Oklahoma wins first ever ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championship
Sooners avenge 2014 NCAA Team Championship loss to Trojans
CHICAGO, IL (Feb. 16) - The No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners fell behind early in doubles, but stormed back to win the doubles point and carried that momentum to the singles courts in a 4-2 win over No. 1 USC to win the 2015 ITA Division I National Men's Team Indoor Championship hosted by the University of Illinois at Midtown Athletic Club. The Sooners claimed victory in their first finals appearance, while USC moves to 3-7 in ITA National Indoor finals.
2015 ITA National Indoor Champion Oklahoma with tournament staff, volunteers and ball kids
After losing 6-1 at second doubles, the Sooners trailed 5-3 at first and 5-2 at third and it looked like they'd be playing from behind in singles for the third straight day. However, the third doubles pair of Florin Bragusi and Alex Ghilea turned the tables to win five straight games and even the doubles point.
At first doubles, fifth-ranked Axel Alvarez and Dane Webb of Oklahoma took the No. 1 tandem of Yannick Hanfmann and Roberto Quiroz to a tie-break, where they won the first three points en route to a 7-4 triumph, claiming the doubles point for the Sooners.
"The doubles was great because we struggled at three," Oklahoma head coach John Roddick said. "To pull together and actually play some good tennis at the end against a team like USC, who's been here so many times, is huge. We tried to put it behind us like we did yesterday because you have to calm down either way. It's nice to have and I think it helped us get over the hump today."
Dane Webb, Oklahoma
Webb (No. 31), a senior captain, once again shot out of the gates in singles. He won the first set 6-0 and broke at love in the 10th game of the second set to give Oklahoma a 2-0 lead. Webb was first off the court in three of Oklahoma's four matches, and credits the crowd for firing him up.
"I'm feeling confident and I'm playing well," Webb said. "It's great to be able to help everyone out by getting a quick win. As soon as I finish and go over there, everyone starts playing better when they realize I've won and that we're so close. There were a good amount of people here watching today. I feed off the crowd, play with a lot of energy and compete pretty hard."
USC got on the board just minutes later when senior Eric Johnson emerged victorious in a battle of the unbeaten with Sooner freshman Spencer Papa. When Johnson finished, Sooner junior Axel Alvarez (No. 11) was starting to take control of No. 11 senior Roberto Quiroz. Alvarez squeaked out a tight first set tie-break and broke twice in the second set to push Oklahoma to the precipice of victory.
When the team match reached 3-1, all remaining matches were locked in third sets. At No. 6 singles, Trojan sophomore Nick Crystal held twice on decisive deuce points in the third set and broke at love in the final game to reel the Sooners back in.
"USC played great," Roddick said. "At six, Crystal just went for it, played the right way and won the match. We can learn a lesson in that one with what Nick did down there. I saw it happening. I knew as coach what he was doing. I was trying to tell our guy who is new and hasn't been in many of these that it's a learning lesson. Nick Crystal played perfect."
Alex Ghilea, Oklahoma
On court two, the resilient Alex Ghilea (No. 63) refused to be denied his second shining moment in as many days. He broke early in the decisive third set and again in the final game, saving two game points and giving the Sooners their first team national title on a decisive deuce point.
"I was focused on doing everything the coaches told me," Ghilea said. "Winning this tournament is great for us. I was very tired at the end of the third set, but I felt like I had to win."
When asked what congratulation was his favorite, Ghilea said, "Somebody called me 'the clincher' from the crowd. I like that."
Roddick says Ghilea has another level he can attain late in matches.
"When he starts going to that we call it 'beast mode' off of Marshawn Lynch," he said. "When he gets into that mentality, he doesn't lose very many matches. Very few times do you see him come out on the losing end when he starts really getting his teeth into it like that."
In addition to avenging last year's loss, Roddick said the impact on the program is immeasurable.
"For our program, it's massive," he said. "Just to say that we're national champions, just to put those two words together is a huge thing for any program, especially ours coming from where we did. To know that we belong and that we can win these kinds of tournaments, it's great to get over that hump."
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.