Monday, May 25, 2015

Ryan Shane, Jamie Loeb Take NCAA Division I Singles Titles in Rain-Soaked Waco

©Colette Lewis 2015--
Waco, Texas--

An NCAA singles title can't help but be memorable.  But should North Carolina's Jamie Loeb and Virginia's Ryan Shane need any reminders of their accomplishments Monday, the next emergency evacuation warning they hear should suffice.

Moments after Shane defeated Noah Rubin of Wake Forest 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-2 and Loeb had closed out Carol Zhao of Stanford 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, the Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center was evacuated due to a tornado warning. The trophy presentations were put on hold and fans, players, coaches and officials were sent, amidst a heavy thunderstorm, to the Baylor basketball facility across the street.

That was the second move of the day, after the two singles finals had begun outdoors at the Hurd Tennis Center. Rubin was in complete control of the first set, leading 5-2 after going up 5-0, and Loeb had already secured the first set 6-2, when what was an occasional sprinkle turned into a steady rain.

The decision was made to move indoors, and less than 45 minutes later both matches resumed, but the break may have come at an opportune time for Zhao and Shane.

"Jamie loves playing outside," said North Carolina coach Brian Kalbas. "She likes to work the elements to her advantage, so outside you could tell that she was in a good rhythm, in a good flow. When it went indoors, I was hopeful, because she was striking the ball so well and moving so well, that it would continue, but you could see that it was Carol who was more comfortable indoors initially."

"I think it was good for me," said the second-seeded Zhao, a sophomore from Richmond Hill, Canada. "She came out really hot in the first set and was really aggressive. It was nice to have the time to regroup and change the game plan a little bit and once we got indoors, I was able to settle down a bit more."

Loeb had a chance to post a rare straight-set victory in this tournament, with four of her five previous wins taking three sets, when she broke Zhao in a long, well-played game to go up 4-3 in the second set, but Loeb followed that break with her worst game of the match, making three unforced errors to give the break right back.

"Obviously I knew the finish line was near and I think I rushed it a little bit," Loeb said of that eighth game.

Zhao played the final three games of the set flawlessly, holding in a four-deuce game in which she saved two break points, then broke for the set, with Loeb double faulting on set point.

If Loeb was discouraged by her performance in the final three games of the second set, she didn't show it. Three straight breaks opened the third set, and in the third of those, Zhao had the misfortune of a line judge being called for a hindrance, by making an audible sound but signaling the ball was good. The point 15-30 point had to be replayed, although Zhao would have won it without the hindrance, and she lost the replayed point, and the next one. Loeb held, then broke again, not making the same mistake in the third set she had made in the second.

"I started pressing at times in the second set," said Loeb, a sophomore from Ossining, New York. "In the first set, I was definitely in control of a lot of the points, but moving indoors, she stepped up her game a little bit and I started forcing some shots. But in the third set, I kind of went back to that same mentality, same game plan and I think I executed really well the last set."

The US Open wild card traditionally awarded an American winner of the NCAA singles title is especially precious for Loeb.

"I've always dreamed of playing in the US Open," said the 20-year-old Loeb, the first NCAA singles champion in North Carolina history. "I'm from New York, I live like 30 minutes away from the National Tennis Center. I've played in qualies one time, but playing main draw, it's just an amazing feeling. I think it also takes the pressure off this summer in my upcoming tournaments, so it's definitely a great feeling."

Shane admitted thoughts of his US Open wild card surfaced late in his third set against Rubin.

"It crept into my mind at 5-1, 30-0 when I played the tightest point of the match, squeaked a backhand over the net, then shanking a forehand," said the 21-year-old from Falls Church, Virginia. "But I'm very excited. It's an opportunity I've been looking forward to, basically ever since I got to college. You're always thinking, NCAAs, the US Open is in the equation. Now that I've got it, I'm excited and I'm going to work as hard as I can this summer to prepare for it."

Shane looked to be a long shot for that wild card with Rubin just two points from victory with Shane serving at 3-5, 30-all in the second set. Shane held, forcing Rubin to serve it out, which he was unable to do. A rare double fault at 15-30 gave Shane two break points and he converted the second with an absolute laser of a forehand winner.

