Washington University-St. Louis and Johns Hopkins advance to final at 2014 ITA Division III National Men's Team Indoor Championship
Blue Jays advance to first final in program history
The last time these two teams played was on March 16, 2012, with Johns Hopkins winning a narrow 5-4 match. The third-place match will also take place at 8am tomorrow morning, with Trinity and Case Western Reserve playing for the final trophy.
Here's a detailed look at both of Saturday's semifinals:
|Erik Lim clinched the match for Johns Hopkins|
#6 Johns Hopkins 6, #7 Case Western Reserve 3
The first semifinal showed the qualities of an epic match in doubles alone, as all three courts played long, grueling pro-sets. First off the court was Johns Hopkins with a 9-7 win at third doubles. Case Western knotted the score at 1-all with a 9-8 (2) win at first doubles, with some incredible rallies at net in the tiebreak.
The second doubles pairing of Will Drougas and John Healey broke at 6-7 to stay in the match, then both teams held to force a tiebreak. Drougas and Healey served well in the breaker, winning 9-8 (4) to give the Spartans a 2-1 lead heading into singles.
The Spartans carried their momentum into singles, with Derek Reinbold and Will Drougas winning their first sets with ease at fifth and second singles, respectively. With things leaning in Case Western Reserve's favor, the Blue Jays started to mount their comeback. Wins at sixth, fourth and third singles for Johns Hopkins swung the momentum heavily in favor of the Blue Jays at 4-2 in the team match.
Johns Hopkins head coach Chuck Willenborg said his team battled from start to finish on Saturday.
Eric Klawitter pumps up the home crowd
"They got on top of us early," Willenborg said. "We were battling and trying to get some rhythm, trying to find a way to save the matches and start playing a little better. I felt like as the matches went on, we started playing better. Guys got their feet under them and started working the ball and making some shots. Those kids that they beat were good, so they had to step up their game."
At second singles, Blue Jay Tanner Brown leveled his match with Spartan Will Drougas at a set all. Brown looked poised to clinch for Johns Hopkins, grinding out most long rallies. Drougas regained control of the match, utilizing devastating down-the-line backhands to pull off the 6-0, 2-6, 6-2 win and bring the Spartans within one at 4-3.
After being handled in the first set at fifth singles, Blue Jay Erik Lim worked his way into the match. Lim edged Reinbold 7-5 in a second-set tiebreak to send the match to a decisive third set. With the match on the line, Lim was locked in and was able to clinch the team win with a 1-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2 triumph.
Willenborg said that Lim is not the type to disappear in big moments.
"Erik's a special player," he said. "He loves being in the moment. When the match gets tight and he knows it's on his shoulders, he's the kind of guy that wants to be out there and do that. It's nice to know you have someone who you can count on."
#1 Wash U.-St. Louis 6, #5 Trinity 3
Jeffrey Hirsh and Tyler Kratky (right) set the tempo for Wash U.-St. Louis at third doubles
Once again, the doubles action provided intensity and drama to set the stage for the match. First doubles was a relatively straightforward 8-3 win for Bears Ross Putterman and Jeremy Bush, the No. 3 ranked team in the ITA Division III Men's Doubles Rankings. The Tiger pair of Greg Haugen and Jordan Mayer won for the second time in as many days at second doubles, tying the match at 1-all.
Trailing 6-7, the Tigers third doubles team broke Wash U.-St. Louis to stay alive in the match, then consolidated the break to move to 8-7. Trinity had two chances to take the 2-1 team lead at 15-40, but the Bears pair saved both break points and forced a tiebreak. Wash U.-St. Louis was too good in the breaker, taking charge early en route to a 7-2 win to give the Bears a 2-1 edge.
Trinity's Chas Mayer hits a backhand slice
"We had a chance to serve for it at 7-6, but the other team came up with some good returns," Wash U.-St. Louis head coach Roger Follmer said. "Once our guys got to the tiebreak, they focused in and got up quick. Fortunately for us, they were able to close it out."
Not being able to convert took the wind out of the sails of the Trinity upset effort, and the Bears won first sets in five of six singles matches, including tiebreakers at first and sixth singles. Wash U.-St. Louis' Tim Noack was the first to finish, scoring a strong 6-1, 6-4 win at fourth singles to move the lead to 3-1.
Jordan Mayer, the only Tiger to win a first set, finished off his second win of the duel with a 6-3, 6-4 win to pull the Tigers within a point at 3-2.
It was all Bears from there, with Kevin Chu completing his match at No. 6 singles and then John Carswell following suit with a straight-set win at second singles to clinch the team match.
"I knew second singles was going to be tough, so I'm very happy that John was able to pull that out," Follmer said. "That was also the clinching match. Skinner actually won the (USTA/ITA) National Small College Championship last year, so that was a huge result for John. We'll see if he can follow it up with a win tomorrow."
The teams split the remaining two matches, giving the Bears a 6-3 win.
In consolation action, Redlands erased a 4-1 deficit with four straight three-set wins against Cal Lutheran. Emory battled past both Kenyon and Redlands for fifth place. In the seventh place match, Kenyon came out strong to start in an 8-1 win over Cal Lutheran.
About the ITA Division III National Men's Team Indoor Championships
The ITA Division III National Men's Team Indoor Championship is held annually each February. The men's event began in 2001 and will be held for the 14th time in 2014. The event features eight participating teams and is held over three days, beginning on Friday with the quarterfinals, followed by semifinals on Saturday and the final on Sunday. Four different schools have hosted the event, while Emory (5), Gustavus Adolphus (4), UC Santa Cruz (3) and most recently Kenyon (1) are past champions.