by Bobby Knight. Pictured: Clement Homs, Texas
After a wild and crazy weekend of tiebreaks at 5-all and no-ad scoring we have our 15 teams that have punched their ticket to Houston to join Texas A&M in the Men’s National Team Indoor Championships. There were definitely more #1 seeds eliminated this year than in recent memory with 4 of 15 losing in their own regional as Ole Miss, Pepperdine, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky went down in defeat.
The surprise of the weekend was Notre Dame as the Irish came from behind to beat Minnesota 4-3 winning a pair of 3rd set tiebreaks then against Kentucky the Irish sat back and watched as freshman Eddy Covalschi came back from 3-1 down in the 3rd to clinch it. Texas was the only #4 seed to advance but there were few that considered the Longhorns to be underdogs with the recent recruiting class that brought in George Goldhoff, Adrien Berkowicz, and Clement Homs.
Below is a recap of each regional along with what comes up next for each champion
Virginia Regional (Virginia, Indiana, Samford, Elon)
Winner: #1 Virginia
Comments: This weekend was nothing more than a warm up for Virginia as the Hoos breezed past both Elon and Indiana winning by a combined score of 19-0 (they played more than 6 singles matches in each contest). Mitchell Frank picked up a pair of wins over ranked opponents (Silverman & Lalic) while 3 freshmen (Daigle, Kwiatkowski, Corinteli) saw their 1st dual match action of the year with each cruising in singles victories. Next up for Virginia will likely be either Notre Dame or Illinois in the Round of 16 at the NTI’s in Houston in 3 weeks.
UCLA Regional (UCLA, Texas Tech, Nebraska, Wisconsin)
Winner: #2 UCLA
Comments: The Bruins had little trouble in getting past Wisconsin and Texas Tech posting 4-0 shutouts in both contests. UCLA freshman Mackenzie McDonald was the only Bruin to pick up 2 wins on the weekend with several others close to wins but unable to finish their matches due to the team clinching the win rather quickly. UCLA was able to rest some starters with Marcos Giron and Karue Sell sitting out singles play against Wisconsin and then Sell was held out again for the Texas Tech match. Adrien Puget sat out as well with him rehabbing a knee that kept him out of play in the fall. Next up for UCLA is a weekend visit from #3 Georgia and #14 Florida.
Georgia Regional (Georgia, Washington, Stanford, Columbia)
Winner: #3 Georgia
Comments: Columbia pushed Georgia on Saturday but the Bulldogs managed to pull out a tight 4-2 win that saw 3 singles matches go 3 sets. On Sunday against Stanford, who was playing without its #1 John Morrissey, the Bulldogs were able to pull away at the end but there were some tight matches at the bottom of the lineup. The highlight of the weekend for Georgia was its doubles play with the Bulldogs winning the point in both contests after struggling in a tournament the week prior. Garrett Brasseaux was the only player for Georgia to go 2-0 on the weekend with Hernus Pieters closing in on his 2nd win before the match was halted due to the team clinching the win. Next up for Georgia is a weekend road trip to Los Angeles to meet #2 UCLA and #5 USC.
USC Regional (USC, Georgia State, Wichita State, Santa Clara)
Winner: #4 USC
Comments: The Trojans had very little trouble over the weekend cruising to a pair of 4-0 wins over Santa Clara and Wichita State. No USC player dropped a set in singles play and Eric Johnson went 2-0 with a 1 & 2 and 2 & 2 win at #6 singles. Both Ray Sarmiento and Yannick Hanfmann sat out a match with each recovering from a few nagging injuries. Freshman Connor Farren stepped into the lineup at the #3 spot and picked up a 0 & 2 win over Santa Clara and was up 6-2 2-2 against Wichita State. Farren teamed up with Roberto Quiroz in doubles play and the duo picked up 2 easy wins at the #2 spot. Next up for USC is a weekend visit from #3 Georgia and #14 Florida.
Ohio State Regional (Ohio State, Louisville, Middle Tennessee State, Denver)
Winner: #5 Ohio State
Comments: The Buckeyes picked up a quick 4-0 win on Saturday over Denver then followed that up with a 4-1 win over Louisville on Sunday. Kevin Metka (Jr) posted a 2-0 record over the weekend playing at #5 singles and dropped just 9 games in doing so while freshman Herkko Pollanen played very well up at the #3 spot by picking up a 2 & 1 win over Louisville’s Van Damrongsri and was up a set versus Denver’s Diogo Rocha. Next up for Ohio State is a visit from Youngstown State and Wright State on February 4th followed up by visits from #8 Kentucky and #11 Texas A&M on February 7th and 9th.
