Day One Action Complete at 2012 ITA National Men’s Team Indoor Championship
Intense doubles action highlights first day of play
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Day one of the 2012 ITA National Men’s Team Indoor Championship, hosted by the University of Virginia at the Boar’s Head Sports Club, is in the books. The first day of the national event provided numerous doubles points that were decided in tiebreaks.
The 9 am (ET) matches featured a pair of Lone Star State teams trying to spring upsets in the opening round. The eleven seed Texas A&M Aggies were up against the six seed Kentucky Wildcats, while the fourteen seed Texas Longhorns were taking on the three seed Ohio State Buckeyes.
The Aggies and Wildcats were locked in a tight doubles point, with all three matches simultaneously at 6-5 late in the match. In a matchup of duos with a national ranking in the Campbell/ITA College Tennis Rankings, No. 48 Eric Quigley and Panav Jha of Kentucky were able to hold off No. 55 Junior Ore and Jackson Withrow 8-6. With the match at number three doubles heading into a tiebreak, the Wildcat pair of Tom Jomby and Anthony Rossi clawed past No. 36 John Lewis and Colin Hoover to put Kentucky ahead 1-0.
The Wildcats did an impressive job of not allowing Texas A&M to get back into the match once singles play began, winning four of the six opening sets. Kentucky’s Alejandro Gomez, ranked No. 87 in the Campbell/ITA College Tennis Singles Rankings, was the first Wildcat to wrap up his match, posting a 6-0, 6-2 victory over Lewis. No. 79 Jomby wasn’t far behind finishing off his match, getting past the Aggies’ Jeremy Efferding 6-4, 6-3. One of Kentucky’s three players ranked inside the top 20 of the Campbell/ITA College Tennis Singles Rankings, No. 13 Anthony Rossi, closed out the 4-0 sweep for the Wildcats. Rossi got through a tight first set against Texas A&M’s Junior Ore, winning the second 6-3 for the victory.
“The doubles point was the key to the match,” Kentucky head coach Dennis Emery stated. “We have struggled at times this season in doubles, dropping some tight doubles points, so it was big for us to win a tight doubles point. That really gave us a shot of adrenaline. I thought that was the best doubles we have played all year. In singles, when we play that well at No. 4 and No. 5, we are very difficult to beat. It really puts the pressure on their guys at 1-3 to have to beat our guys, who are all top 20 players.”
On the stadium courts, the Longhorns pushed the Buckeyes to the limit in doubles play. Ohio State claimed the first spot, but Texas countered by taking the second position. At the third spot, the Buckeyes’ Peter Kobelt and Conor Smith were tied at 6-6 with the Longhorns’ Sudanwa Sitaram and Daniel Whitehead. A missed overhead gave Sitaram and Whitehead a break for 7-6 and a chance to serve out the doubles point, but Kobelt and Smith played a solid return game to even the score at 7-7. The match eventually went into a tiebreak, where the servers struggled early on. The Ohio State duo tightened up their play in the second half of the tiebreak, taking it seven points to four.
The Buckeyes were able to carry over the momentum into singles action, claiming four first sets. At the fourth position, No. 99 in the Campbell/ITA College Tennis Rankings Ille Van Engelen moved Ohio State one point closer to victory with a 6-0, 6-2 win. No. 12 Blaz Rola was next to complete his match, taking out No. 69 Daniel Whitehead 6-0, 6-3 at the second spot. It was No. 65 Devin McCarthy who would deliver the final point for the 4-0 sweep, defeating Chris Camillone 6-3, 6-2.
“The doubles point is important in every match,” Ohio State head coach Ty Tucker explained. “We had some early momentum at No. 1 and No. 3, but gave it back at No. 3. Texas served for the match, maybe got a little tight, but we played a good game to break. We were able to play a good tiebreak in the end. In singles, we got out to some 3-0 leads, 4-0 leads. Our guys were able to breathe a little easier at that point.”
The Noon (ET) matches featured another sweep, but also a thrilling 4-3 decision. The four seed Georgia pulled off the 4-0 sweep of the thirteenth-seeded California Golden Bears, while the five seed Florida had to hold off a strong effort from the twelfth-seeded Pepperdine Waves.
