FLORIDA), 8-4
3. Chriz Diaz/Hunter Callahan (OHIO STATE) vs. Diego Hidalgo/Mike Alford (FLORIDA), 6-7, unf.

Singles (Order of finish: 3,5,4,2,1,6)

1. #11 Peter Kobelt (OHIO STATE) def. #51 Florent Diep (FLORIDA), 6-4, 7-6(3)
2. #108 Gordon Watson (FLORIDA) def. #109 Herkko Pollanen (OHIO STATE), 7-5, 6-2
3. Maxx Lipman (FLORIDA) def. #101 Ralf Steinbach (OHIO STATE), 6-4, 7-6(5)
4. Diego Hidalgo (FLORIDA) def. Chris Diaz (OHIO STATE), 6-2, 6-2
5. Hunter Callahan (OHIO STATE) def. #98 Elliott Orkin (FLORIDA), 6-2, 7-5
6. Kevin Metka (OHIO STATE) def. Mike Alford (FLORIDA), 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(8)


russ said...

Ivy league denizen, I'm not going to get into a long detailed discussion on the value of coaches and what makes a good or bad coach. i'll just say the head coach of columbia has been at his job for 32 years and this is the first year Columbia has ever won a NCAA tournament match.