Tennessee Regional (Tennessee, VCU, NC State, Michigan State)
Winner: #6 Tennessee
Comments: The Vols came through the weekend unscathed by posting a 4-1 win over Michigan State on Saturday and then followed that up with a tougher 4-0 win on Sunday against VCU. In the VCU match the 3 remaining singles matches were all in a 3rd set or headed that way. Hunter Reese (Jr) and Markus Kerner (Fr) both went undefeated for the Vols with each picking up straight set wins at the #2 and #6 positions respectively. The bottom of the lineup has been a sore spot for the Vols the last 2 years so it looks like things are looking up with the addition of Kerner and George Southern transfer Andrew Dromsky. Next up for Tennessee is a weekend road trip to Oklahoma to face a vastly improved #51 Oklahoma State team in Stillwater followed by a match against #24 Tulsa. In 2 weeks the Vols will return home to face #17 Duke and #19 Wake Forest so the Vols will definitely be battle tested by the time the NTI’s roll around in 3 weeks.
Baylor Regional (Baylor, Drake, Auburn, Boise State)
Winner: #7 Baylor
Comments: The Bears fought through 2 competitive matches against Boise State (4-0) and Auburn (4-1) but managed to come out on top in both of them. Against Auburn on Sunday, 4 of the 6 matches went 3 sets and 6 tiebreaks were played total so it was definitely not a walk in the park for Baylor. Julian Lenz (So) and Diego Galeano (Jr) both went undefeated over the weekend with Lenz picking up a straight set win over Boise State’s #54 Andy Bettles and a 3 set win over Auburn’s Lukas Ollert, both at the #1 position, while Galeano picked up both wins in straight sets at the #3 position. Before the Bears head to Houston for the NTI’s they welcome in 4 opponents to Waco with Incarnate Word (1/30), Purdue (2/2), Cameron (2/7) and Louisiana-Lafayette (2/7) all visiting in the next 2 weeks.
Kentucky Regional (Kentucky, Notre Dame, Minnesota, BYU)
Winner: #29 Notre Dame
Comments: The Irish were the surprise of the weekend with both of their wins coming in to a 3rd set tiebreak in the deciding match. On Friday against Minnesota, Notre Dame fell behind 3-0 after dropping the doubles point and #1 and #4 singles but then it was Josh Hager who got the balling rolling for the Irish by knocking off Jack Hamburg in a 3rd set tiebreaker at #3 singles. Ryan Bandy then got a 3 set win at #2, Eddy Covalschi pulled out a tight 6-5, 6-4 win at 6, and then Wyatt McCoy provided the clincher in the final match on court at #5 singles with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-5(6) win over Eric Frueh. If that match didn’t provide enough drama, the Irish gave the crowd another dose of it on Saturday against the host Kentucky Wildcats. Notre Dame came out strong and claimed the doubles point and extended the lead to 3-1 with singles wins from Eric Schnurrenberger at #4 and Ryan Bandy at #2 before Kentucky would even it at 3 with wins from Alejandro Gomez and Grant Roberts at #3 and #5. The attention then turned to #6 singles with ND’s Eddy Covalschi and UK’s Ryuji Hirooka locked in a tight one. Covalschi claimed the 1st set 6-3 and had a match point in the 2nd set up 5-4 but Hirooka managed to hold and then take the 2nd set tiebreak 7-5 to force a 3rd set. Hirooka went up an early break and led 3-1 in the 3rd before Covalschi caught fire and won 5 of the next 6 games to take it 6-4 in the 3rd to send Notre Dame on to Houston. Next up for Notre Dame is a rematch with Kentucky this Sunday in South Bend then the following week they go on the road to Illinois (2/5) and Northwestern (2/11). Notre Dame had a match scheduled with Michigan the weekend of the NTIs but will have to reschedule that since the Irish will be in Houston playing the nation’s elite that weekend.
