NCAA Men’s Semifinals to Feature Virginia, Ohio State, North Carolina & Georgia
The NCAA Championships started off with great conditions Saturday at the University of Georgia with No. 2 Virginia and No. 3 Ohio State advancing in the men’s quarters.
In the middle of the second session, weather rolled through, prompting a very lengthy delay. With their home fans packing the stands, the Bulldogs even had match point in one of the singles matches vs. UCLA when the courts had to be cleared at approximately 6:30 p.m.
Play finally resumed just after 11 p.m. in what was almost a five-hour weather delay, and No. 13 Georgia and No. 9 North Carolina completed the Final Four field.
Highlights from May 20
Ohio State vs. TCU
Everyone knew No. 3 Ohio State and No. 6 TCU would be a thriller, and that proved true as it came down to the final singles match of the afternoon. Doubles opened up the day with both schools splitting the first two results. At the No. 1 position, OSU came back from being down match point to capture the early 1-0 margin.
TCU then won the first set in four of the six singles matches, as the crowd quickly grew to where standing room was a few people deep. Each time the Buckeyes stretched their advantage, the Horned Frogs met them every step of the way. Among those singles victors were Ohio State’s Kyle Seelig (Hatfield, Pa.) and TCU’s Alex Rybakov (Coral Springs, Fla.). With OSU ahead 3-2, attention swung to court 1 where the No. 1-ranked college player in TCU’s Cameron Norrie faced No. 2 Mikael Torpegaard, and it was Norrie who built a 5-1 lead in the third set and hung on for a 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 win.
On serve in the third set on court 3 with the overall match at 3-3, OSU’s Hugo DiFeo earned some break points at 4-5, 15-40 with Guillermo Nunez serving. Nunez slammed an overhead to save the first, but his crosscourt forehand on the next point clipped the net and sailed wide as the Buckeyes stormed the court in the 4-3 triumph.
Virginia vs. Texas
On the primary courts at the University of Georgia, No. 2 Virginia busted out to a 3-0 cushion on No. 10 Texas. And the theme of the tournament continued where it would take all three doubles matches to decide the doubles point. This time, it was Virginia’s Thai-Son Kwiatkowski (Charlotte, N.C.) and Alexander Ritschard who came through for the Cavaliers at No. 2, giving the second seed a 1-0 advantage.
Although the Longhorns got on the board at No. 1 singles, it was J.C. Aragone (Yorba Linda, Calif.) who secured the fourth team point. In a second-set tiebreak vs. Leonardo Telles, Aragone drilled a return that set up a perfect volley winner at 5-3, and he easily won the next point in his 6-2, 7-6(3) decision. The Cavaliers also racked up victories from Collin Altamirano (Sacramento, Calif.) and Carl Soderlund to help advance to Monday’s semis.
UCLA vs. Georgia
One could barely find a place to sit let alone stand when the host and 13-seed Bulldogs entertained No. 5 UCLA. While UGA scooped up a win at No. 1 doubles, the Bruins grabbed hold of the 1-0 lead with triumphant results at the No. 2 and No. 3 spots.
In singles, courts 3 and 6 raised the heart levels of the fans as they both reached first-set breakers at the same time. Ultimately, Georgia and UCLA each won three of the first sets to start singles play.
On court 5, the Bulldogs’ Walker Duncan (Atlanta, Ga.) held a match point at 6-3, 6-5 and 40-30 before Austin Rapp (Rancho Mirage, Calif.) extended the game. Duncan held one more match point with the no-ad scoring format, and that was when the weather came. Meanwhile, three courts over, UGA’s Wayne Montgomery was two points away from his win when the rain hit the area.
Almost five hours later when play resumed, Duncan was unable to finish off the match as it went into a tiebreak, but Montgomery capped off his win at No. 2 singles to draw even with UCLA at 1-1. Back on 5, Duncan did not let those missed opportunities get into his head, and he flew through the breaker to put the Bulldogs up, 2-1. UGA was clearly getting energy from all of its home fans, and that helped push the Bulldogs to another upset as Robert Loeb (Hilton Head, S.C.) and Jan Zielinski collected the final two singles wins to advance, 4-2. Just before the Bulldogs got their fourth point, UCLA’s Martin Redlicki (Boca Raton, Fla.) skipped by UGA’s Nathan Ponwith (Scottsdale, Ariz.), 6-4, 1-6, 6-2.
Wake Forest vs. North Carolina
An ACC clash was on tap in the quarters with No. 1 Wake Forest engaging with No. 9 North Carolina. Wake edged UNC in the regular season, 4-3, so the Tar Heels had revenge on their minds. The Demon Deacons and Tar Heels also needed all three doubles matches to deliver the first point on Saturday, and it was UNC who boasted wins at No. 2 and No. 3 to head into singles up, 1-0.
Looking to take down the top seed, the Tar Heels doubled its lead with a convincing 6-2, 6-0 win by Jack Murray (Beverly Hills, Mich.). But with the remaining five matches in second sets, that also was when inclement weather started approaching Athens and play was suspended.
Even though it fell behind 2-0, Wake Forest had the answer after the 11 p.m. hour, registering the next two singles wins to make it 2-2. Over at court 2, William Blumberg (Greenwich, Conn.) put the Tar Heels back in the driver seat, though, with a close two-set victory. Now ahead 3-2, it was Bo Boyden (Raleigh, N.C.) who closed out the quarterfinals with a three setter at the No. 6 spot just after midnight, stunning the top seed in the bracket, 4-2, and putting UNC in its first Final Four in school history.
The women return to action Sunday to determine who advances to the semifinals (as of Saturday night, potential inclement weather changed start times to 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET). The finals for both sides are held on May 23 on ESPNU. The individual singles and doubles championships are set for May 24-29, also in Athens.