Bruins Edge Trojans, 4-2 in NCAA Quarterfinals
May 18, 2008
Tulsa, Okla. - Just as the Bruin women did earlier in the tournament, the UCLA men's tennis team ended the season of its biggest rival on Sunday, as the third-seeded Bruins recorded a 4-2 victory over No. 6 USC in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships at Tulsa's Michael D. Case Tennis Center. With the win, the Bruins (25-1) advance to their first semifinal appearance since winning the national championship in 2005. UCLA will square off against No. 7 Texas in the semifinals on Monday at 5:00 p.m. (CST). The Longhorns upset second-seeded Ohio State, 4-2 on Sunday.
"Neither of us likes to lose to each other," said UCLA head coach Billy Martin, who has guided the Bruins to 10 trips to the NCAA Semifinals in 15 years as head coach. "We've already had two nail biters and squeaked by in both of them. I was a little worried that we had used up all of our luck."
UCLA captured the doubles point in both regular-season victories over USC and Sunday was no different, as the Bruins ended up clinching it with wins at court Nos. 2 and 3. Although the Trojans struck first when second-ranked Robert Farah and Kaes Van't Hof posted an 8-6 win at court No.1, the Bruins battled back to take wins at the next two courts. Jeremy Drean and Michael Look registered an 8-6 win at court No. 3, setting the stage for Mathieu Dehaine and Holden Seguso to clinch the point with an 8-5 victory against Abdullah Magdas/Gary Sacks at court No. 2.
USC would come back strong in singles, winning two of the first three matches to tie it at 2-2. Although freshman Nick Meister had little trouble with Andrew Piotrowski at court No. 6, USC posted a pair of straight-set wins of its own at court Nos. 3 and 5. Trojan Jaak Poldma upset Dehaine, 7-6(3), 6-3 at court No. 3, while Magdas was a 6-4, 6-3 winner over Drean at the No. 5 position.
All three remaining singles were extremely close. In the most entertaining match of the day, Seguso faced off against Van't Hof at court No. 2. Seguso, who had lost to Van't Hof in both prior meetings this season, was able to get an early lead on his older counterpart when he broke Van't Hof to take the first set 7-5. Van't Hof actually served for the second set at 5-4, but Seguso broke him again and both players held serve to eventually send it to a tiebreaker. Up 5-4 in the breaker, Van't Hof was overruled by the chair umpire when he called a Seguso backhand long on the baseline. It turned out to be a major turning point in the match, as Seguso would win the next two points to take a 7-5, 7-6(5) victory.
Up 3-2 in the match, UCLA needed to win just one of the two remaining singles contests. Just like he did in UCLA's 4-3 win over USC back on April 18, Harel Srugo ended up posting the deciding win on Sunday, as he upset the sixth-ranked Farah, 7-6(4), 6-3 at court No. 1 to give the Bruins the 4-2 victory. It was a key win for the Bruins, as Sacks was serving for the match up 5-4 in the third set against Look at court No. 4.
"I thought if I could get this match to be physical, I would have a better chance of winning," said Srugo of his victory over Farah. "The first set was so long, so I thought that whoever was going to win the breaker was going to win the match. I was happy that I won it."
Despite playing without its top four players from a year ago, UCLA is 25-1 this season and takes an 18-match winning streak into Monday's showdown with Texas (longest streak since 1999). Asked if he is surprised at his team's success this season, Martin added, "I'm still waiting for somebody to pinch me. I never in my wildest dreams thought that we'd be in this position at the beginning of the year."
The seventh-seeded Bruin women face No. 6 Florida in the semifinals at Noon tomorrow. UCLA, which is the only remaining school with both its men's and women's teams still in the tournament, is the first school to have two teams in the semifinals since Florida did it back in 2005.
UCLA has never lost to Texas, taking an 8-0 record into Monday's match. The last time the two teams squared off was back in 2000, a 4-0 Bruin victory in the NCAA Round of 16.
* Denotes Clinching Match -- Order of Finish: 5, 6, 3, 2, 1
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