Oklahoma Regional (Oklahoma, Tulsa, Northwestern, Virginia Tech)
Winner: #9 Oklahoma
Comments: The Sooners opened up with a 4-1 win over Virginia Tech on Saturday in a match that saw the doubles point tightly contested before OU pulled away in singles. On Sunday against Northwestern the match was much closer than 4-0 final would indicate. After OU took the doubles point and picked up quick wins from Guillermo Alcorta and Axel Llamas at 1 and 2 finding that 4th point became a struggle. Oklahoma trailed in the 3rd set at both 3 and 4 and the match at 6 was on serve and at 5 OU’s Austin Siegel found himself down a set and headed to a tiebreak in the 2nd. Fortunately for OU, Siegel was able to take the 2nd set tiebreaker and then he ran away with the 3rd set to bring the victory home. Guillermo Alcorta went 2-0 on the weekend knocking off Virginia Tech’s #26 Amerigo Contini 6-1, 6-4 and defeating Northwestern’s Raleigh Smith 6-3, 6-2. Oklahoma’s top 4 can match up with anyone in the country but they need to get consistent performance at the 5 and 6 spot to have a chance to break through this year against the elite. Next up for Oklahoma is a Sunday visit from #56 Indiana then OU hits the road to face #35 Florida State (2/7) and #33 Alabama (2/9).
Ole Miss Regional (Ole Miss, Clemson, Illinois, Michigan)
Winner: #22 Illinois
Comments: The Illini put together a nice weekend first blanking Clemson 4-0 in less than 90 minutes and then beating Big Ten rival Michigan 4-2. Jared Hiltzik and Tim Kopinski both went 2-0 on the weekend at the #1 and #3 positions respectively with neither player dropping a set. Going into the weekend many anticipated an Illinois versus Ole Miss showdown but it never materialized with Ole Miss dropping a 4-3 decision on Saturday to Michigan in a match that saw the Wolverines rally from 3-2 down to win the final 2 courts at #5 and #6. Those 2 spots were a glaring weakness last year for Ole Miss so if the Rebels expect to be in the hunt in the SEC this year they’ll need to get a better showing there the rest of the year. Next up for Illinois is a grueling stretch that will see the Illini go to #17 Duke on Friday and #42 North Carolina on Saturday then the following week the Illini welcomes in #29 Notre Dame, #20 Texas, and #11 Texas A&M so in an 8 day period they will face 4 teams that will be headed to Houston for the NTIs – talk about tough.
Pepperdine Regional (Pepperdine, Cal, Alabama, San Diego)
Winner: #16 Cal
Comments: The Bears toughest match of the weekend didn’t come on Saturday against Pepperdine instead it came on Friday against Alabama. The Crimson Tide jumped Cal in doubles to grab the early lead and shortly after Cal’s Greg Bayane tied it at 1 with a straight set win at #5, Alabama would go back ahead 2-1 with Becker O’Shaughnessey winning in straight sets at #2. Cal’s Ben McLachlan started the turn around by knocking off Alabama’s top player #14 Danill Proskura 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 and then Cal’s Filip Bergevi was able to come back from a set down at #3 singles to beat Alabama’s Nikko Madregallejo 4-6, 6-5, 6-3. With the Bears now up 3-2 all eyes turned to #4 singles and #6 singles where Cal’s Andre Goransson trailed Alabama’s Saxon Buehning 3-0 in the 3rd at #4 and Cal’s Nikhil Jayashankar and Alabama’s Andrew Goodwin were just starting the 3rd set at #6 after Goodwin pulled out the 2nd in a tiebreak. With momentum teetering back and forth, Cal’s Andre Goransson would go on a roll and win 5 of the next 7 games to force a tiebreak at 5-5 and in the tiebreak it would be the Cal freshman pulling it out 7-3 to give Cal the heart pounding 4-2 win. On Saturday against Pepperdine after dropping the doubles point the Bears would pick up 4 straight set wins from Campbell Johnson, Filip Bergevi, Greg Bayane, and Nikhil Jayashankar at 2, 3, 5, and 6 to bring home the 4-2. Both Bergevi and Bayane went 2-0 on the weekend and it should be noted that the top individual performance of the weekend came from Pepperdine’s Alex Sarkissian who only dropped 5 games in his 2 wins at #1 singles against Cal’s Ben McLachlan and San Diego’s Clarke Spinosa. Next up for Cal is a visit from Hawaii on this coming Thursday and visit from St. Mary’s on Saturday.
Mississippi State Regional (Mississippi State, South Carolina, Memphis, Harvard)
Winner: #13 Mississippi State
Comments: Despite dropping the doubles point in both matches Mississippi State managed to come through its regional and advance to the NTI’s in Houston. In the first match on Saturday, Mississippi State jumped out to a 3-1 lead only to see Harvard come back and tie it at 3. In the deciding match at #4 singles MSU’s Zach White trailed Harvard’s Alex Steinroeder 3-2 in the 3rd set but came back and won the final 4 games to take it 6-4, 5-6, 6-3. On Sunday MSU fell behind Memphis 2-0 before digging in. Rishab Agarwal started it off by putting MSU on the board with a straight set win at #5 and then after picking up first sets at 1, 2, and 3 Florian Lakat, Malte Stropp, and Jordan Angus each pulled out the second set in a tiebreak. MSU won all 5 tiebreaks in the match and that turned out to be the difference. Next up for Mississippi State is a road trip to Lubbock to take on both Texas Tech and Rice and then the following week State welcomes in Samford and Alcorn State.
