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

Saturday, May 18, 2024

TCU Men Conquer Top Seed Ohio State to Reach First NCAA D-I Final Against Texas; Georgia and Texas A&M Meet Sunday for Women's Team Title

©Colette Lewis 2024--
Stillwater Oklahoma--

The 2024 NCAA Division I Championships Sunday will feature familiar conference foes, with both the men's and women's finalists meeting for the fourth time this season with the biggest prize in college tennis on the line.

The TCU men have already made program history in reaching their first NCAA team final, with the Horned Frogs riding a rollercoaster of a match to a 4-2 victory over top seed Ohio State to open Saturday's action at the Greenwood Tennis Center on the Oklahoma State campus.

When the two teams met in the National Indoor championship match in February, TCU had won the doubles point, but couldn't find that third singles point in a 4-3 Ohio State win. Outdoors on Saturday, with temperatures in the 80s and under sunny skies, the Horned Frogs dropped the doubles point, but found four singles points, which didn't surprise head coach David Roditi.

"Sometimes, when your backs are against the wall, you fight harder," Roditi said. "That was the message between singles and doubles. Ok, they did it to us at the Indoors, we won the doubles and they beat us, let's do it to them."

A whole lot happened after that doubles point, in the three-hour and 41-minute battle, with each team winning three first sets. TCU's Sebastian Gorzny, who only returned to the singles lineup in Thursday quarterfinals, pulled his team even, handing Alexander Bernard his first loss of the year 6-3, 6-4 at line 5.

Ohio State's Justin Boulais had dropped the first set to Jack Pinnington Jones at line 1, but Boulais was serving at 5-3 to take their match to a third set, only to surrender the next four games to give Pinnington Jones a 6-4, 7-5 victory and TCU a 2-1 lead. That was the last of the singles matches decided in two sets, as TCU's Lui Maxted forced a third against Jack Anthrop at line 4; Ohio State's Cannon Kingsley forced a third against Jake Fearnley at line 2; Ohio State's JJ Tracy forced a third against Pedro Vives at line 3 and Tomas Jirousek forced a third against Robert Cash at 6. 

Maxted had a chance to give TCU a 3-1 lead, when he served for the match at 5-4, but Anthrop was the steadier player from that point on, getting the break, holding and breaking again to pull Ohio State even at 2.

Both Tracy and Cash were up 3-1 in their third sets, and Fearnley had a 4-1 lead in his, with Cash having the first chance to put the third point on the board.  But the fifth-year senior, serving for the match at 5-4, failed to get any first serves in, double faulted twice, including at 30-40, and Jirousek was right back in the match. Fearnley closed out Kingsley at line 2 7-5, 5-7, 6-2, and when Jirousek saw Fearnley on the sidelines cheering him on, Jirousek had the information he needed about his role.

"When I broke back for 5-all, I saw that Jake was already standing there, so I asked if we were winning 3-2, and if I win the match we win, but that was the first time I knew," said the fifth-year senior from the Czech Republic. 

That may have provided all the motivation he needed, but it was a brave forehand just inside the near sideline on a deciding point in his service game at 5-all that indicated Jirousek was ready for the biggest moment in his TCU career.

"I had a plan if I get a chance I'm going to go for the shot, because I felt like I have to," said Jirousek, who had missed his first serve on that pressure-packed point, but didn't falter on his second. "I saw some open space there and I went for it. It was a  risky shot, but I knew I had to go 100 percent for, and I did. Thankfully, it went in."

Vives won a deciding point with Tracy serving at 4-2 at virtually the same moment, so TCU still had an opportunity there, with Cash serving to send his match to a third-set tiebreaker, but the fifth-year senior looked sapped of belief and energy, while Jirousek kept himself firmly on the baseline and projected only confidence. Cash dropped his serve at love, and Jirousek's teammates rushed to celebrate the program's first appearance in an NCAA final.

