Co-captions Spinosa, Visy come up big as San Diego scores 4-3 win vs. Bama
LOS ANGELES -- Fueled behind a dramatic comeback in doubles, No. 44 San Diego outlasted No. 29 Alabama 4-3 in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday.
With the match knotted at 3, co-captain Clarke Spinosa clinched the win for the Toreros with a 7-6 (9-7), 4-6, 6-1 victory at the No. 2 spot. This marks the third consecutive year the Toreros have advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
"After the BYU match I was talking to Clarke and said, ‘Why can’t I ever get a match to come down to you when it’s 3-3?’," San Diego head coach Brett Masi said. "Sure enough it happened [Friday]. I am so proud of him. He is a great competitor."
After a disappointing showing in doubles in their last match against BYU, Masi altered his lineup by changing the combinations at the No. 2 and 3 spots. Initially it seemed as if the results would be similar to the BYU match, as the Toreros found themselves in a hole at all three spots. However, after Ciaran Fitzgerald and Uros Petronijevic fell 8-2 at the No. 2 spot to the 27th ranked duo of Becker O'Shaughnessey and Daniil Proskura, the Toreros rallied to win at the Nos. 1 and 3 spots.
Co-captains Thibaut Visy and Spinosa battled back from a 5-7 deficit to earn a huge win 9-8 (7-3) against the seventh-ranked tandem of Jarryd Botha and David Vieyra at the No. 1 spot.
The doubles point would come down to the No. 3 spot where Romain Kalaydjian and Victor Pugliese were playing together for the first time since Feb. 28. The French connection found themselves down 3-5, but rallied to take a 7-6 lead and ultimately won 9-8 (7-5) to earn the critical doubles point.
"Vic and Roma played an unbelievable tiebreaker," Masi said. "It was a dog fight and they competed till the very end and came up big."
The singles competition proved to be just as tightly matched as doubles was, with four of the six matches going into a third set. The No. 3 spot would be the first to finish where Kalaydjian fell 6-4, 6-1. The Toreros took the next one after Petronijevic extended his singles win streak to nine with a 6-4, 6-3 victory at No. 4.
Alabama tied it up at 2 after David Vieyra knocked off Pugliese 6-3, 2-6, 6-1 at No. 5. Visy was not ready for his storied career to end as he earned a 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 win against the 49th-ranked Botha at No.1 to give the Toreros a 3-2 advantage.
The Tide's Stuart Kenyon forced the third tie of the day when he defeated Ciaran Fitzgerald 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 at No. 6. The Toreros hopes of advancing to the second round rested on the shoulders of their captain and lone-ranked player, Spinosa.
Spinosa, who had won the first set via tiebreaker and lost the second set, cruised in the third set to earn a 7-6 (9-7), 4-6, 6-1 victory at No. 2 to send the Toreros to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive year. Spinosa has won nine matches in a row and 15 of his past 17.
"Thibaut and Clarke lifted and carried us," Masi said. "They beat a top eight doubles team and beat their No. 1 and 2 in singles, who had carried [Alabama] all season. That’s why they are captains."
In the second round the Toreros will face No. 4 USC at USC's Marks Tennis Center. The Trojans have won the past four national championships.
"Our reward is that we get a shot to face the four-time defending national champs. We have nothing to lose. It’s just an awesome achievement to make it this far," Masi said. "We have made it to the second round three straight years, which shows we are a top-30 team in the country year after year. That is more important than beating USC, we are just happy to have a chance to play them."