Florida Regional (Florida, Florida State, TCU, UNC-Wilmington)
Winner: #14 Florida
Comments: Last year in the kickoff weekend Florida and UNC Wilmington played a tight one that the Gators pulled out 4-2, this year it was the complete opposite. Florida jumped out to an early lead and cruised to a 4-0 win in just over 90 minutes. The other opening round match lasted over 3 hours and in the end it was TCU upsetting Florida State 4-3 as freshman Trey Daniel knocked off FSU’s Michael Rinaldi 6-5, 4-6, 6-2 at #5 singles. In the final on Sunday the doubles point proved to be the key as Florida pulled out the deciding court in a tiebreak. In singles action TCU dominated the top 3 courts while Florida controlled the bottom 3 but with the doubles point already in their pocket Florida just needed those bottom 3 to secure the win. Freshman Maxx Lipman provided the clincher at #6 singles with a 6-5, 6-2 to send the Gators on to Houston. Next up for Florida is a weekend road trip to Los Angeles to face #2 UCLA (2/1) and #4 USC (2/2).
Duke Regional (Duke, San Diego State, North Carolina, Oregon)
Winner: #17 Duke
Comments: Going into this past weekend Duke was reeling after dropping 2 of their first 3 but the Blue Devils happily welcomed back their #1 player, Michael Redlicki, and having him in the lineup made the difference. Duke opened up with Oregon and managed to get past the Ducks 4-1 in a match that was much closer than the score would indicate. 3 of the 6 singles matches went 3 sets and at the time of the clinch Oregon’s #3 Daan Maasland was just a game away from finishing off a straight set win. With Redlicki playing at the #1 spot for the Blue Devils everyone else was able to shift down a spot and that paid off in the end for Duke. North Carolina won the other Saturday match in convincing fashion with a 4-1 win over San Diego State to set up the Sunday matchup against Duke. While Duke had its #1 back in the fold North Carolina was still without its #1 from a year ago, Esben Hess-Olesen. Despite his absence the Tar Heels were undefeated going into the match but after UNC took the doubles point it was all Duke with Raphael Hemmeler, Bruno Semenzato, Jason Tahir, and Fred Saba all winning in straight sets. Both Semenzato and Hemmeler went undefeated in singles play on the weekend. Next up for Duke is a Friday visit from #22 Illinois and then the following weekend Duke hits the road to face #6 Tennessee (2/7) and #26 Michigan (2/9).
Winner: #20 Texas
Comments: The Longhorns went into Nashville and started off the weekend by shutting out the host Commodores 4-0. All 3 doubles courts went to a tiebreak with Texas pulling out both #1 and #3. In singles play Texas grabbed 4 first sets and managed to finish 3 of those courts out in straight sets with Lloyd Glasspool, George Goldhoff, and Nick Naumann winning at 2, 3, and 5. On Sunday Texas and Wake Forest played in what was definitely the match of the day. The Longhorns grabbed the early momentum by taking the doubles point and then built the lead up to 3-0 with Soren Hess-Olesen and Nick Naumann winning in straight sets at #1 and #5. Finding that last point wasn’t going to be easy as Wake took the first set in 3 of the remaining 4 courts. In a matter of minutes Wake trimmed the lead to 3-2 as Adam Lee and Max Kan finished off their opponents at #2 and #3 and then a short while later Wake even the match at 3 as Jon Ho picked up a 3-set win at #4. The remaining court in play was at #6 singles and Wake’s Aws Laaribi had built a 5-2 lead in the 3rd set against Texas’s Clement Homs but the Texas junior refused to go away. Homs would win the next 3 games and fight off 4 match points along the way to send the match to a tiebreak. In the tiebreak it was all Homs and after 4 hours Texas was victorious. Next up for Texas is a 3 match road trip that will see the Longhorns go to #33 Alabama (2/1), #26 Michigan (2/7), and #22 Illinois (2/9).
So we now have our 16 participants for the ITA National Indoor Championships in Houston. They are as follows:
#29 Notre Dame
The conference breakdown is SEC (5), Pac 12 (3), Big 12 (3), ACC (3), Big 10 (2).