TCU had avenged not only their Team Indoor final loss to the Buckeyes this year, but a 4-0 loss to Ohio State in the semifinals last year in Orlando, but the whiplash nature of today's match was what most impressed Roditi.

"As far as a college match, it doesn't get any more exciting," said Roditi, in his 14th season leading his alma mater. "There were so many ups and downs, and I just stopped guessing who was going to win and who was going to lose, because everybody kept turning matches around. Beating Ohio State, semifinals of NCAAs, that's a lot to say right there."

TCU will be seeking a second victory over their opponent in the final, No. 2 seed Texas, who beat the Horned Frogs in the Big-12 conference final on these same Oklahoma State courts, after splitting home decisions earlier in the season.

Gilles-Arnaud Bailly celebrates with brother Pierre-Yves

Texas defeated No. 6 seed Wake Forest 4-2, in a score that was the same as TCU and Ohio State, but markedly less dramatic. The Longhorns dropped the doubles point but got four first sets from the top four in their lineup and managed to close out those matches in straight sets, with brothers Pierre-Yves Bailly and Gilles-Arnaud Bailly getting the final two points a lines 4 and 3, after Eliot Spizzirri and Micah Braswell had made it 2-1 with wins at 1 and 2.

Pierre-Yves was making his return to the singles lineup after suffering a bone bruise, but that wasn't the only switch that head coach Bruce Berque made to his lineup. Siem Woldeab at line 4 and Jonah Braswell at line 5 had both lost in the 4-2 win over Tennessee in the quarterfinals, and they were pulled from the semifinals today, with Cleeve Harper playing at line 5 and Lucas Brown at line 6.

"Pierre's been feeling better and better and we were sitting him until we felt like we really needed him," said Berque. "I guess today was a good day for him, and he felt pretty good after the match, so pretty confident you'll see him tomorrow, maybe even in doubles. I spend a lot of time thinking about [the lineup], making the best decision I can, but it's probably hard to go wrong, as I do have a lot of choices."

Gilles-Arnaud, who reached two junior slam finals in 2022, but decided to join his older brother in Austin this past fall, earned the points within moments of each other, embracing as they celebrated the younger brother's clinch, putting Texas in the final for the first time since winning the title in 2019.

Guillermina Grant clinches for Georgia

The women's semifinals, played in the evening's cooler temperatures, were, like the Texas-Wake Forest men's match, mostly devoid of any suspense.

No. 7 seed Georgia defeated No. 6 seed Pepperdine 4-0, claiming the doubles point and after taking four first sets in singles, closing out the Waves with three straight-sets victories.

Dasha Vidmanova at line 1, Mell Reasco at line 3 and Guillermina Grant at line 5 collected the points to send the Bulldogs to their first final since finishing runnerup to Stanford in 2019.

"I'm just really proud of this team, really proud of the heavy ground covered the last three months," said Drake Bernstein, in his first year as head coach after serving 11 seasons as associate head coach to Jeff Wallace, who retired last spring. "This team's got a lot of character, a lot of heart and a lot of fight."

Georgia lost in the semifinals to eventual champion North Carolina last year, but Bernstein said there was little connecting this team to that loss. 

"It's a different team," said Bernstein, who was a member of the last University of Georgia team to win a NCAA championship in 2008.  "Last year's team was terrific and there's a lot of special memories from that. This is a different group. What we've really done all year is stay in today... There's not a ton of room for rearview mirror action, but we're certainly learning. And every year you get more experience under your belt and you like to think you're better off because of it."

Georgia will certainly not lack for experience against their finals opponent, No. 13 seed Texas A&M, with the Bulldogs having won all three meetings with Aggies this season, including a 4-1 victory in the SEC conference tournament final in Athens less than a month ago.

But despite their No. 13 seeding, no one is discounting Texas A&M's chances to avenge those losses, particularly after a Super Regional win over defending champion North Carolina last weekend, and two convincing wins over No. 5 Virginia Friday and No. 16 seed Tennessee in the last of Saturday's semifinals.

