Top-ranked Oklahoma downs No. 8 North Carolina without Papa, Salazar
NORMAN, Okla. -- Playing without two starters, top-ranked Oklahoma topped No. 8 North Carolina 4-1 on Sunday afternoon at the Headington Family Tennis Center in a match that played out much closer than the score indicated.
“It was a tough stretch we’ve had,” Oklahoma head coach John Roddick said. “We went straight from National Indoors to right back on the road at Texas A&M in tough conditions outside. After the result we had at Indoors you don’t want to take two losses the very next weekend. They were missing a guy and we were missing two and so it was a match where neither team was all that healthy. You just have to gut those out and compete hard. I was proud of our effort to actually close it out.”
The Sooners (11-1) were without freshman Spencer Papa in singles due to illness and sophomore Jose Salazar to an injury. After OU claimed the doubles point, junior Austin Siegel and sophomore Florin Bragusi stepped in a delivered a pair of wins in singles to help Oklahoma top the Tar Heels for the second time in eight days.
“I’m proud of the effort the team put together,” Bragusi said. “We did a great job in doubles. We beat them before and now to beat them again, that is great for us.”
Oklahoma dropped the doubles point to North Carolina when the two teams faced off in the quarterfinals of the National Indoors, but Roddick’s revamped lineup helped flip that script Sunday.
“We have been trying to figure out our third doubles team,” Roddick said. “I think we have our number two team sorted out and now we’re working on the three team. We’re just trying to give everyone a chance and see who can go out and earn it.”
With the doubles point in hand, OU needed just three wins in singles to take the dual, but North Carolina came out swinging. The Tar Heels took four first sets and then claimed the first point in singles with a win at No. 3. With the match in doubt, the Sooners got a pair of wins to retake momentum.
Needing just one more win to take the match, the Sooners had chances to serve for the match at both No. 4 from Alex Ghilea and No. 5 from Bragusi.
Bragusi got the call to play late when Papa and Salazar were both scratched from the singles lineup. Bragusi dropped the first set, but rallied to take the next two from Steiro to win 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. Bragusi is now 3-0 for the year in the number six spot.
“It was the first time in a while I had the opportunity to play,” Bragusi said. “So I was a bit nervous because I haven’t had an opportunity to play that much. I just tried to stay focused and fight. I knew that if I kept fighting I was going to come back. I am glad I got the win and the clinch.”
“Florin played really well against Steiro,” Roddick said. “He’s a really experienced player so that was a really good win and to clinch against him was fantastic.”
On court four, Ghilea was also serving for the match. Ghilea clinched wins for the Sooners in both the semifinals and final of the ITA National Indoors. Ghilea, a sophomore from Romania, dropped his first set, but rallied to take the second set from Murray. Ghilea led 5-2 in the third when Bragusi clinched.
The road wont get any easier for the Sooners who have matches with No. 4 Virginia and No. 9 Ohio State coming up before conference play begins.
“It is great just to get the win over a top-10 team,” Ghilea said. “It’s really good momentum for us. We have a few days off and then we get right back at it with a match next weekend.”