Ohio State, USC set up final showdown at the 2014 ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championship

 

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Ohio State
, USC set up final showdown at the 2014 ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championship 

OSU's Metka, USC's Hanfmann clinch wins for their teams

 

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HOUSTON, TX (Feb. 16) Ohio State and USC knocked out the top two seeds on Sunday at the 2014 ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championship, hosted by the Texas A&M University and held at The Downtown Club at the Met and the Galleria Tennis and Athletic Club. 

 

Setting up a rematch of the 2012 final, Ohio State beat No. 1 Virginia, the defending champions and winners of five of the past six team indoor titles, while USC knocked out its crosstown rival, UCLA. Both semifinals came down to the final match, and both teams clinched 4-3 wins in the third sets of the final matches.

 

Here's a breakdown of Sunday's exciting semifinal matches:

 

#5 Ohio State 4, #1 Virginia 3

The Ohio State Buckeyes won a thrilling semifinal over No. 1 Virginia, ending a run of 36 straight match wins and eight consecutive semifinals for the Cavaliers.

 

The Buckeyes surround Kevin Metka after he clinched Ohio State's upset over No. 1 Virginia

The Buckeyes, three-time finalists at this event but never the champions, were 3-1 down before they won three singles matches, all in three sets, for the victory.

 

Ohio State came out fired up in the doubles, and they jumped to 4-1 leads at Nos. 1 and 3. The No. 2 ranked duo of Peter Kobelt and Kevin Metka at No 1 made full use of their big serves against Cavaliers Alex Domijan and Justin Shane, and they took their match 6-3. At second doubles, Mitchell Frank and Luca Corinteli of Virginia won the last four games to defeat Herkko Pollanen and Hunter Callahan, 6-2 to level the doubles at 1-1.

 

Third doubles seemed well in Ohio State's favor, as Ralf Steinbach and Chris Diaz led 4-1 against Mac Styslinger and Thai-Son Kwiatkowski. But the tide turned quickly, and Virginia pulled even at 4-4. A tiebreak ensued, and stellar play by Kwiatkowski helped the Cavaliers soar through the tiebreak for a 6-5 (1) win, putting the defending champs up 1-0.

Ty Tucker, head coach at Ohio State, said his team had belief even after dropping the doubles point. "It started out when we got them in doubles, up 4-1 on courts one and three, and we ended up giving a break back. Thai-Son came up with a frame over the net and ended up taking over and took the doubles point from us. As a freshman, he's an unbelievable player."

 

Buckeye junior Hunter Callahan got his team on the board with a win at sixth singles over No. 62 Jordan Daigle, 6-3, 6-4. But the No. 1 team in the nation took a 3-1 lead after wins by Ryan Shane and Alex Domijan at No. 2 and No. 3 singles. The remaining three matches were all in third sets by this stage, and the Cavaliers needed just one win in the three to return to the final.

 

Senior Peter Kobelt came out strong in his first singles match with Mitchell Frank of Virginia, who's currently ranked No. 3 in the ITA Men's Division I Singles Rankings. The Buckeye quickly went up 3-0 with big serves and groundstrokes, and he took the first set, 6-3. But Frank, who was undefeated so far this season and boasted a remarkable 70-4 collegiate record, would not go away quietly. He hung tough and broke while Kobelt served at 4-5 to level the match at a set apiece. But Kobelt didn't fold, and he ended Frank's undefeated season, taking the match 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 to keep Ohio State in the match, but still trailing 3-2.

Peter Kobelt celebrates his three-set win over No. 3 Mitchell Frank

Freshman Ralf Steinbach of Ohio State would level the match at 3-3 when he came back from a set down at fourth singles to take out Cavalier Justin Shane 4-6, 6-2, 6-5 (3).

 

So the match came down to the fifth singles match between Metka of Ohio State against Kwiatkowski. The match could not have been tighter. The first two sets went to tiebreaks, and both men held their serves deep into the third set to yield yet another tiebreaker, this time with a spot in the final on the line.

 

Metka got off to a great start in the tiebreak, going up 3-1 and then holding two match points up 6-4. But the freshman showed great composure in a huge situation, and a tremendous down the line passing shot leveled the set again at 7-7 in the breaker. Neither player could get two points in a row, and great fight by both kept the crowd engrossed with every strike of the ball. Metka got his third match point at 7-6, but again Kwiatkowski would deny, and he'd earn his own match points at 8-7 up and 10-9, but Metka would not relent. Finally on the Buckeyes' fifth match point at 11-10, a double fault by Kwiatkowski would end the two and a half hour match and the Buckeyes earned their spot in Monday's final with Metka's 6-5 (5), 5-6 (5), 6-5 (10) victory.

 

It takes two to make a tremendous match, and Thai-Son Kwiatkowski was a great competitor

Metka's win was his second-consecutive clinch at the tournament. 

