Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tennis: Sooners Advance to National Championship After Defeating TCU

Photo Courtesy: SoonerSports.com
The top-ranked Oklahoma men's tennis bested No. 5 TCU 4-3 on Monday in the semifinals round of the 2015 NCAA Division I Men's Tennis Team Championships in Waco, Texas.

The Sooners (29-2, 4-1) will now play for the national title for the second consecutive year.

“Just to battle through it and find a way to win, our guys had a lot of heart,” head coach John Roddick said. “Our guys that got up in matches--we needed them to finish. We didn't have help coming from behind. Spencer [Papa] winning his match that easy was a huge boost.”

Oklahoma jumped on the Frogs early, winning a thrilling doubles point that saw all three courts go to a tiebreaker simultaneously.

“I don't know that I've ever seen simultaneous tiebreakers on all three courts at the same time to decide a doubles point,” Roddick said. “I'm sure it's happened, but I don't think I've been a part of it. For it to happen in a national semifinal match is incredible.”

On court one, the 57th-ranked pair of Alex Ghilea and Andrew Harris traded one break each with No. 30 Cameraon Norrie and Trevor Johnson, and headed to a breaker. The sophomore duo jumped out to an early 5-2 lead but TCU rallied to force extra points at 6-all. The Sooners would win the next two points and take the breaker and the win.

The clinching point came on court three where junior Axel Alvarez and sophomore Jose Salazar went to a tiebreaker against Guillermo Nunez and Hudson Blake. Both pairs held serve to 4-all, but at 6-5 Salazar played a pair of volleys to put the match and the doubles point away for OU.

The Sooners are now 6-1 in doubles this post season after having dropped the doubles point 13 times during the regular season.

“Today most guys were holding serve,” Roddick said. “On Harris's court the breaks were early and then I don't remember where the breaks where on three. The level was a lot higher. I think TCU played better, and I think we actually played better than we did the last time.”

Leading 1-0 after doubles, Oklahoma needed to win just three of the six singles matches to advance to the national final.

Spencer Papa quickly made it 2-0 when he finished off Arnau Dachs 6-0, 6-1. The freshman from Edmond, Oklahoma is now 3-1 in NCAA play.

TCU would take a pair of wins at number three and four singles to tie the match at 2-all, but with Oklahoma having won first sets on the remaining three courts and with Florin Bragusi leading 5-2 on court six, the Sooners looked to be in good shape. The Horned Frogs would not go quietly, however.

On court six, Bragusi dropped four straight games before holding serve at 5-6 to force a tiebreaker. Bragusi cruised to a 6-1 lead in the breaker before putting it away 7-4. With a TCU win on court two, the Sooners and Horned Frogs were knotted at 3-3 and OU was just a point away from returning to the national final for the second year in a row.

“He's been in that position a lot,” Roddick said of Bragusi. “I mean he's been in tougher positions than that. Florin is used to it and we like having him there. We would have like for him to close it out earlier, but I have faith in him. He's never let us down.”

That brought all eyes to court one, where Alvarez had taken the first set from No. 49 Nick Chappell 7-5 and was up a break in the second set. Alvarez had a chance to serve for the match at 5-4, but Chappell broke and the second set went to a tiebreaker.

Alvarez trailed 4-2 at one point in the breaker, but the reigning Big 12 Player of the Year and collegiate No. 1 would win five of the next six point to win 7-5 and clinch a 4-3 win for Oklahoma.

“We've won I don't know how many 4-3 [matches] now, too many,” Roddick said. “I would rather win 4-2 or 4-1. But a win's a win against these teams. We played the toughest schedule in the country so we're used to it and we are proud of that.”

Oklahoma's 29 wins this season are the most in program history, breaking the mark set by both last year's team and the 1977 Sooner squad.

The Sooners will play No. 3 Virginia for the nation championship on Tuesday at 1 p.m. at the Hurd Tennis Center in Waco, Texas. UVA upset Baylor 4-2 Monday to reach the final match.

“It's going to be a good match,” Roddick said. “We played them in Norman and it came down to the last match on and we snuck it out. At this point these matches with these types of teams are toss-ups. We've got to go out and play well. When we do that we have a very good chance to win, and I'm sure Virginia feels the same way.”

Oklahoma faced Virginia in Norman during the regular season and came away with a 4-3 win despite dropping the doubles point. Bragusi delivered the clinching point for OU.

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