Quartet of Top Five Teams Advance to Semifinals at 2014 ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championship
Repeat of 2013 semifinals set for Sunday
HOUSTON, TX (Feb. 15) - A repeat of the 2013 semifinals has been set 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.
No. 1 Virginia, No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 USC and No. 5 Ohio State have set the stage for a familiar look in the semifinals, which led to two 4-3 thrillers last year. The matchups are the same as 2013, with the Cavaliers taking on the Buckeyes and the Los Angeles schools taking the court against each other.
The ITA Division I Men's Experimental Format is being used for all matches at the 2014 ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championship. This format consists of all sets in singles and doubles played to six games, with no-ad scoring and a tiebreak at 5-all. An FAQ is also available on the ITA website, with answers to frequently asked questions regarding the experimental formats being played this spring.
Here's a breakdown of all four main draw matches held today:
#5 Ohio State 4, #13 Texas 2
Ohio State paved the path to its fifth straight semifinal at the ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championship by winning at first and second doubles for the second day in a row to clinch the doubles point.
The Longhorns started their comeback at the top of the lineup, getting wins by Lloyd Glasspool (No. 29) and Søren Hess-Olesen (No. 53) at second and first singles, respectively. Glasspool dictated play from the back of the court in the first set, but lost his way early in the second and fell behind 5-2. He was able to collect himself and wrap up a straight-set win.
At first singles, Hess-Olesen and Buckeye Peter Kobelt (No. 23) traded service holds for the first ten games to force a tiebreak. Trailing 5-4 in the breaker, Hess-Olesen won three straight points including a return winner to give him set point to earn the lead. The Longhorn won the next set and the match to give Texas a 2-1 edge.
It looked like Texas would surge ahead 3-1, as Adrien Berkowicz led 6-3, 4-1 at fourth singles, but Buckeye freshman Ralf Steinbach clawed his way back into the match to keep the pressure off his teammates.
Ohio State head coach Ty Tucker said he's a big endorser of fighting until the bitter end because of it's snowball effect. "Kevin Metka is a guy that really didn't play any junior tennis and he's worked his tail off, probably as hard as anybody in the country," Tucker said. "He hasn't been in positions like that yet, so for him to see Ralf still on the court and realize everything isn't on his shoulders gives him 10 or 15 percent less pressure than if it's just him out there. No matter what, you keep your match going."
Kevin Metka won in doubles and clinched the match with his singles win on Saturday
While Steinbach battled, teammates Hunter Callahan and Herkko Pollanen wrapped up straight-set wins to turn the momentum in Ohio State's favor. Longhorn and Texas native Nick Naumann looked dead to rights against big-serving junior Kevin Metka, but he rallied from 4-1 down in the second set to force a third set. However, Metka's serve and volley style was on point in the decisive set, a 6-3 triumph to give Ohio State the 4-2 win.
"That's his game," Tucker said of Metka. "He can junk it around and slice and get in and do some funky stuff, but he has a wicked serve and he brings it at you. A lot of players don't see too many people play like Kevin Metka and he's lefty to boot. He's a good player, but with a great heart."
#1 Virginia 4, #8 Cal 0
Alex Domijan was dialed in on Saturday
The Virginia Cavaliers looked the part of the defending champions in a 4-0 quarterfinal win over Cal. The win was Virginia's 36th consecutive win, which ties the school-record win streak set in 2010. It also marked the eighth consecutive semifinal for the Cavaliers, the longest active streak at the ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championship.
After claiming the doubles point, Virginia grabbed the first set on all six singles courts to establish complete control of the match. Freshman Thai-Son Kwiatkowski was the first player off the court for Virginia with a 6-0, 6-1 win at fifth singles. The newcomer bested Cal's Gregory Bayane, who clinched the match for the Golden Bears yesterday against Mississippi State.
Alex Domijan looked completely in control of opponent Campbell Johnson (No. 68) from start to finish, using his easy power to overwhelm Johnson from the baseline. Domijan's serve was virtually unbreakable in his 6-1, 6-3 win.
Virginia head coach Brian Boland said his tallest player is back to where he wants to be. "He's back to 100%. He was dragging the last few days, hadn't had a chance to hit some balls. He's a great leader for us and a tremendous captain. He told me he could help the team yesterday and he did that. He looked great out there today."
Soon after Domijan's win, Ryan Shane completed the sweep with a 6-0, 6-2 win, playing lights out tennis from start to finish and executing each shot with precision. "I was really impressed with the way Ryan Shane played today," Boland added. "He really struck the ball well.
"I thought we came out and played a bit better than we did yesterday, obviously getting through that first match was really helpful for us. The guys were clicking today. They played some great tennis and I feel really good about where we're at. I look forward to playing a tough Ohio State team tomorrow."
The Cavaliers will face Ohio State in the semifinals. The Buckeyes are the only team to defeat Virginia in the last six years, defeating the Cavaliers in the 2012 semifinals. However, the Cavaliers bested the Buckeyes 4-3 last season en route to their sixth ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championship last season.
No. 1 Clay Thompson found another gear in a convincing win over No. 2 Guillermo Alcorta
The Sooners struck first in the doubles, winning quickly at No. 2 and No. 3, 6-1 and 6-2 respectively, to get a point on the board. It was the fourth time in the past five matches that the Bruins have lost the doubles point.
UCLA Head Coach Billy Martin said, "I think we played maybe as good of doubles as we played this year yesterday, but today we got off to a horrible start at two, and not much better at three. Obviously it's showing us that we need to work on doubles a lot."
