Virginia and USC Clash in 2013 ITA National Men’s Team Indoor Championship

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Virginia and USC Clash in 2013 ITA National Men’s Team Indoor Championship
 
Top seeds escape 4-3 battles to compete for national title

SEATTLE, WA (Feb. 17) – With day three in the books, the finals are set for the 2013 ITA National Men’s Team Indoor Championship, hosted by the University of Washington at the Nordstrom Tennis Center and Seattle Tennis Club in Seattle, WA.  Tomorrow’s championship will be a rematch of last year’s NCAA championship as top seeded Virginia will take on second seeded USC.  In a battle of the top two teams in the nation, USC will be eyeing their second consecutive ITA National Men’s Team Indoor Championship title while Virginia will be searching for their fifth championship in six years.  

In a rematch of last year’s ITA National Team Indoor Championship semifinal, it would be the Cavaliers who would come out on top as they edged the fourth seeded Ohio State Buckeyes, 4-3.  “Congratulations to Ohio State, they played a great match” said Virginia head coach Brian Boland. “It could have gone either way.”

Today’s semifinal displayed incredible shot making from both teams and the competitive feel of a championship match. Looking to set the tone early, Ohio State clinched the doubles point as they claimed wins at second and third doubles.

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With a lot of work ahead of them, Virginia needed to get off to a good start in the singles matches and did so by winning four first sets at the second, third, fifth and sixth spots.  However, it would be the Buckeyes who would strike first, scoring a straight set win at first singles as Blaz Rola took down seventh ranked Jarmere Jenkins.  

In an early hole, Virginia started to dig out as Justin Shane took down Hunter Callahan in straight sets at sixth singles.  In a battle of playing styles, hard hitting Ryan Shane took down defensive specialist Chris Diaz to even the match with an impressive 6-4, 7-6(6) win at the fifth spot. 

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Despite being just one loss away from defeat, Ohio State maintained hope as Connor Smith took down fifth ranked Mac Styslinger in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6(4).  With the match tied at three all, the deciding point would be played out between the nation’s top two players in No. 1 Alex Domijan and No. 2 Peter Kobelt. 

After taking the first set at 6-3, Domijan would fall in the second by an identical score, forcing a third and final set.  In the third, both players were at their best, cracking massive shot after massive shot and not giving an inch on their service games.  

At 6-5 in the third set, Kobelt was a service hold away from forcing a tiebreak for the match.  However, a series of missed opportunities led to a Cavalier break, and a trip to the championship match as Domijan sealed a 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 win for Virginia. “What a great effort by Alex and Peter” exclaimed Boland.  “Both played just magnificent. It was exciting tennis, that’s what college tennis is all about.”

Credit the play of Virginia’s veterans, who, played a big role today to clinch the win.  “As you get into a tournament and you play in the bigger moments, you hope that your veterans come through for you like Justin Shane, Alex Domijan and Mitchell Frank did” added Boland.  “Those guys really stepped up for us today and it’s exciting for the guys, they get a chance to play USC for a national championship.  I am looking forward to it.”

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In the other semifinal, USC was able to survive a dramatic 4-3 match against crosstown rival UCLA.  The battle for Los Angeles began with great intensity as both teams fought hard for the doubles point but it would be the Bruins who would walk away as the victors.   

Wasting no time in the doubles matches, UCLA applied early pressure on the Trojans, breaking early to take a quick lead at the first and second positions.  UCLA’s Adrien Puget and Karue Sell put the first Bruin point on the board with a convincing 8-2 win at the second spot but USC would level the doubles with an 8-4 win by Emilio Gomez and Eric Johnson at the third spot.  The doubles point was clinched by UCLA’s top pair of Marcos Giron and Denis Novikov, 8-4.  “They stuck it to us in doubles but we fought and got our way back into the match” said USC head coach Peter Smith.  

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The Trojans opened the singles matches by winning three first sets.  Yannick Hanfmann won one of those first sets and would produce the day’s only straight set result as he defeated Dennis Mkrtchian, 6-2, 6-4 at the fourth spot, evening the match at 1-1. The Bruins went back ahead with a three set win from Novikov at first singles as he took down 12th ranked Ray Sarmiento, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.  

Trailing 2-1, the Trojans would get a pair of comeback wins from Eric Johnson and Emilio Gomez at sixth and second singles.  Both players fell in the opening sets, totaling just three games between them, but the fight in them was strong as they rallied for wins in the second sets.  Both players would eventually pull out their matches in the third, putting USC just one win away from the finals.  Johnson’s comeback was particularly impressive due to the fact he trailed 5-4 in the second set, fought off four match points, and managed to close out the set by winning three straight games.  

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In desperate need of momentum shift, the Bruins thought they had it when Clay Thomspon came from behind to win in three sets at fifth singles.  Thompson took down Max De Vroome in three highly competitive sets, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4. 

With the match square at three apiece, all eyes shifted to court three where USC’s Roberto Quiroz was serving at 5-4 in the third set against UCLA’s Adrien Puget.  Quiroz would come up short on his serve as Puget broke him and consolidated the break with a hold, putting even more pressure on the Ecuadorian.  However, Quiroz would stay strong and hold his serve to force a third set breaker to decide the match.  “Adrien just had so much momentum” Smith said.  “For Roberto to hold there was huge.  I felt once we got into the breaker things would calm down and he could start playing his game again.”

In the tiebreak, Quiroz would get the mini-break at 3-1 and held a 5-2 lead later in the breaker.  A crucial point of the tiebreak was at 5-3 when an ill-timed double fault from Puget gave the USC sophomore three match points.  Following a missed backhand into the net, Quiroz would pound out an ace for the win, propelling the Trojans into the finals. “He was reeling a bit but once he settled into the breaker he was able to do some of the things we wanted him to do” added Smith. “And to finish it off with an ace, that’s pretty special.  I’ve played UCLA a lot of times and it’s never been 7-6 in the third set of the last match. I’m pretty impressed with my team.”

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Along with the semifinals, six consolation matches were played as well, marking the final matches for the remaining 12 teams.  Seventh seeded Kentucky edged sixth seeded Georgia, 4-2 while ninth seeded Duke powered past fifth seeded Pepperdine, 4-1.  Oklahoma escaped a scare from Cal, winning 4-3 while Ole Miss took care of Mississippi State, 4-2.  The Tennessee Volunteers beat Texas A&M by the narrowest of margins, winning 4-3 and the host Washington Huskies knocked off Florida in tonight’s nightcap.  

Tomorrow’s championship match is scheduled for 12:00 p.m. (PST).    

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