Ohio State uproots four-time national champion USC in quarterfinals
URBANA, Ill. -- Behind a pair of tiebreaker wins by junior Peter Kobelt, fifth-seeded Ohio State knocked off four-time defending champion and No. 4-seed USC 4-3 in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA championship Saturday night at the Khan Tennis Complex. Kobelt’s 7-6(3), 7-6(3) win against No. 16 Ray Sarmiento at No. 2 singles sealed the Buckeye victory and helped them advance to the semifinals for the third time in program history (2009 and 2011).
“It’s nice for the guys, the guys wanted this,” head coach Ty Tucker said. “We don’t get a ton of respect for where we play tennis all the time. It’s good for our guys. We always thought we could compete with the best in the country and being able to beat USC certainly proves it.”
The Buckeyes will face No. 1 seed UCLA at 2 p.m. ET Monday in the semifinals.
Against the Trojans, the Buckeyes won the doubles point for the 35th time this season. The No. 2 duo of Devin McCarthy and Ille Van Engelen won a 9-7 tiebreaker against No. 47 Roberto Quiroz and Emilio Gomez to clinch the match 9-8 and the team point. After Ohio State and USC split matches at No. 1 and No. 3 doubles, respectively, all attention turned to the third position. McCarthy and Van Engelen broke Quiroz and Gomez’s serve in the 15th game to take an 8-7 lead and a chance to serve for the match. However, the Trojan tandem returned the favor and broke back to send the match into a tiebreaker.
In a back-and-forth affair, the Buckeye pair held an 8-7 lead before watching the USC return sail long. Kobelt and Connor Smith, ranked 12th in the ITA polls, gave the Scarlet and Gray the early advantage when they beat Yannick Hanfmann and Sarmiento 8-3. At No. 3 doubles, Blaz Rola and Hunter Callahan forced a tiebreaker after rallying from down a break in the ninth game to Max de Vroome and Eric Johnson. However, they dropped the match at 7-3.
In singles action, behind a 6-3, 6-3 win by USC’s Johnson against Chris Diaz on court No. 5, the Trojans were able to tie the score at one. The tie was short-lived, however, when Rola relinquished only one game to No. 7 Gomez in a 6-1, 6-0 victory at the top position. In the closely contested match, the Trojans knotted the score at two on a 6-3, 6-1 win by de Vroome against Constantin Christ at six singles.
After winning a first-set tiebreaker 7-1, McCarthy dominated the second set, giving up just one game in a 6-1 victory at No. 4 singles against Quiroz to lift the Scarlet and Gray to a 3-2 lead. Dropping the first set at 7-5, Smith nearly rallied from a 4-0 deficit in the second set versus Hanfmann at three singles as he put the match on serve en route to a tiebreaker he eventually dropped at 7-4.
In the final match at No. 2 singles, Kobelt survived a pair of tiebreakers to pull out the Buckeye victory.