Texas A&M had dropped the doubles point to Virginia in Friday's quarterfinals, but they rectified that with a decisive doubles point Saturday against Tennessee, and fought off a late last gasp from the Lady Vols for a 4-1 victory.

Tennessee's late night, 4-3 win over UCLA Friday didn't seem to have sapped any enthusiasm, and they took three first sets in singles, giving them a chance to mount another comeback. But Sofia Cabezas, the hero of the last two Tennessee upsets, was up against ITA No. 1 Mary Stoiana at line 1, and was unable to offer much resistance, with Stoiana quickly making it 2-0 Aggies with a 6-1, 6-2 win.

"I knew what I had to do, had to go there and take of business, play every point and focus on my own court, I knew I could do a good job of setting the tone," said the junior from Connecticut.

From then on, Tennessee was faced with having to win four of the five matches left on court, and when the recently returned Carson Branstine showed off the best of her powerful game to take a 7-5, 6-2 win over Elza Tomase at line 2, the task looked next to impossible.

Yet Tennessee continued to fight, and put a scare into the Texas A&M-heavy crown as the Aggies tried to close it out. Esther Adeshina put Tennessee on the board with a win at line 4 to make it 4-1, but Nicole Khirin had won 11 straight games against Tennessee's Alana Wolfberg at line 3 for a 5-7, 6-0, 5-0 lead.

Texas A&M head coach Mark Weaver thought his team lost a bit of focus at the time, as Wolfberg broke Khirin twice when serving for the match, and Tennessee's Catherine Aulia broke Mia Kupres serving for the match at line 4, while several members of the Texas A&M men's team in the stands were asked to leave by the on court referee for comments made during that stage of the match.

"We were guilty, as everyone sometimes is, you kind of start thinking of the wrong things," said Weaver, who was an associate head coach at Texas A&M when the Aggies made their only other NCAA final in 2013. "And you wonder, is she going to finish it out, or am I going to finish it out? And we got a point penalty out there from the crowd, it was pretty questionable to get a point penalty over the crowd. I don't want to go into it that too much, but it really changed the momentum there and we lost a deuce game there because of it, something's that is outside of our control. But we were luckily able to overcome that over a strong and mentally tough team there."

Khirin eventually did collect the win, breaking Wolfberg to send the Aggies into encounter number four with the Bulldogs this year.

Sunday's finals begin with the men's championship at 5 p.m Eastern, followed by the women's championship.  Cracked Racquets will have coverage of both matches at ESPN Plus.

TCU[4] d. Ohio State[1] 4-2

1. Jake Fearnley and Pedro Vives(TCU) d. JJ Tracy and Robert Cash(OSU) 6-4
2. Justin Boulais and Andrew Lutschaunig(OSU) d. Sebastian Gorzny and Jack Pinnington (TCU) 6-3
3 Cannon Kingsley and Jack Anthrop(OSU) d. Duncan Chan and Lui Maxted(TCU) 7-6(4)

Order of finish: 2, 1, 3

1. Jack Pinnington Jones(TCU) d. Justin Boulais(OSU) 6-4, 7-5
2. Jake Fearnley(TCU) d. Cannon Kingsley(OSU) 7-5, 5-7, 6-2
3. JJ Tracy(OSU) v Pedro Vives(TCU) 6-7(5), 6-3, 4-3, unfinished
4. Jack Anthrop(OSU) d. Lui Maxted(TCU) 6-3, 3-6, 7-5
5. Sebastian Gorzny(TCU) d. Alexander Bernard(OSU) 6-3, 6-4
6. Tomas Jirousek(TCU) d. Robert Cash(OSU) 1-6, 6-2, 7-5

Order of finish: 5, 1, 4, 2, 6

Texas[2] d. Wake Forest[6] 4-2

1. Eliot Spizzirri and Siem Woldeab(TEX) d. Holden Koons and DK Suresh(WAKE) 6-2
2. Filippo Moroni and Matthew Thomason(WAKE) d. Micah Braswell and Eshan Talluri(TEX) 6-4
3. Luca Pow and Luciano Tacchi(WAKE) d. Lucas Brown and Cleeve Harper(TEX) 6-4

