Top Seed Tulsa Narrowly Avoids Upset In C-USA Quarters
April 20, 2012
ORLANDO - The No. 23-ranked University of Tulsa men's tennis team avoided an early-round exit by narrowly defeating host UCF 4-3 Friday morning in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA Men's Tennis Championship.
The Golden Hurricane (16-8) won its sixth-straight match and will face either No. 4 UAB or No. 5 Tulane at 8 a.m. (CT) April 21. UCF (10-13) lost to TU for the second time this season, as the Golden Hurricane handed the Knights a 7-0 loss April 7 in Tulsa.
TU has now won 10 of its last 11 matches overall, and the team improved to 18-1 (.947) at the league tournament.
"We dodged a major bullet today. It's always difficult playing down here in the heat and humidity," Tulsa Head Coach Vince Westbrook said. "The guys came back strong following a slow start in singles, and we were very solid in doubles.
"My hat goes off to UCF and coach Bobby Cashman. This team always plays extremely tough at home, so this isn't anything we weren't expecting. We're just glad we were able to get out of this one and advance to the semifinals."
The match began with singles action due to the threat of impending weather in the Orlando area, but they would still require the all-important doubles point to decide the winner.
The early action saw Tulsa fall in five of the six first sets, but the Golden Hurricane was able to come back and win three singles matches to send proceedings into doubles play.
Junior Tristan Jackson and freshman Lucian Gheorghe gave the home side a quick 2-0 lead as the two members of the Golden Hurricane fell in straight sets at the fifth and sixth positions, respectively.
Mario Samson snapped Jackson's career-best 10-match win streak with a 7-6 (7-1), 6-2 triumph, and Joe Delinks topped Gheorghe 7-6 (7-5), 6-1.
Senior Ashley Watling, the No. 85-ranked singles player, put Tulsa on the board with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Mitch Thams on the third court. Junior Grant Ive tied the match at 2-2 by topping Juan Bolona 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 from the fourth court.
The top two courts remained in third sets following Ive's triumph, and the teams split those matches.
No. 103-ranked sophomore Japie De Klerk lost to Jorge Blasco 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 at the top of the order to put the Golden Hurricane on the brink of a storied upset, but No. 94 junior Clifford Marsland sent the match to doubles with a 0-6, 6-3, 7-5 win over Erik Brunskog at the second position.
After the scare in singles play, Tulsa put the clamps on and took control in doubles.
De Klerk and freshman Alejandro Espejo made quick work of Bolona and Matthew Gladstone with an 8-1 triumph on the third court, and Ive and Jackson sent Tulsa into the semifinals with an 8-5 win over Blasco and Samson at the second position.
The No. 1 doubles match was halted with Tulsa's ninth-ranked Watling and Marsland leading Delinks and Thams 5-4.
Tulsa has advanced to the C-USA Championship match all six years that the Golden Hurricane has been a member of the league.
The Golden Hurricane won its third-straight match that ended in a 4-3 decision. This was also the first time TU has ever won a 4-3 match in the conference tournament.
Watling now has 84 singles victories, which gives him 84 for his career and ties him with Layn Phillips (1970-74) for seventh all-time in school history.
Tennis Match Results Apr 20, 2012 at Orlando, Fla. (UCF Tennis Complex)
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