 

Ohio State's head coach Ty Tucker admitted after the match that, "you have to have a little bit of luck" to pull out such a win. "In that last match with Kwiatkowski, we were up two match points at 6-4 in the breaker and they had two match points and we saved them. You're thinking, 'is this guy really going to be the hero all over again?'"

 

Tucker said Metka stepped up and showed big heart in closing out such a tight match. "He brought the game at him, and it ended up one of the best college matches I've been a part of. It's good to come out on the winning side especially for the guys. We put in a heck of a summer and worked our tails off. It's nice to beat the champs. Obviously to win a tourney, you need to show up Monday and do alright but right now we're just pleased we beat the champs."

 

#3 USC 4, #2 UCLA 3  

 

USC made its third straight final at the ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championship

 

Yannick Hanfmann has a habit of clinching matches for USC

In the second semifinal, the USC Trojans once again edged crosstown rival UCLA, just like they did in the semifinals last year by the same score, 4-3.

 

With all three courts of doubles action nearing the end, it looked as if the Bruins were in the driver's seat on court three, leading 4-3 and with four break points to go up 5-3. However, the USC pairing of Eric Johnson and Max de Vroome won 12 of the final 13 points to escape with a 6-4 victory. Seconds later, the Trojans' first doubles team also won 6-4 to give USC the 1-0 lead entering singles play.

 

De Vroome carried the momentum from his doubles match to secure a quick 6-3, 6-0 triumph at fifth singles to double the Trojan lead.

 

"Max is very sure of himself," USC head coach Peter Smith said. "Sometimes a train runs into a wall, but with him, if the train can get going in the right direction, he will run anything over. Today, the train was just going."

 

De Vroome immediately shot over to the third singles court to cheer on former doubles partner Roberto Quiroz, who had built a set and a break lead over ITA Preseason Newcomer/Freshman No. 1 Mackenzie McDonald. Quiroz, who clinched the win for the Trojans against UCLA last year, was able to close the match, giving the Trojans a commanding 3-0 lead. "Roberto was the man for us in singles," Smith said. "To win straight sets against such a good player as Mackenzie McDonald is such a good sign for him and our team."

 

Marcos Giron battled, but came up short

Fellow freshmen Joe Di Giulio and Gage Brymer got UCLA right back in the match with back-to-back victories and sixth and fourth singles, respectively. On the show court, ITA No. 1 Clay Thompson came out firing to take a 3-0 lead as part of a 6-2 first set win against No. 7 Ray Sarmiento. Sarmiento started matching Thompson blow for blow in the second set, leading to a tiebreak. Sarmiento started the breaker with three loose points and was never able to recover, as Thompson won 6-2, 6-5 (5) to knot the match at 3-all.

 

Left on court were No. 5 Marcos Giron (UCLA) and No. 16 Yannick Hanfmann (USC), with the two having split the first two sets. Hanfmann jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the third set, breaking Giron at 15 in the second game of the set. Hanfmann nearly broke again at 4-1, but Giron won the no-ad point to keep the match in arm's reach at 4-2. Hanfmann closed the deal three games later, sending the Trojans to their third straight ITA National Men's Team Indoor final.

 

Smith said he had faith in his junior to deliver yet another signature victory. "Yannick has clinched an NCAA Championship, a National Team Indoor Championship. Him being in that situation, he's comfortable there."

Asked about the matchup with Ohio State, Smith could only say, ""Ty Tucker; we know Ohio State. Ty, looking forward to it buddy."

 

The final will be played at The Downtown Club at the Met on Monday at 12pm CT. Live scoring is availablehere.

 

In consolation play, No. 13 seed Texas beat No. seed 8 Cal 4-2, No. 7 Oklahoma edged No. 6 Baylor 4-3, No. 11 seed Texas A&M ousted tenth-seeded Illinois 4-2, No. 16 Notre Dame defeated No. 12 Florida 4-0, 9th-seeded Mississippi State defeated No. 4 Georgia 4-3 and No. 14 Tennessee beat No. 15 Pepperdine 4-1.

  

For complete coverage of the 2014 ITA Division I National Men's Team Indoor Championship, including draws, links to live scores, photos and more, please visit the official ITA event page . Follow the ITA on Twitter, @ITAtennis or like the ITA on Facebook for updates and news from the weekend's events. Use the hashtag #ITAIndoors for all tweets in regards to the event, or search the term "ITAIndoors" to find others who are tweeting from across the nation about this year's championship, Feb. 14-17.

 

About the ITA Men's Experimental Format

During the 2014 ITA Division I National Men's Team Indoor Championship, all matches will be played using the ITA Division I Men's Experimental Format. The men will play all sets in singles and doubles to six games, with no-ad scoring and with a tiebreak at 5-all. For more information on the experimental format, please click here to read the Frequently Asked Questions. 

 

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 40th time in 2014. The event features 16 participating teams: the 15 schools who won both of their matches during the ITA Kick-Off Weekend and the host site 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.


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