COLUMBUS, Ohio – Down 3-1, the No. 3-seed Ohio State men’s tennis team won three-consecutive singles matches to down No. 7-seed UCLA, 4-3, in the national semifinals Monday at the 2009 NCAA Championships in College Station Texas, at Texas A&M’s George P. Mitchell Tennis Center. The Buckeyes will now move on to their first national championship final appearance against No. 8-seed USC at 3 p.m. ET Tuesday. The match will be televised live on ESPNU.
The semifinal match-point belonged to junior Justin Kronauge at No. 3 singles. The 25th-ranked Kronauge, a 2008 ITA All-American, battled from behind after dropping the first set to clinch the victory for the Buckeyes with a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 win against Harel Srugo. Kronauge improves to 40-7 overall this season, which is tied for sixth all-time in the single-season wins list.
“It came down to me today and I just wanted to win for the seniors more than anything,” Kronauge said. “The team and coaching staff have worked so hard the last three years and we didn’t want the season to end today. It was an unbelievable feeling to win for Ohio State.”
With the win against the Bruins, Ohio State (36-1; 10-0 Big Ten), which has now won 28-consecutive matches, broke the program’s single-season wins mark of 35 triumphs set last season (2007-08; 35-2). The Buckeyes have defeated the Bruins (21-5) twice this year after defeating UCLA, 4-0, in a consolation match at the 2009 ITA Team Indoor Championships Feb. 15. The semifinal victory improves Ohio State to 3-1 all-time against the Bruins and snaps UCLA’s 14-match win streak.
Under 10th-year head coach Ty Tucker, the Buckeyes are now 22-9 overall in NCAA play. In 2009, Tucker has led Ohio State to its first national championship final appearance after taking the Buckeyes to four previous quarterfinal appearances in the tournament (2004, ’06, ’07, and ’08).
“It’s a great day and I couldn’t’ be more proud of the guys,” Tucker said. “We lost the doubles point, but we were able to battle back with some big wins. We need to rest up and come back out tomorrow ready to go. We got to be ready to roll.”
In doubles, the Buckeyes faced two Bruin duos ranked in the latest Campbell/ITA College Division I Rankings announced April 28. Ohio State dropped the doubles point against UCLA with losses at Nos. 2 and 1, respectively.
Senior tri-captain Bryan Koniecko and sophomore Shuhei Uzawa lost, 8-5, to No. 80 Amit Inbar and Srugo at No. 2 doubles. The loss snaps the Buckeye duo win streak of 14 matches and now has a 21-2 overall record.
At No. 1 doubles, Kronauge and 6-7 sophomore Matt Allare battled back against No. 52 Michael Look and Nick Meister to claim a break point after the 14th game, making the score 8-7 in the Buckeyes’ favor. However, the Bruin duo was able to tie the match at an even 8-8 and went on to defeat Kronauge and Allare 9-8 (1) in a super tiebreaker.
With the Buckeyes needing to win four singles matches to keep their national championship quest alive, senior tri-captain Steven Moneke was the first to strike back for the Scarlet and Gray. No. 9 Moneke, a two-time ITA All-American (’07 and ’08) downed No. 49 Haythem Abid in straight sets, 6-1, 6-3, at No. 2 singles to even the score at 1-1. Moneke improves to a team-best 40-4 overall and adds to his program record of 141 career singles victories in four years with Ohio State.
The Bruins went on to win the next two singles matches to put the Buckeyes on the edge of defeat. No. 100 Look defeated No. 74 Balazs Novak 6-4, 6-4, at No. 5 singles, while Holden Seguso downed No. 113 Allare, 6-3 7-6(2) in a second-set tiebreaker.
The Buckeye momentum then began with true freshman Chase Buchanan at No. 6 singles with a 6-3, 7-6 (5) win against Inbar. Buchanan, a native of New Albany, Ohio, improves to 11-3 overall this season after joining the squad in late March.
At No. 1 singles, two-time Big Ten Athlete of the Year (’08 and ’09) and third-ranked Koniecko defeated No. 64 Matt Brooklyn 6-1, 7-6 (4) in a second-set tiebreaker to force the score to 3-3. Koniecko’s win marks his first singles victory in NCAA play this year and he now has a 36-5 overall record.
“After we lost the two singles, we knew we didn’t have room to work with and there was some added pressure on our parts,” Koniecko said. “Chase did a great job and I knew I had to put the pressure on to give Kro’ a boost in his match. Justin did an unbelievable job for us today. It feels amazing to be the first team at Ohio State to make it this far. It’s been a long journey and after beating a team like UCLA that has been at the top of the charts in tennis, it’s a great feeling. We’ve worked so hard because we want to be known as that top team in the nation.”
Ohio State now prepares for its first national championship final against a hot USC squad. The Trojans (24-5), ranked eighth in the nation, defeated No. 12-seed Texas, 4-1, in the semifinals. USC downed top-ranked and undefeated Virginia (32-1), 4-0, in the quarterfinals of the championship. The Trojans have won 12 of their last 13 matches this season and lead the all-time series, 2-1, against the Buckeyes.
NCAA Division I Tennis Championships
May 18, 2009
George P. Mitchell Tennis Center
College Station, Texas
#3 Ohio State 4, #7 UCLA 3
RECORDS: Ohio State 36-1; UCLA 21-5
1. No. 3 Bryan Koniecko (OSU) def. No. 64 Matt Brooklyn (UCLA), 6-1, 7-6 (4)
2. No. 9 Steven Moneke (OSU) def. No. 49 Haythem Abid (UCLA), 6-1, 6-3
3. No. 25 Justin Kronauge (OSU) def. Harel Srugo (UCLA), 5-7, 6-3, 6-4
4. Holden Seguso (UCLA) def. No. 113 Matt Allare (OSU), 6-3, 7-6 (2)
5. No. 100 Michael Look (UCLA) def. No. 74 Balazs Novak (OSU), 6-4, 6-4
6. Chase Buchanan (OSU) def. Amit Inbar (UCLA), 6-3, 7-6 (5)
1. No. 52 Michael Look/Nick Meister (UCLA) def. Kronauge/Allare (OSU), 9-8 (1)
2. No. 80 Amit Inbar/Harel Srugo (UCLA) def. Uzawa/Koniecko (OSU), 8-5
3. Chase Buchanan/Steven Moneke (OSU) vs. Brooklyn/Seguso (UCLA), 7-6 DNF
ORDER OF FINISH:
Doubles: 2, 1
Singles: 2, 5, 4, 6, 1, 3
Ohio State will play for its first-ever national championship title in men’s tennis. The Buckeyes will face eighth-seeded USC on Tuesday, May 19 at 2 p.m. (CT) in College Station . The match will be televised live on ESPNU. Prior to Monday’s semifinal match against UCLA, OSU’s previous best-NCAA finish was a quarterfinal appearance in 2008.