"When I was down 5-4, I really didn't think I was done," said Shane, the No. 8 seed in the tournament. "I thought if I could get every return in the court and look for forehands I could break. I think I made every return and hit mainly forehands and it paid off that game. I just focused on that for the rest of the match and it paid off very well."

Rubin was disappointed that he failed to close out the match when he had the opportunity.

"He hits one of the biggest balls in the world, probably, but it shouldn't have come to that," said Rubin, the No. 7 seed, who had beaten Shane last month in the final of the ACC Tournament final. "I had my opportunity, a set and 5-4. He only did it for a set, but it was all he needed to do. When you're hitting it that big, that many times from that many spots on the court, there's really not much I could do. I can't be upset at that, but that I didn't serve it out at 5-4."

Shane said going indoors was not so much about the surface change, but the 45 minutes he had before play resumed.

"Indoors definitely helps me a lot, but I think it was just the break I got," said Shane. "Whether we went back outdoors or indoors, I just needed to gather myself. I was scattered a little bit after going down 5-0. To be able to go inside, sit down, relax, think about what I would have to do, seeing what he was doing. Indoors definitely helped, but I think that break in general helped me a lot too."

The tiebreaker Shane won to send the match to a third set was indicative of just how little Rubin, with all his speed and defense, could do when Shane was playing his best.  He hit four forehand winners and a good first serve, with Rubin scrambling just to get a racquet on the ball.

"He just started executing better," Virginia coach Brian Boland said of Shane's performance in the tiebreaker and final set. "Give credit to Noah. He put himself in a position to win and it's nothing that he didn't do right. It was more about how Ryan came up with some big shots when it mattered the most."

Shane gave volunteer assistant coach Scott Brown credit for keeping him focused as he approached the tiebreaker.

"He told me, third gear, and you'll get your opportunities, and when it worked in the tiebreak, I thought maybe I'll do this for the third set too," said Shane. "It worked very well. Scott's been on my court all NCAAs. He's a great coach. He kind of helps me balance myself out if I ever get too negative or too rushed. After I went down 5-0, he said you'll get your chances, just relax. I got my chances, and relaxed, and he was right."

Shane couldn't recall ever holding a post-match press conference in a tornado shelter, but as the deluge continued outside, he was too happy to care about his surroundings.

"I've never had a situation even similar to this," said Shane. "But I don't mind it. I'll stay down hours if I have to. A win is a win, no matter where I celebrate it."

With no break in the storms in sight, the doubles finals were played indoors after the all clear had been given.

Texas and Texas Tech fans, who had come early for the men's doubles final, stuck around to offer vocal support to their respective teams. It was the Longhorns who went sloshing home happy, with seniors Soren Hess-Olesen and Lloyd Glasspool defeating Hugo Dojas and Felipe Soares 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

Dojas and Soares had not dropped a set, or even lost their serve, in their first four victories, but Texas ended that streak quickly, taking a 2-0 lead in the first set and cruising through the set. Dojas and Soares went up 3-0 in the second set and made their one break stand up to even the match.

In the third set, Glasspool and Hess-Olesen got the first break to take a 4-2 lead, but Hess-Olesen immediately gave it back.

"We were in their service games a lot, so I knew if I just trusted my game--there was one game in the whole match I didn't trust my game and that was at 4-2--if I hit the ball, and feel like I want to dominate, we're going to break them again," Hess-Olesen said.

They proceeded to do just that for a 5-3 lead, and Glasspool served out the match at love, giving Texas its sixth NCAA championship doubles team, but first since 1944.

"This was our last college match ever, so there's no reason to hold back, said Hess-Olesen. "Of course we're proud of making history, proud of our coaches. They got us through today and I don't even know how to describe the feeling right now, but it's huge."

Although they were unseeded, Glasspool and Hess-Olesen never doubted they could contend for the title.

"We really haven't lost much, honestly," said Glasspool. "We just clicked straight away and we knew we could do it. We were ranked two in the country at one point last year, so we were hopeful coming into this tournament."

Glasspool, from England, and Hess-Olesen, from Denmark, who joined in a fan-led version of "The Eyes of Texas" after the trophy ceremony, hope to play together at tournaments on the ITF Pro Circuit this summer.

The women's doubles champions are the same as they were last year in Athens: Maya Jansen and Erin Routliffe of Alabama.  Jansen and Routliffe, the No. 1 seeds, defeated Cal's Klara Fabikova and Zsofi Susanyi 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-3 in the final.