The Georgia Bulldogs looked solid in doubles play, taking the matches at the second and third positions 8-4 to race out to an early 1-0 lead over California. The Bulldogs were determined to not let the Golden Bears find a way into the match in singles play, winning five of the six first sets. Ignacio Taboada, ranked No. 43 in the Campbell/ITA Rankings, was the first to claim his singles match, beating Christoffer Konigsfeldt 6-3, 6-2. No. 55 KU Singh put Georgia ahead 3-0 in the overall match, breezing through the first set 6-1 and managing to break the serve of No. 44 Ben McLachlan at 5-4 to take the match. It was a race to the finish between the first and sixth spots to cap off the 4-0 sweep, with the Bulldogs’ Nathan Pasha sending a pick-up volley cross court on match point to win the match at six singles 7-5, 6-3.
“I feel great about today,” Georgia head coach Manuel Diaz said. “We really got pushed – Cal is a great team, very deep, and they have lots of weapons. Their doubles is very good at all three positions, so I think our guys just really played a great match today. Hopefully we will keep this level of tennis going forward. What impressed me the most was how we were embracing the fact that Cal was a big challenge. We played a talented team and played well against them.”
The Florida Gators, with three doubles teams ranked inside the top 30 of the Campbell/ITA College Tennis Doubles Rankings, seemed like a lock to take the doubles point against Pepperdine. However, the Waves were able to hang in despite dropping court two 8-3. Finn Tearney and Alex Llompart, ranked No. 53 in the Campbell/ITA College Tennis Doubles Rankings, were able to upset the No. 9 duo of Nassam Slilam and Billy Federhofer 8-6, turning all attention to court three. Neither tandem was able to gain much momentum throughout the match, which would have to be settled in a tiebreak. Pepperdine’s Hugh Clarke and David Sofaer fell behind No. 29 Andrew Butz and Bob van Overbeek, but battled back to take the tiebreak seven points to four, giving the Waves the 1-0 advantage going into singles play.
Although the final score would be 4-3, all six singles matches ended in straight sets. Each team grabbed two of the first four matches done, moving the score to 3-2 in favor of Pepperdine. The matches at the third and sixth positions were the only ones remaining on court, with Florida taking the first set in both. At the third spot, Slilam pulled the upset over Campbell/ITA No. 58 Mousheg Hovhannisyan 6-3, 7-5 to even the score at 3-3. At the sixth spot, Florida’s Mike Alford had a set in hand against Turner, but could not shake Turner to break free in the second set. The set ended in a tiebreak, which Alford took seven points to four to move the Gators into the quarterfinals with a 4-3 victory.
“After the doubles point, I told them the same thing I would have said to them if we had won the doubles point: there are still six points available in singles,” Florida head coach Andy Jackson explained. “We played well in doubles, and I thought we did a good job of not getting discouraged. We have had a good start to the season, but we don’t have a win that is better than this one. Pepperdine is a good team, and they will have a good season. They have several losses this season, but they have all come to upper echelon teams. I am pleased to have such a good win like this one.”
Top seed USC was involved in one of the 3:30 pm (ET) matches, facing off against the sixteen seed Tennessee. In doubles action, the No. 28 duo in the Campbell/ITA Rankings Steve Johnson and Yannick Hanfmann were in a tight match against No. 41 Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese. While this match remained close, the Trojans were able to comfortably claim the matches at the second and third spots to win the doubles point. With all six of the Trojans’ singles players ranked in the Campbell/ITA College Tennis Singles Rankings, Tennessee was not able to dig out of the early hole. No. 14 Daniel Nguyen and No. 36 Hanfmann each closed out their match 6-1, 6-0. No. 86 Roberto Quiroz finished off the quick 4-0 sweep of the Vols with a 6-4, 6-1 decision at the sixth spot.
“We had a tough time getting going early in doubles, being indoors, but we started to return well,” USC head coach Peter Smith said. “In singles we did a good job of not letting them get into the match. We have memories against Tennessee, so we knew they were going to be tough. Indoor matches are tough because of the quickness of the courts, but we are adjusting to it. We are getting a chance to work on some things that we don’t usually work on.”
