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Semifinals set on exciting Day 2 at TOC Nationals


2018 UNC quarterfinal

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Tennis On Campus National Championship semifinals are set at the USTA National Campus after an exciting second day of competition in the Sunshine State.

University of California - San Diego, Ohio State University and Stanford will all go in search of their first national crown, while the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will look to pick up its third title and first since 2001.

UC San Diego reached the semis with a 25-16 win over Cal Poly San Luis Obispo; Ohio State defeated Illinois, 24-21; Stanford defeated Cornell, 26-22; and UNC toppled UCLA, 27-24. 

San Diego will now play Ohio State on Saturday morning for a spot in the final, while Stanford and UNC will contest the other semifinal.

The championship match will be played at 6 p.m. ET and streamed live on the USTA’s YouTube account.

Two of Friday’s four quarterfinals were decided in overtime, with a third coming down to the mixed doubles after being deadlocked after the first four matches. Only one match – UC San Diego’s win over fellow Southern California rivals Cal Poly San Luis Obispo – was relatively smooth sailing for the victors.

UNC and UCLA were tied at 24-24 after the first four matches, leaving the entire outcome of the match riding on the mixed doubles.

Sophomore Holleman Hughes and freshman Ellie Johnson came through for the Tar Heels, beating Alex Gaal and Michelle Hao, 6-4, to send UNC into the final four.

“It’s really awesome, it’s a dream come true,” UNC captain Connor Cooke said. “We’re in the final four. This was a big team effort: the singles and doubles pairs have kept it close, and the mixed team has been closing it out.

“We joked that we lost years off our life watching that match. We were all jittery, even Holleman, who was playing, said he was shaking up there while he was serving. Once it happened, I was in disbelief. I was on cloud nine.”

There was similar late drama in Stanford’s victory over Cornell. Big Red led by one game after the two doubles matches, but the Cardinal won the men’s and women’s singles to give Stanford a five-game advantage headed into mixed doubles.

Cornell freshmen Kevin Zhang and Olia Javidi then claimed the mixed doubles, 6-4, to cut the deficit to three games and send the match to overtime, but Stanford senior Kevin Haugh and freshman Catherine Areklett won the very next game to seal the victory.

There was also overtime in Ohio State’s win. Illinois trailed, 18-14, going into mixed doubles, meaning the Fighting Illini had to win both the final match and then overturn the deficit in overtime.

Illinois sophomore Erik Ratta and graduate student Milica Hadzi-Tanovic won their mixed doubles match, 6-5, and then won the first overtime game to cut the arrears to 23-21, before freshman Noah Stern and junior Natasha Birze picked up the one game they needed to complete the victory.

“That one was really close. I’m a little stressed,” Ohio State club tennis president Izzi Nejedlik said. “I was expecting it to be even worse than it ended up being, so I’m very happy.

“We’re so excited. We came into this thinking Top 10 would be amazing. Then each round we progressed, we’re thinking maybe Top 5. Now we’re Top 4. The best we’ve ever done was 18th two years ago, so this is huge.”

In the final quarterfinal, UC San Diego won four of its five matches – the only one it dropped was women’s singles – in completing a 25-16 victory.

“It’s fantastic,” said UC San Diego captain Alexander Loh, who praised his team after improving from the club that finished 23rd and competed in the silver bracket one year ago

“The thing I love the most is how both teams are from SoCal and that both teams were cheering as loud as they could and giving all the support they could to the players, and that was amazing. We managed to get an edge over [Cal Poly San Luis Obispo], but I love how it’s SoCal representing themselves. It’s just fantastic. Getting to the semifinals is amazing. It’s everything we wanted and then more."