by Bobby Knight. Pictured Ohio State's Ralf Steinbach
At the start of the weekend the talk around Houston was about which of the top 4 seeds (Virginia, UCLA, USC, Georgia) was going to bring home the 2014 ITA Men's National Indoor Championship. We now know that the answer was none of them as the #5 seeded Ohio State Buckeyes would ambush the rest of the competition and claim the school's 1st ever National Team Indoor Championship.
Even after knocking off Virginia on Sunday there were still some doubt about whether the Buckeyes could win another big match against a top-notch program like USC. After 2 hours and 6 minutes of tennis we had our answer.
So how did Ohio State do it, well they started off by falling down a break and trailed 2-0 at both #2 and #3 doubles. Ohio State’s #3 duo of Chris Diaz and Ralf Steinbach would then kick it up a few notches and would take 5 straight games to open up a 5-2 lead only to see USC’s Eric Johnson and Max De Vroome take the next 2 to get it back on serve including a break of the Steinbach serve at 15-40 when Steinbach was serving for the match. Over on court #2, after USC’s Roberto Quiroz and Connor Farren opened up a 2-0 lead, Ohio State’s Herkko Pollanen and Hunter Callahan would take 3 straight games to go up 3-2 before the USC pair would take the next 3 to move 1 game away from a win. Meanwhile at #1 doubles there would be no breaks of serve until the 10th game which found USC’s Yannick Hanfmann serving at 4-5. After falling behind 0-30 in his service game, Hanfmann would get it back to 30 all. The Kobelt/Metka duo would take the next point to have 2 match points and after Hanfmann erased the first one Metka would put a volley away at the net on the 40-40 point to give Ohio State the win at #1 6-4. While USC received serve up 5-3 at #2 doubles, USC’s Max De Vroome would fall behind 0-40 on his serve at #3 doubles with the Trojans trailing 4-5. After erasing the first 2 break points the USC pair would not be able to erase a 3rd and with the break Ohio State would claim the match at #3 doubles 6-4 and thus claim the overall doubles point. Ohio State 1-0
The doubles point was big for Ohio State because it then meant the Buckeyes would just need to split the 6 singles matches to get the win.
In singles play, Ohio State would serve first on all 6 courts but would quickly go down a break at 2, 3, and 4 as USC’s Yannick Hanfmann would break Ohio State’s Chris Diaz at #2, USC’s Roberto Quiroz would break Ohio State’s Herkko Pollanen at #3 and USC’s Connor Farren would break Ohio State’s Ralf Steinbach at #4. All 3 would lead 3-1 in the 1st.
At #1 singles there were no breaks of serve in the 1st 7 games but Ohio State’s Peter Kobelt would break USC’s Ray Sarmiento to go up 5-3 then would serve out the 1st set and take it 6-3. The first set at #6 singles would follow the same blue print with 7 straight holds before Ohio State’s Hunter Callahan would break USC’s Jonny Wang to up 5-3 and then Callahan would hold for the 1st set and take it 6-3.
Down at #5 singles, USC’s Max De Vroome would get the 1st break of the opening set by breaking Ohio State’s Kevin Metka on the 40-40 point at 3-3 with a backhand service winner down the line. Metka would then immediately break back at 15-40 to even it at 4 all and they would then exchange holds to head to a 1st set tiebreak.
At roughly the same time the match at #4 singles between Connor Farren and Ralf Steinbach would also head to a first set tiebreak. After Farren opened up a 3-1 lead in the 1st set, Steinbach took the next 3 games to go up 4-3 and the two exchanged holds to take it to a tiebreak. In that 1st set tiebreak Farren would jump out to a 4-2 lead but a double fault by Farren would let Steinbach back in. The double fault put it back on serve and Steinbach would then take the next 4 points to take the tiebreak 7-4.
Jumping back over to #5 singles, neither De Vroome nor Metka would ever have more than a 1 point lead in the tiebreak and with Metka serving at 5-6, De Vroome would smack a Metka 2nd serve down the line to take the opening set 6-5(5).
With both Yannick Hanfmann and Roberto Quiroz finishing out the opening sets at #2 and #3 that would mean each team would have 3 1st sets.