While there were several interesting doubles points throughout the day, the most intriguing took place between the eight seed UCLA and the ten seed Duke. Neither team was able to get a hold of any of the three matches, as they all simultaneously went into tiebreaks. The Bruins took the tiebreak on court two seven points to three, but the Gators countered with a seven points to five victory on court three. The doubles point was decided on court one, which featured UCLA’s Nick Meister and Adrian Puget pulling off a huge upset seven points to five in the tiebreak over No. 13 in the Campbell/ITA College Tennis Doubles Rankings Henrique Cunha and Fred Saba.
The Blue Devils responded to adversity well, winning five of the six first sets in singles action; however, it was UCLA who took a 2-0 lead thanks to Puget’s 6-4, 6-3 win at the fourth spot. Cunha, ranked No. 2 in the Campbell/ITA Rankings, got the Blue Devils on the board, and Raphael Hemmeler evened the score at 2-2 after a straight sets win on court five. Duke took their first lead of the match thanks to Torsten Wietoska, who was able to get past No. 108 Marcos Giron 7-5, 7-5. The Blue Devils also had the final two matches in their control, and advanced to Saturday’s quarterfinals when freshman Jason Tahir closed out his match 6-4, 6-3 thanks to a couple of Dennis Mkrtchian errors in the final game.
“All three doubles matches were back and forth, ending with three simultaneous tiebreakers,” Duke head coach Ramsey Smith stated. “I can’t think of a match I have been a part of where the doubles ended with three simultaneous tiebreakers. UCLA just stepped it up at No. 1. I didn’t think we played poorly; they just came up with some big returns and took it to us. The key to the match was us not getting down after losing a heart-breaking doubles point to a top ten team. We got out to good starts in singles and competed well.”
Opening up the 6:30 pm (ET) time slot was host school and second seed Virginia, taking on the fifteen seed Auburn. The Tigers hung tough in doubles action, leading the match at the first spot 6-5 with a break in hand, but the Cavaliers were able to take care of the other two courts to take the doubles point. Virginia was determined to send the fans home on a positive note, taking full command of the match in singles by winning five first sets. Drew Courtney pushed the score to 2-0 in favor of the Cavaliers, and Alex Domijan moved Virginia ahead 3-0 by closing out his match at the second spot. Stellar freshman Mitchell Frank, No. 1 in the Campbell/ITA College Tennis Singles Rankings, fittingly finished off the sweep of Auburn with a 6-4, 6-1 triumph.
The final match of the night was a wild one, as ninth-seeded Stanford was up against the seven seed Baylor. Once again, the doubles point was decided by a tiebreak. Stanford looked solid in doubles early, seemingly in control to take the 1-0 lead, but the Bears did not go away. Baylor claimed the match on court two, but the Cardinal stayed alive thanks to a victory on court one. The match on court three was the deciding doubles match, which Kike Grangeiro and Lars Behlen took from Stanford freshmen John Morrissey and Robert Stineman 9-8.
Finally back in the Cardinal lineup, Bradley Klahn got Stanford on the board with a 6-3, 6-2 victory at the third position. The Bears managed to wrap up the match at the fourth spot for a 2-1 lead, which didn’t last long thanks to Stineman’s 6-3, 6-4 win at the sixth position. Morrissey pushed the Cardinal ahead 3-2 after rebounding from dropping the second set 6-1 to take the deciding set 6-4 against Campbell/ITA Rankings No. 98 Behlen. The final two matches on court were going on side-by-side, as both teams gathered to see how the finals points would play out. The match at the second spot was in a decisive tiebreak, with Stanford’s Matt Kandath holding a five points to two lead, but it was No. 29 Ryan Thacher who provided the clinching win, holding off No. 25 Mate Zsiga 7-5, 7-5, which included a bizarre ending. Zsiga was overruled on consecutive points, with the second one giving Thacher the match win.
“We are coming off a tough home loss to Fresno State on Tuesday, and we have really had an unfortunate string of injuries this season,” Stanford senior Ryan Thacher said. “This was Brad (Klahn’s) first singles match back. He is one of the leaders of this team, so it really lifts our spirits when he is in the lineup. We wish we had that Fresno match back, I wish I had my own match back, but we came here and did a great job of moving on, especially after dropping a tough doubles point. We all fought hard tonight, and the freshmen at the bottom did well.”
Play continues Saturday at 9 am (ET).