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NTI Quarterfinal Recap and Semifinal Preview
Sunday, 02/16/2014
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Marcos Giron Action(3).jpg
by Bobby Knight. Pictured UCLA's Marcos Giron

Whie it may be a new year it seems like we're stuck in reruns with Virginia, Ohio State, UCLA, and USC all making the return trip back to the NTI Semifinals after picking up wins on Saturday.  Virginia was the only one that didn't face any resistance as they cruised past Cal while the other three faced some push back.

Virginia came out ready to play today and absolutely rocked California posting a 4-0 shutout that would have finished 7-0 had they played it out.  After the Hoos picked up the doubles point, they came out strong and quickly won all 6 first sets.   UVA first year Thai-Son Kwiatowski would finish first with a 0 & 1 win at #5, then Alex Domijan would win 1 & 3 at #2, and moments later it was Ryan Shane providing the clincher at #3 with a routine 0 & 2 win. Both Mitchell Frank and Justin Shane were close to winning as well when play was halted. 
Ohio State moved on to the semifinals with a 4-2 win over Texas.  The Buckeyes executed very well in doubles and claimed the point and grabbed the early 1-0 lead.  Each team would grab 3 first sets in singles play and Texas’s #1 and #2 would finish their matches off first with Soren Hess Olesen knocking off Peter Kobelt 6-5, 6-3 at #1 and Lloyd Glasspool defeating Chris Diaz 6-2, 6-5 at #2.  In the Hess-Olesen/Kobelt match, Kobelt was up 5-4 in the 1st set tiebreak and had two points on his serve but Hess-Olsen took both points and then served out the set.  Ohio State’s Hunter Callahan would tie it at 2 with a 6-4, 6-4 win at #6 over Sudanwa Sitaram then Ohio State freshman Herkko Pollanen would give the Buckeyes the lead with a 6-4, 6-3 win over George Goldhoff at #3.  The focus then turned to courts 4 and 5 with each nearing the conclusion of a 3rd set.   Ohio State’s Kevin Metka served for the match at #5 up 5-1 in the 3rd but would get broke and drop another game before finally sealing the deal to take it 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.  OSU’s #4 Ralf Steinbach had 4 match points leading 5-4 in the 3rd and up 0-40 on the Berkowicz serve when the match was halted. 
UCLA recovered from dropping the doubles point by winning 4 singles matches to take a hard fought 4-2 win over Oklahoma.   The biggest rout came at #1 singles with UCLA’s Clay Thompson crushing OU’s Guillermo Alcorta 6-2, 6-0.  Mackenzie McDonald would give UCLA the lead with a 6-5, 6-5 win over OU’s Andrew Harris at #3 singles and shortly thereafter fellow freshman Joseph DiGiulio would extend the Bruin lead to 3-1 with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Peerakit Siributwong at #6 singles.  Oklahoma’s Dane Webb would narrow the UCLA lead to 3-2 with a 6-5, 6-3 win over Gage Brymer but Bruin #5 Dennis Mkrtchian would finish off the Sooners with a 6-2, 5-6, 6-3 win over Alex Ghilea.  The remaining match on court that was abandoned was on serve with UCLA’s Marcos Giron leading 3-2 in the 3rd
USC won the last main draw match of the day with a tougher than expected 4-2 win over Baylor.  The reason I say tougher than expected was because Baylor’s #1 Julian Lenz had to pull out of singles after injuring himself near the end of the doubles point.  With Lenz out everyone else had to shift up a spot and while Baylor was in most of the matches USC was just too strong.  With USC leading 1-0 after claiming the doubles point Trojan #2 Yannick Hanfmann would extend the lead to 2-0 with a bruising 6-2, 6-1 win over Diego Galeano.  Baylor #5 Tony Lupieri would get the Bears on the board with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Eric Johnson but USC’s #3 Roberto Quiroz would answer with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Mate Zsiga.  With its back against the wall, Baylor started to chip away at the 3-1 deficit with Michel Dornbusch coming back from 4-1 down in the 2nd set to knock off USC’s Connor Farren 6-5, 6-5.  At #1 singles BU’s Patrick Pradella would take the 2nd set tiebreak 7-0 to send that one to a 3rd set while at #6 singles Baylor’s Vince Schneider would lead 2-1 in the 3rd over USC’s Michael Grant.  With all the momentum on Baylor’s side, USC’s Michael Grant would dig deep and quiet the crowd by going up a break and following that with a hold to open a 4-2 lead.  Schneider had a chance to get it back on serve but Grant won the 40-40 point and would hold again to take it 6-3 in the 3rd.  The remaining match on court that was abandoned was on serve in the final set with Pradella leading USC’s Ray Sarmiento 3-2.     