The first match to reach it’s conclusion would come at #6 singles with Ohio State’s Hunter Callahan breaking USC’s Jonny Wang early in the second set then holding serve the rest of the way to take the match 6-3, 6-4. Callahan would not drop a set the entire week and in fact would not drop more than 4 games in a set. Ohio State 2-0
A few minutes later Yannick Hanfmann would get USC on the board as Hanfmann would defeat a pesky Chris Diaz in straight sets 6-5(4), 6-3. Ohio State 2-1
Next to finish would be Ohio State’s Peter Kobelt as he would break Ray Sarmiento on the 3-3 service game in the 2nd set. Kobelt would then hold 2 more times and close it out 6-3, 6-4. Ohio State 3-1
It looked like USC’s Roberto Quiroz would finish his match next at #2 singles with a set and a break lead but Ohio State’s Herkko Pollanen would rally with a late break to put it back on serve.
All eyes then turned to the back courts as Ohio State’s Ralf Steinbach was closing in a victory and match clincher at #4 singles. Steinbach would break Farren’s serve to go up a set and 5-4 and while serving for the match would open up 30-0 lead on his serve. Farren would take the next 3 points, which would give him 2 break points at 30-40, but this was Ralf Steinbach’s day and he took the next 2 to seal the win. Ohio State 4-1
In the remaining 2 matches on court, at #2 singles USC’s Roberto Quiroz was serving at 6-2, 4-5 against Herkko Pollanen and at #5 singles Ohio State’s Kevin Metka was serving at 5-6, 4-5 against Max De Vroome.
Final Box Score:
Ohio State 4 USC 1
1. #23 Peter Kobelt (OSU) def. #7 Ray Sarmiento (USC) 6-3, 6-4
2. #16 Yannick Hanfmann (USC) def. Chris Diaz (OSU) 6-5 (7-4), 6-3
3. Roberto Quiroz (USC) vs. Herkko Pollanen (OSU) 6-2, 4-5, unfinished
4. Ralf Steinbach (OSU) def. Connor Farren (USC) 6-5 (7-4), 6-4
5. Max De Vroome (USC) vs. Kevin Metka (OSU) 6-5 (7-5), 5-4, unfinished
6. Hunter Callahan (OSU) def. #47 Johnny Wang (USC) 6-3, 6-4
1. #2 Peter Kobelt/Kevin Metka (OSU) def. #35 Ray Sarmiento/Yannick Hanfmann (USC) 6-4
2. Roberto Quiroz/Connor Farren (USC) vs. Herkko Pollanen/Hunter Callahan (OSU) 5-3, unfinished
3. Ralf Steinbach/Chris Diaz (OSU) def. Eric Johnson/Max De Vroome (USC) 6-4
Order of finish: Doubles (1,3); Singles (6,2,1,4)
ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championship Finals T-2:06
My All Tournament Team:
#1 Singles: Soren Hess-Olesen (Texas) & Peter Kobelt (Ohio State) – Co #1s for this one - The Longhorn junior was a perfect 3-0 on the week with wins over Georgia’s Austin Smith, Ohio State’s Peter Kobelt, and California’s Ben McLachlan while the Buckeye senior went 3-1 with wins over Florida's Stephane Piro, Virginia's Mitchell Frank, USC's Ray Sarmiento.
#2 Singles: Alex Domijan (Virginia) – The Cavalier senior went 3-0 on the week with wins over Notre Dame’s Quentin Monaghan, Cal’s Campbell Johnson, and Ohio State’s Chris Diaz
#3 Singles: Roberto Quiroz (USC) – The Trojan junior went 2-0 on the week with wins over Baylor’s Mate Zsiga and UCLA’s Mackenzie McDonald. Quiroz’s other 2 matches did not finish though he had a set lead in both.
#4 Singles: Ralf Steinbach (Ohio State) – The Buckeye redshirt freshman went 3-0 on the week with wins over Florida’s Florent Diep, Virginia’s Justin Shane and USC’s Connor Farren (Clinched Championship). Steinbach also had 4 match points in his match with Texas’s Adrien Berkowicz when it was halted due to the team clinch.
#5 Singles: Kevin Metka (Ohio State) – The Buckeye redshirt junior went 2-0 on the week with wins over Texas’s Nick Naumann and Virginia’s Thai-Son Kwiatkowski (match clincher). Metka’s 2 other matches did not finish.
#6 Singles: Hunter Callahan (Ohio State) – The Buckeye redshirt junior went 4-0 on the week with wins over Florida’s Michael Alford, Texas’s Sudanwa Sitaram, Virginia’s Jordan Daigle, and USC’s Jonny Wang. Callahan didn’t drop a single set along the way and in fact didn’t even have a match that went to a tiebreak.
Tournament MVP – Ralf Steinbach (Ohio State)