NCAA Championship rematch slated for final of ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championship
Top two seeds hold strong in semifinal wins
CHICAGO, IL (Feb. 15) - USC and Oklahoma will play for a national championship again, this time the 2015 ITA Division I National Men's Team Indoor Championship hosted by the University of Illinois at Midtown Athletic Club. The No. 2 Sooners topped Big 12 rival and 11th-seeded Baylor, 4-2, and top-ranked USC swept singles matches in a 4-1 win over No. 4 seed Georgia. The final will be a rematch of the 2014 NCAA Team Championship won by USC, and will be held at 11am CT. USC seeks its fourth title at the event, while Oklahoma is playing for its first championship.
(2) Oklahoma 4, (11) Baylor 2
The second-seeded Oklahoma Sooners went 2-1 against Big 12 foe Baylor last season, but lost the most important match of the trio, the Big 12 Championship. Oklahoma got its payback on Sunday, recording an inspired 4-2 win to earn a place in its first ever ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championship final.
Alex Ghilea (Oklahoma)
A very vocal, energetic Baylor came out swinging in doubles, racing to 5-1 and 5-0 leads on second and third doubles, respectively. The Bears were lining up passing shots at line two, completely dismantling the Sooners.
"Baylor had a game plan to come out and slug the ball," Oklahoma head coach John Roddick said. "It's partly my fault. I wasn't ready for that. I didn't see that coming. They really took that to the extreme and just beat the crap out of us. A lot of the credit goes to them and there was nothing we could do about it. We saw it, but it's hard to change that."
Singles provided relief for Oklahoma, who won the first set in the top four singles matches. Senior Dane Webb (No. 31) was absolutely lethal in a 6-4, 6-0 runaway win over No. 27 Tony Lupieri. At second singles, Baylor's Max Tchoutakian (No. 67) was crashing the net often against No. 11 Axel Alvarez, but missed some important volleys in a 6-4, 6-4 loss.
Freshman Spencer Papa shook off his doubles loss early on at fourth singles, improving his singles record at the event to 3-0 with a 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 win to give Oklahoma a 3-1 lead.
"He's showing that he's going to be one of the best college players when he gets a little more comfortable out here and gets a little older," Roddick said of Papa. "He's playing good players at four. All the guys that he's played at four have been points for the teams that they count on."
While Papa was finishing his match, things looked grim at fifth singles for sophomore Alex Ghilea (No. 63) against yesterday's match-clincher Mate Zsiga of Baylor. He was down a set and Zsiga was serving for the match at 5-2.
"Zsiga is a tough matchup," Roddick said. "You have to really get comfortable with what you do and he's really good at making you uncomfortable. I just said, 'keep doing the same thing. If you cut down a couple errors, you're going to be right in there. You've had chances to break. You might not win the match, but you have a fighter's chance to get back in this.'"
Eleven games later, Ghilea was celebrating a 4-6, 7-5, 6-0 win, his third singles win of the tournament. He broke six consecutive times and lost just seven points in a 23-minute third set.
"It's amazing," Ghilea said. "It feels like the NCAA tournament. The fact that we're indoors and we're an outdoor team makes it even better. To clinch it is just great. The effort by our guys was incredible. You have to fight until the last ball. I was down 5-2 in the second set and he was up a set. I had to push on the gas pedal and I did."
(1) USC 4, (4) Georgia 1
The USC Trojans advanced to their fourth straight and 10th overall ITA National Indoor final with a 4-1 victory over Georgia. The Bulldogs looked poised during doubles, with their top pair of Ben Wagland and Austin Smith topping the No. 1-ranked Trojan duo of Yannick Hanfmann and Roberto Quiroz. Georgia broke Hanfmann's powerful serve twice in the match, including in the final game of the 6-4 upset to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead.
Roberto Quiroz (USC) yells to the crowd after clinching the match
However, once the singles matches took the court, USC's presence was felt. The top three singles matches featured six Top 25 players, but it was the bottom of the lineup where the Trojans struck.
Senior Eric Johnson registered his third singles win in as many days, losing just two games in a 6-1, 6-1 triumph at fourth singles to put USC on the board. Roughly 20 minutes later, Max de Vroome and Nick Crystal polished off straight-set wins at Nos. 5 and 6 singles to slide the Trojans to one point from team victory.
"I'm so proud of four, five and six," USC head coach Peter Smith said. "They played as good of tennis as I've seen all year. We got up and kept the leads. Nick is a sophomore and it's really his first time in these type of matches. Max is another guy; when you've served out an NCAA Championship...he's comfortable in that situation and we're comfortable with him."
USC's Quiroz (No. 24) and Georgia's Smith each held serve six times in the first set to force a tie-break that Quiroz won 7-2. The Trojan senior held at love three times in the second set and broke in the fourth game to earn a 7-6(4), 6-3 win and usher USC into the final. With the victory, Quiroz joined Johnson and Ghilea with an unblemished 3-0 singles record in Chicago.
"I think why coaches coach is to see growth," Smith said. "To see the growth in Roberto from a freshman to a senior is so big. Now he's such a leader for us. We're just really fortunate that he's there in that situation. He's been there before. He's very confident and we're very confident in him."
Looking toward the final, Smith knows he's not the only one who's noticed Oklahoma's rise under Roddick's tutelage.
"Everyone's taking notice of their program in the last few years," he said. "John and Bo are doing such a great job. This early in the season, we're just excited to play the best programs. I hope it's a great match tomorrow."
Consolation results were as follows:
(6) Duke def. (15) Ole Miss, 4-0
(10) UCLA def. (14) TCU, 4-1
(3) Virginia def. (7) UNC, 4-0
(9) Texas def. (13) Columbia, 4-1
(5) Illinois def. (8) Ohio State, 4-2
(12) California def. (16) Penn State, 4-2
For complete coverage of the 2015 ITA Division I National Men's Team Indoor Championship, including access to draws, live scores and more, please visit the official ITA event page. Follow the ITA on Twitter, @ITAtennis, or like the ITA Facebook page for updates and news from Chicago. Use the hashtag #ITAIndoors for all tweets about the event, and search the term "ITAIndoors" to find others who are tweeting about the event.
About the ITA Division I National Men's Team Indoor Championships
The ITA Division I National Men's Team Indoor Championship is held annually each February. The men's event began in 1973 and will be held for the 41st time in 2015. The event features 16 participating teams: the 15 schools who won both of their matches during the ITA Kick-Off Weekend and the host school. The tournament is held over four days, and begins on Friday with first round play, followed by quarterfinals on Saturday, semifinals on Sunday and the final on Monday.
About Midtown Athletic Clubs
Midtown Athletic Clubs is a leader in the upscale fitness club and sports resort industry. What began as a single tennis club in Chicago in 1970, Midtown is now comprised of 10 full-service tennis and fitness facilities throughout the United States and Canada. Locations in Illinois include Chicago, Bannockburn, Oak Park, Palatine and Willowbrook. Other clubs are operated in Atlanta; Overland Park, KS; Rochester, NY; Weston, FL; and Montreal, QC. Midtown features a variety of dynamic tennis programs, the latest cardio and strength training equipment, group exercise classes, personal training and spa services. The clubs offer a warm, inviting environment and provide a special place to connect with family, make new friends and get fit. For more information on Midtown Athletic Club in Chicago, call (773) 235-2300 or visit www.midtown.com/chicago.