But a dominant performance by No. 1 Clay Thompson over No. 2 Guillermo Alcorta got the Bruins on the board when they were down 0-1. Thompson, who won the 2013 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championship, has been on a tear during his senior season. The 6'6 Bruin never let Alcorta into the match, serving big and coming to net regularly to put away volleys. He won the match with ease, 6-2, 6-0.
UCLA head coach Billy Martin said Thompson's senior season, in which he's now 28-2, has been impacted by the hard work he put in during the summer. "Clay would be the first one to admit that he hasn't been the hardest worker his first three years (at UCLA), and this was the first summer that he dedicated himself. He went to France and played for a month and a half and I think it made a big difference."
Thompson's quick win over Alcorta was, in Martin's opinion, the best match of this college career. "To beat Alcorta as soundly as he did was just amazing. Clay really gave us a shot in the arm by going out and leading us and getting off the court right away."
With the match tied at 1-1, UCLA freshman No. 51 Mackenzie McDonald edged No. 28 Andrew Harris in two tiebreak sets, 6-5 (3), 6-5 (2). Sixth singles saw the Bruins move a point away from the semifinals when Joseph Di Giulio bested Peerakit Siributwong 6-4, 6-4. The Sooners would get a win from No. 46 Dane Webb, who beat No. 26 Gage Brymer of UCLA 6-5 (4), 6-3 to keep Oklahoma's semifinal hopes alive.
The Bruins clinched the win when Dennis Mkrtchian wrapped up his match at fifth singles agiainst Alex Ghilea 6-2, 5-6 (8), 6-3, sending the second-seeded UCLA into the semifinals.
Martin was pleased with his team's effort. "I'm proud of the team to not get too down and come back (after losing the doubles) and make up their mind that we have to win four instead of three against a great team like this. It's not easy to do. It was definitely a big team effort in the singles."
UCLA will face USC at 3pm in Sunday's semifinals, which are both held at The Downtown Club at the Met
#3 USC 4, #6 Baylor 2
USC got off to a strong start against the 6th seed Baylor, who had a supportive crowd onsite to cheer them on in hopes of upsetting the 3rd ranked Trojans. USC took the doubles point with wins and Nos. 2 and 3 doubles to get the match off in their favor.
Baylor was forced to play singles without its top player, No. 6 ranked Julian Lenz, who pulled a groin muscle during his doubles match. Baylor, the only team to sport three players in the Top 20 of the ITA Singles Rankings, played No. 9 Patrick Pradella in the top spot against USC's Ray Sarmiento, ranked No 7.
In addition to Lenz' injury, No. 18 Diego Galeano of Baylor twisted his ankle in his second singles battle against USC's No. 16 Yannick Hanfmann. The Trojan won the match quickly 6-2, 6-1 to extend the Trojan lead to 2-0.
With the early lead, USC head coach Peter Smith said he felt his team may have relaxed a bit with the knowledge that Lenz and Galeano were injured. "Maybe it was a little too easy for us early," he said. "A lot of things went our way, and then with Lenz getting hurt it was almost too easy. I felt like our players softened up a little bit because of that."
"The reason why it was difficult in the end is because Baylor fights so hard," Smith said. "They are great competitors, and I think they were actually more dangerous wounded. I was telling the guys a wounded bear is actually more dangerous than a real bear."
Baylor never threw in the towel against USC, but the Trojans prevailed in a 4-2 win
Trailing USC 2-0, Baylor's Tony Lupieri at fifth singles got the Bears on the board by beating Eric Johnson 6-3, 6-1, but Roberto Quiroz at third singles moved USC within a point of a return to the semifinals. Quiroz took out Mate Zsiga 6-2, 6-3 to give USC a 3-1 lead before Michel Dornbusch of Baylor was able to close out Connor Farren of USC 6-4, 6-5 to make the team match even tighter, with USC up 3-2.
With two matches remaining, USC's Ray Sarmiento, ranked No. 7, was battling hard in this first singles match against Pradella, who had recovered from dropping the first set. The Bear served behind in the second set, and withheld the pressure of serving at 4-5 to hold for 5-5. He carried that momentum through the tiebreaker, which he won 7-0, to force a third set. That match would not see its end, however, when Trojan senior Michael Grant, playing sixth singles, clinched the win for his team with a 5-6 (5), 6-2, 6-3 win over Vince Schneider.
Smith said that when his team had a 3-2 lead, it felt great to have his two senior captains contesting the last two matches, but that it was still not an easy win when all was said and done. "It's not about talent with Baylor even though they are very talented. It's about how good of competitors they are and that's why they were hard to put away."
USC will face its crosstown rival UCLA in the semifinals, a rematch of their 2013 semifinal here which the Trojans won 4-3.
On the upcoming rematch with their familiar foe, Smith said, "Warm up the popcorn machine. That's all I can say. We know each other really well and when you play your rival, especially when you live in the same city, we go at it and that's fun. We know their team and they know us and no one wants to lose that match."
In consolation play, No. 12 seed Florida won 4-2 over No. 4 Georgia, while No. 10 Illinois bested Pepperdine, 4-0. In the evening matches, No. 16 Notre Dame topped ninth-seeded Mississippi State, while No. 11 seed Texas A&M beat No. 14. Tennessee, 4-1.
The semifinals will be both be played at The Downtown Club at the Met on Sunday at 12pm and 3 pm CST. Consolation matches are set to take place at both sites starting at 9am, and with the last match to go on at 6pm.
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.