Streak Snapped! ... Bruins Win 2005 NCAA Men's Tennis Title
May 24, 2005
College Station, TX - For the first time since 1984 the UCLA men's tennis team can call itself NCAA Champions, as the seventh-seeded Bruins posted a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over top-seeded and undefeated Baylor in the NCAA Final Tuesday. With the win, UCLA (27-3) snaps Baylor's 57-match winning streak, the second longest in NCAA history.
With the match tied a 3-3, UCLA's No. 3 singles player Kris Kwinta clinched the win for the Bruins, registering a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Baylor's Lars Poerschke. Kwinta served out the match leading 5-4 in the third set. When Poerschke's forehand sailed long on match point, Kwinta threw his racquet over the fence before being mobbed by teammates.
"I've had problems finishing my singles from the beginning of the NCAA Tournament," said Kwinta, who had not had a result in six NCAA Tournament matches this season. "In the two regional matches I had match points and then my teammates never let me finish so I was angry. Here, it was the same story. But they let me finish my match today and I'm appreciative of that."
UCLA got off to a slow start in the match, and for a while it looked like the Bears were going to turn in a repeat performance of last year's NCAA Final where they defeated UCLA, 4-0. Baylor clinched the doubles point with a pair of victories on court Nos. 2 and 3. In fact, at one point the Bears had match point on all three courts before Benjamin Becker and Jon Reckewey ended up clinching the point following an 8-4 win over Chris Lam and Luben Pampoulov at the No. 3 spot. It marked the first loss of the year for Lam and Pampoulov, who entered Tuesday with a perfect 12-0 record.
Losing the doubles point put the pressure on UCLA, which needed to win four of six singles matches to pull off the upset. Bruin sophomore Benjamin Kohlloeffel gave the Bruins their first point when he registered a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Benjamin Becker at court No. 2, evening the score at 1-1.
"That guy just flat out beat me today," said Becker, the defending NCAA Singles Champion after the match. "He was better and I have to admit that. It is sad that (the streak) came to an end today, but sometimes it just doesn't go your way."
Not long after UCLA got on the board, Baylor took a 2-1 advantage when second-ranked Benedikt Dorsch downed Pampoulov, 6-1, 6-4 at court No. 1. UCLA's hopes for an upset looked even less likely moments later when Michal Kokta defeated Lam, 6-4, 6-3 at court No. 4, giving Baylor a 3-1 advantage. At that point, Kwinta was up a break at 4-3 in the second set, while both Alberto Francis (court No. 5) and Philipp Gruendler (court No. 6) were tied early in the third set of their matches.
Knowing they needed wins on all three remaining courts to capture the title, the Bruins began to take control of the match. Next to finish was court No. 5, where Francis downed Matija Zgaga, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3. That win was especially sweet for Francis, as he lost to Zgaga in straight sets during last year's NCAA Final. Gruendler, who at one point was two points away from losing his match to Vladimir Portnov at court No. 6, battled back to force a third-set tiebreaker. Gruendler jumped out to an early 5-1 lead in the breaker and never looked back, eventually winning his match 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(4). That victory tied the score at 3-3, as the crowd then surrounded court No. 3 to watch Kwinta clinch the NCAA title for UCLA.
"I'm still a little numb," said UCLA head coach Billy Martin. "A lot of times in these matches you just need some hope to stay in there, especially when you lose that doubles point. It was a great team effort for us. Once it gets down to those last few matches and it's really, really tight, I think it's important to have your seniors and those players who have been there before. I knew I could count on these guys when we got down. I know what it's like to be on the other end. We've had a heck of a lot of close ones, but hopefully I've learned from those losses. Just knowing that I could feel comfortable with my seniors and my experienced players gave me a little piece of mind."
UCLA has now snapped the longest and second longest winning streaks in NCAA history. Last season the Bruins ended Illinois' run of 64-straight victories with a 4-2 win in the NCAA Semifinals.
"We probably celebrated a little too much last year quite honestly," said Martin referring to the win over the Fighting Illini. "I don't think we were quite as focused going into the finals after beating Illinois. It was such a big win for our team. But last night I told the team that last year we finished one streak and tomorrow night we are going to finish another and that is going to bring us the national championship that we didn't get last year. I felt it was something we would be destined to do."
UCLA has now won 97 NCAA team titles, the most of any other school in the country. It is the third title this year for UCLA, which already won titles in men's and women's water polo.
UCLA ties Southern California for second most NCAA men's tennis titles with 16. Stanford leads all schools with 17.
UCLA had three singles players and one doubles team named to the all-tournament team. Kohlloeffel (No. 2 singles), Francis (No. 5 singles) and Gruendler (No. 6 Singles) were the Bruins' singles representatives. Francis and Kwinta (No. 1 doubles) were recognized for their doubles play.
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