Both of Sunday’s Semifinal matches will take place at the Downtown Club at the MET in Houston though there will also be several consolation matches taking place at both facilities.  You can follow along at the Live Scoring links below and also find out the schedule at the Draw link.
Galleria Tennis & Athletic Club (GTAC) - Live Scoring 
Downtown Club at the Met (MET) - Live Scoring
Current Tournament Draw
ITA Results Page
#1 Virginia vs. #5 Ohio State – MET 12pm cst – In last year’s NTI semifinal Virginia won a 4-3 thriller over Ohio State when Alex Domijan broke Peter Kobelt to take the match 7-5 in the 3rd.  We know we won’t see a 7-5 scoreline this year due to the scoring changes but I think we’ll see a very good match.  Ohio State has traditionally been really strong in doubles and this year is no different as I see the Buckeyes taking the point with wins at 1 and 2.  Now let’s take a look at each projected singles matchup.
#1: Mitchell Frank (UVA) vs. Peter Kobelt (OSU) – These two met once prior back at the 2012 NTI’s with an undefeated Frank getting stunned by Kobelt in straight sets.  I don’t see a straight set Kobelt win here but if Kobelt’s serve is on I think a win is in the cards.  Frank will want to turn this into a grind with longer points favoring the UVA junior but Kobelt will do his best to keep the points short and quick.  I think Kobelt will dictate play enough to keep the points short and quick and will take it in 3.  Prediction:  Kobelt in 3.
#2: Alex Domijan (UVA) vs. Chris Diaz (OSU) – The 6’7 Domijan has a big serve and even bigger forehand while the 5’7 Diaz, who is playing up 3 spots in the lineup versus last year, will hope to deflect that power to stay in the match long enough to make it interesting.   I see a quick straight set win for Domijan with a score somewhere in the range of 6-2 6-2.  Prediction:  Domijan in 2
#3: Ryan Shane (UVA) vs. Herkko Pollanen (OSU) – Both guys played very well on Saturday in recording straight set wins but the big hitting Shane is just going to have too much pace for the Buckeye freshman to handle.  Prediction:  R Shane in 2
#4: Justin Shane (UVA) vs. Ralf Steinbach (OSU) – The older Shane brother has been playing extremely good over the last month while Steinbach has upped his game as well with impressive wins over Junior Ore, Florent Diep, and Adrien Berkowicz in the last 8 days.  If my predictions hold up this will likely be the last match on court with the match deadlocked at 3-3.  I think if Justin Shane’s game is on he’ll win the match regardless of what Steinbach does but if Shane isn’t as crisp as he’s been then Steinbach will pull the upset.  Tough call here but I’ll go with Shane.   Prediction:  J Shane in 3
#5: Mac Styslinger (UVA) vs. Kevin Metka (OSU) – Styslinger will look to bounce back from a Friday defeat against Notre Dame’s Josh Hagar but Metka won’t be the most welcoming opponent.  Metka’s aggressive play may cause some problems for Mac and if this match finishes I like Metka to pull it out.  Prediction:  Metka in 3
#6: Thai-Son Kwiatkowski (UVA) vs. Hunter Callahan (OSU) – The UVA first year dusted off a tough match on Friday, which went unfinished tied at 1 in the 3rd, with a dominating win on Saturday while Callahan is 2-0 this week with a pair of 4 & 4 wins.   Kwiatkowski was the nations top incoming freshman for a reason and after missing the fall with an injury he has started to show everybody what all the talk was about.  Callahan will find out on Sunday and Thai-Son will hand the Buckeye junior his first loss of the week.  Prediction:  Kwiatkowski in 2
Overall Prediction:  Virginia 4-3
#2 UCLA vs. #3 USC – MET 3pm cst  - These 2 LA schools will meet for what seems like the 20th time in the last few years and if past history has taught us anything this match will likely come down to a 3rd set tiebreaker.  UCLA has been up and down in doubles this year while USC has been pretty steady so I like the Trojans to take the doubles point.   In singles play I like UCLA up top and USC down low and if things go as I predict we’re looking at a USC upset win. 
#1:  Clay Thompson (UCLA) vs. Ray Sarmiento (USC) – These long time rivals will meet again in what should be another classic.  Thompson has been practically unbeatable this year (28-2) while Sarmiento has only dropped 1 set in this young dual-match season.  Tough one to predict but I’ll stick with Thompson in a squeaker.  Prediction:  Thompson in 3

#2:  Marcos Giron (UCLA) vs. Yannick Hanfmann (USC) – Giron has played well this week with a win and a DNF while Hanfmann has had 2 interesting results this week in a 1 & 2 loss to Tennessee’s Hunter Reese and a 2 & 1 WIN over Baylor’s Diego Galeano.  Hanfmann will need to be completely on if he’s going to have a chance in this one but I think Marcos will be the steadier hand and will take it.  Prediction:  Giron in 2

#3:  Mackenzie McDonald (UCLA) vs. Roberto Quiroz (USC) – It’ll be freshman versus senior in this one with McDonald coming off a really nice straight set win over Oklahoma’s Andrew Harris while Quiroz rolled over Baylor’s Mate Zsiga in straights.  McDonald hasn’t shown any sign of freshman nerves yet and I don’t expect them to creep up tomorrow, as Mackenzie will make it a clean sweep of the top 3 spots for the Bruins.  Prediction:  McDonald in 2

#4:  Gage Brymer (UCLA) vs. Connor Farren (USC) –Both freshman are coming off close defeats with Brymer losing to Oklahoma’s Dane Webb and Farren losing to Baylor’s Michel Dornbusch so whoever can bounce back the best will likely take the match.  Brymer has put up the better results since the start of the season but something tells me that Farren is due for a big win.  Prediction:  Farren in 3

#5:  Dennis Mkrtchian (UCLA) vs. Eric Johnson (USC) or Max De Vroome (USC) – USC’s has used 2 different #5s this week and it’ll be interesting to see who Peter Smith goes with on Sunday.  Neither Johnson nor De Vroome has played great so far this week with Johnson going down to Baylor’s Tony Lupieri 3 & 1 and De Vroome having his match halted while training Tennessee’s Andrew Dromsky.  Mkrtchian on the hand has been solid and has clinched the last 2 matches for UCLA.  Looking at those facts you’d think a Mkrtchian win would be in order but I’ll say De Vroome gets the nod from Peter Smith and shows him it was a wise move.  Prediction:  De Vroome in 3

#6:  Joseph DiGiulio (UCLA) vs. Michael Grant (USC) – Grant is 2-0 this weekend and clinched today’s match against Baylor while DiGiulio has also performed well with 1 win and another match that didn’t finish (DNF).  This is a match that USC has to take if they want to win and I think Grant finds a way to get it done.  Prediction:  Grant in 2
Overall Prediction:  USC 4-3