UCLA ousts Ohio St. for the third time in four years with 4-2 quarterfinal win
ATLANTA -- Sixth-seeded UCLA downed No. 3 Ohio State 4-2 in the NCAA quarterfinals at Georgia Tech's Ken Byers Tennis Complex on Sunday evening. With the win, the Bruins (26-3) advance to the NCAA semifinals where they will take on second-seeded Oklahoma (27-3) at 5 p.m. ET Monday.
With a consistent rain falling throughout the day in Athens, the NCAA made the decision to send two quarterfinal matches to Georgia Tech's Ken Byers Tennis Complex. With No. 2 Oklahoma being the highest seed in UCLA's side of the draw, the Bruins and Buckeyes were told they needed to make the 75-minute drive to Atlanta.
"I'll tell you, I wasn't happy having to play [Ohio State] indoors," said UCLA head coach Billy Martin, whose Bruin teams have ousted the Buckeyes from three of the past four NCAA tournaments. "If there was on team in the tournament that I didn't want to play indoors it was this team. I think these courts were a lot slower than the University of Georgia courts and that was one plus. We've been practicing indoors since we came here because I knew the forecast. I think that helped us."
Sunday's doubles point was as close as they come, with the point eventually coming down to a tiebreaker at court No. 2. The Bruins would notch early breaks at court Nos. 1 and 3 for 3-1 leads at both courts. UCLA's Joseph Di Giulio and Clay Thompson gave UCLA a boost early, as they got up another break against Hunter Callahan and Chris Diaz at the No. 3 spot, closing out the match on Di Giulio's serve to take an 8-3 victory. Things looked to be in UCLA's favor at court No. 2 as well, where the Bruins were serving up 6-4. The Bruins, however, were broken and Ohio State eventually tied the match at 6-6. Meanwhile, an 8-6 Ohio State win at court No. 1 turned all the attention back to court No. 2, where the match was headed to a tiebreaker. The Bruins got down early in the breaker and were never fully able to recover, as Ohio State took the match 8-7(3) to claim the doubles point.
"Gosh, it was so close in both single and doubles," Martin said. "I really felt we were going to win the doubles point. I was really disappointed. We let No. 1 doubles go after having a break late in the match and the same at No. 2. But we've had a lot of experience with losing the doubles point this year and I think that maybe helped us. The guys don't feel like we are going to lose the match after losing the doubles point."
UCLA needed to win four of six singles matches to pull off the victory and things looked good early when the Bruins took four first sets. The Buckeyes, however, would take a 2-0 lead in the match when 11th-ranked Peter Kobelt upset the top-ranked Thompson 7-5, 7-6(5) at court No. 1.
The Bruins were able to climb back in the match with a pair of straight-set wins of their own, as Puget and Sell notched huge victories for the Bruins at court Nos. 5 and 6, respectively.
At the time of Sell's win, things began to look promising for UCLA, as Mackenzie McDonald was up 4-1 in the third set at court No. 3 and Gage Brymer was up 3-0 in the third set at court No. 4. In the only other match still on court, Marcos Giron was down a break early in the third set at the No. 2 spot.
McDonald managed to hold on to his break for the remainder of the third set, giving UCLA a 3-2 lead with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 victory against Ralf Steinbach. With Giron still early on in a third set with OSU's Herkko Pollanen, Brymer's court was the next likely one to finish and most of the fans in attendance focused on court No. 4.
Brymer worked his way to three match points with Diaz serving to stay in the match down 3-5. He was unable to convert any of them and Diaz ultimately held to force Brymer to serve out the match. He did just that in the very next game, taking a 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 win to give the Bruins the thrilling 4-2 win.