LOS ANGELES - After last year's epic NCAA final between UCLA and Virginia - a match the Cavaliers won 4-3 - Thursday's regular-season showdown between the two teams promised to be one of the marquee matchups of the 2014 college season. The two teams didn't disappoint, with the third-ranked Bruins edging the second-ranked Cavaliers, 4-3 at UCLA's Los Angeles Tennis Center. And although Thursday's meeting didn't have nearly as much on the line or produce the dramatic ending of last year's final, it was a sweet victory for the Bruins, who no doubt had that 2013 loss still fresh in their minds.
UCLA (10-1) entered Thursday having dropped the doubles point in all four matches against top 10 opponents this season. As a result, Billy Martin opted to change up the doubles lineup and the move appeared to pay off. After both teams traded wins at court Nos. 1 and 2, the point came down to the No. 3 spot, where Bruin freshmen Gage Brymer and Mackenzie McDonald were playing only their second match of the year together. The Bruin tandem came through in the clutch, notching an 8-5 victory over Thai-Son Kwiatkowski and Mac Styslinger to give UCLA a 1-0 lead heading into singles play.
Having that 1-0 cushion heading into singles action was an added bonus for the Bruins, who have been lights out in singles play this year.
Riding the momentum from his thrilling doubles victory, the 35th-ranked McDonald would give UCLA a 2-0 lead when he dispatched of Ryan Shane, 7-5, 6-4 at court No. 3. It would mark the only straight-set victory for either team on the afternoon.
Virginia (9-2) was next to strike, as Kwiatkowski regrouped after losing the first set to 98th-ranked Karue Sell at court No. 5, charging back for a 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-2 win.
At the time of Kwiatkowski's victory, all four remaining matches were in third sets and extremely close. Senior Clay Thompson would eventually win the battle of top 5 opponents at court No. 1, as the nation's top-ranked singles player downed fourth-ranked Mitchell Frank, 7-6(1), 3-6, 7-5 to give UCLA a 3-1 lead in the match. The two players remained on serve for the entire third set until Thompson broke in the 12th game as Frank was serving to send the set to a tiebreaker.
Thompson's win set the plate for Bruin junior Marcos Giron to get the clinching win at court No. 2, as the fifth-ranked Giron clawed out a pair of tiebreakers to overcome 92nd-ranked Alex Domijan, 5-7, 7-6(7), 7-6(4) to give UCLA an insurmountable 4-1 lead.
With the match already decided, Virginia took wins at court Nos. 4 and 6 to make the final score 4-3.
The win marks UCLA's seventh this season over teams ranked in the top 15 nationally. It was also UCLA's second win in a row over the nation's No. 2 team, as the Bruins also beat then-No. 2 USC, 5-2 on Feb. 25.
UCLA will be in action again at the LATC on Sunday, hosting St. Mary's at Noon.
#3 UCLA 4, #2 Virginia 3
Mar 06, 2014 at Los Angeles, CA (Los Angeles Tennis Center)
1. Domijan/J. Shane (VA) def. Giron/Sell (UCLA) 8-4
2. Di Giulio/Thompson (UCLA) def. Luca Corinteli/Frank (VA) 8-3
3. Brymer/McDonald (UCLA) def. Kwiatkowski/Styslinger (VA) 8-5
UCLA Wins Doubles Point
1. #1 Clay Thompson (UCLA) def. #4 Mitchell Frank (VA) 7-6(1), 3-6, 7-5
2. #5 Marcos Giron (UCLA) def. #92 Alex Domijan (VA) 5-7, 7-6(7), 7-6(4)
3. #35 Mackenzie McDonald (UCLA) def. Ryan Shane (VA) 7-5, 6-4
4. #73 Mac Styslinger (VA) def. #74 Gage Brymer (UCLA) 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(5)
5. Thai-Son Kwiatkowski (VA) def. #98 Karue Sell (UCLA) 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-2
6. Justin Shane (VA) def. Joseph Di Giulio (UCLA) 1-6, 7-6(3), 7-6(4)
Virginia 9-2; National ranking #2