Order of finish: 1, 3, 2

1. Eliot Spizzirri(TEX) d. Filippo Moroni(WAKE) 6-0, 6-3
2. Micah Braswell(TEX) d. DK Suresh Ekambaram(WAKE) 6-2 6-4
3. Gilles-Arnaud Bailly(TEX) d. Matthew Thomson(WAKE) 6-3, 7-5
4. Pierre-Yves Bailly(TEX) d. Luciano Tacchi(WAKE) 6-2, 7-6(4)
5. Luca Pow(WAKE) d. Cleeve Harper(TEX) 6-4, 7-6(4)
6. Holden Koons(WAKE) v Lucas Brown(TEX) 6-4, 5-4, unfinished

Order of finish: 1, 2, 4, 5, 3

Georgia[7] d. Pepperdine[6] 4-0

1. Aysegul Mert and Dasha Vidmanova(UGA) v Savannah Broadus and Janice Tjen(PEPP) 6-5, unfinished
2. Guillermina Grant and Mai Nirundorn(UGA) d. Nikki Redelijk and Vivian Yang(PEPP) 6-4
3. Anastasiia Lopata and Mell Reasco(UGA) d. Anna Campana and Lisa Zaar(PEPP) 6-2

Order of finish: 3, 2

1. Dasha Vidmanova(UGA) d. Janice Tjen(PEPP) 6-2, 7-5
2. Lisa Zaar(PEPP) v Alexandra Vecic(UGA) 6-2, 5-6, unfinished
3. Mell Reasco(UGA) d. Savannah Broadus(PEPP) 7-6(3), 6-3
4. Nikki Redelijk(PEPP) v Anastasiia Lopata(UGA) 7-5, 1-3, unfinished 
5. Guillermina Grant(UGA) d. Anna Campana(PEPP) 7-5, 6-3
6. Vivian Yang(PEPP) v Mai Nirundorn(UGA) 5-7, 6-2, unfinished

Order of finish: 1, 3, 5

Texas A&M[13] d. Tennessee[16] 4-1

1. Mia Kupres and Mary Stoiana(TAMU) d. Sofia Cabezas and Elza Tomase(TENN) 6-2
2. Carson Branstine and Lucciana Perez(TAMU) d. Esther Adeshina and Alana Wolfberg(TENN) 6-1
3. Nicole Khirin and Jeannette Mireles(TAMU) v Lauren Anzalotta and Catherine Aulia(TENN) 4-4, unfinished

Order of finish: 2, 1

1. Mary Stoiana(TAMU) d. Sofia Cabezas(TENN) 6-1, 6-2
2. Carson Branstine(TAMU) d. Elza Tomase(TENN) 7-5, 6-2
3. Nicole Khirin(TAMU) d. Alana Wolfberg(TENN) 5-7, 6-0, 6-3
4. Mia Kupres(TAMU) v Catherine Aulia(TENN) 7-6(4) 5-6, unfinished
5. Lucciana Perez(TAMU) v Lauren Anzalotta(TENN) 4-6, 6-2, 2-2
6. Esther Adeshina(TENN) d. Jeanette Mireles(TAMU) 6-3 6-4

Order of finish: 1, 2, 6, 3


Colin said...

Had hoped OSU might break the dominance of teams from the south/California winning championships. Oh well. Should be a great final, anyway!


TCU Horned Frogs Are National Champions!! First Time in School History for the Men's Tennis Program! Congrats to David Roditi, Devin Bowen, coaches and trainers, and all the TCU Players, past and present, for accomplishing your Goal!
TCU 4 Texas 3
The only "Hook Em " Horns for the Texas Team was from their players line calls. Terrible. The Coaches of Texas should have stepped in to stop the hooking. Disappointing. I've Known those Texas Coaches along time. Not a great example for your Players!