After dropping the first set in their past three matches, Routliffe and Jansen got off to a good start Monday, only to go down 5-2 in the second set.  Cal was unable to serve out the set on three occasions however, dropping serve at 5-2, 5-4 and 6-5, so Alabama still had a chance for an elusive straight-set win if they could get the tiebreaker.

Up 5-2, with Routliffe serving, Cal won five straight points, and although they were angry, Jansen said they recovered quickly.

"They hit some really good shots," said Jansen, a junior from Washington. "They hit three or four winners, so to have a team do that you just have to give it them and go back to the slate. Erin and I are so close in our relationship, we could honestly look at each other and go, OK, this is new. We were both really frustrated and we let that out and went back to the basics."

Jansen and Routliffe took a 3-0 lead in the final set, lost three straight games, then won three straight to add a NCAA second title to the school's record books.

"I think this one means even more," said Jansen. "To have that pressure all year, to come into the tournament ranked one, to hold on to your national championship title, it's really a tough feeling and I'm definitely really proud of us for doing that."

"There was a lot more pressure going into this tournament with our success last year and being seeded No. 1," said Routliffe, a sophomore from Ontario. "I think we did a really good job of taking each match like the one before, and not treating any opponent differently, sticking to our strengths instead of playing to our opponents' weaknesses."

Women's Singles Finals - May 25
#7 [7] Jamie Loeb (NORTH CAROLINA) def. #2 [2] Carol Zhao (STANFORD), 6-2, 4-6, 6-1

seed in []
Men's Singles Finals - May 25
#8 [8] Ryan Shane (VIRGINIA) vs. #6 [7] Noah Rubin (WAKE FOREST), 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-1

Men's Doubles Finals - May 25
#19 Lloyd Glasspool/Søren Hess-Olesen (TEXAS) def. #22 Hugo Dojas/Felipe Soares (TEXAS TECH)  6-1, 3-6, 6-3

Women's Doubles Finals - May 25 
#1 [1] Maya Jansen/Erin Routliffe (ALABAMA) def. #5 [5-8] Klara Fabikova/Zsofi Susanyi (CALIFORNIA) 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-3


Toronto fan said...

Tough loss for Rubin after serving for it. You give a guy like Ryan shane a chance to get his teeth into the match and more often than not you will lose. Ryan has top 20 level ball striking. It ain't easy to win team and then win singles. Speaks volumes to his fortitude and resilience which are important at the next level. He has the kind of game to win matches at the open. I think Rubin could be a top 100 player but see much more upside with lenz and most of all Shane.

College Fan said...

Great run for Americans this year. Both Singles Champs and all 4 Men's semifinalists.
Plus, the team champ is basically all American.

Wondering said...

Was there any talk, either from coaches or fans, about scoring options/changes for college tennis?

Anonymous said...

Fantastic coverage Collette. Thank you.

Several disappointments in the tournament though:

1 - The live scoring and/or updates available from Baylor or the NCAA was horrendous. Web links did not work sometimes and were often late. The most timely updates most times turned out to be the twitter feeds of the schools. The only way to keep up with the women's doubles that I could find was Alabama's Twitter. If not game by game it was updated every other game.

2 - I understand problems presented by weather but whomever was in charge of scheduling stunk. If they had started earlier on Sunday and Monday more if not all could have been played outside.

Looking at overall results the Pac 12 got skunked. ACC had 3 titles; the SEC 2; the Big 12 (?) 1.

Thanks again for the coverage.

Live stream great said...

I thought the live stream and live scores from NCAA team event was excellent. Didn't follow individuals, can't speak to that. If they get the right people playing individuals by fixing ITA ranking problems and timing, it may be more interesting and relevant someday. It is simply the winner of who happens to be there, not the best of the best who wins, way it has always been.

ClarkC said...

Who of significance was missing from the men's singles due to ITA rankings besides Collin Altamirano? Who was missing due to injury? What reason do we have to believe that anyone missing was better than Shane and Rubin?

Colette Lewis said...

I would say Eric Johnson was a notable absentee

Colette Lewis said...

I spoke about it with a few people, but not a lot of discussion, no. Seems likely no-ad will be adopted for
NCAAs next year, but I am just guessing