Opponent: #1 Oklahoma (26-2)
When: Thursday, May 14, 7:00 AM PDT
Where: Hurd Tennis Center, Waco, TX
Watch Online: Baylor Live Video
Live Stats: Baylor Live Stats
Live Blog: Baylor In-Match Blog
UCLA Resources: UCLA Official Preview
NCAA Resources: NCAA Tournament Program | NCAA Bracket
The #16 UCLA Bruins will battle the #1 Oklahoma Sooners this morning in a third round NCAA tournament match. The Bruins will definitely have to bring their A-game today if they are going to upset an exceptionally strong Sooners squad.
The Bruins Blank the Red Raiders
UCLA played one of its best matches of the season in thumping #19 Texas Tech 4-0 in the second round NCAA tournament contest.
In doubles, the Bruins' partnership of Joseph Di Giulio and Karue Sell snared a quick 8-1 win on court 2, but the other two matchups were much tighter. Eventually Dennis Mkrtchian and Austin Rapp ended up squeezing by their opponents in a tiebreaker, 8-7(1), to clinch the doubles point for the Bruins.
UCLA jumped out to an early lead in singles too, with the Bruins winning the first set on every court except court 2. Austin Rapp secured the first singles point for UCLA, finishing 6-4, 6-4. Shortly thereafter, Joseph Di Giulio claimed the second singles point for UCLA with a 6-3, 6-4 victory on court 6. Karue Sell then earned the decisive fourth point of the match when he put away his opponent 6-3, 7-5.
When the outcome was decided, Mackenzie McDonald was leading on court 1, and Martin Redlicki was one game away from victory on court 3. The win improved UCLA's record to 17-9, and earned the Bruins a trip to Waco for a round of 16 match against Oklahoma. The Bruins enter the match with back-to-back shutouts of tournament opponents.
Scouting the Sooners
Oklahoma has the best men's tennis team in the nation. In addition to being the top-ranked team in the most recent ITA rankings, the Sooners have the nation's top-ranked player in junior Axel Alvarez Llamas. Oklahoma also has the seventh-ranked player (Andrew Harris), the 44th-ranked player (Dane Webb) and the 103rd-ranked player (Alexandru Ghilea).
Oklahoma's 26 wins include a pair of impressive wins against #2 Baylor, a victory over #3 Virginia, a defeat of #6 TCU, a win against #8 USC and two victories against #9 Texas. The good news is that both of the Sooners' losses occurred in Texas, and one of them came courtesy of the Texas Tech Red Raiders. The bad news is that Oklahoma is 3-0 in Waco.
Oklahoma advanced to the Round of 16 with a 4-0 win against New Mexico State and a 4-1 victory over Northwestern.
The Sooners will probably use the following lineup against UCLA this morning:
- No. 57 Harris/Ghilea
- No. 1 Axel Alvarez
- No. 7 Andrew Harris
- No. 44 Dane Webb
- No. 103 Alex Ghilea
- Spencer Papa
- Florin Bragusi
What to Expect
Everything about the circumstances of this match favors the Sooners: the place, the time, the weather. However, UCLA has been playing better tennis since the start of the tournament, and should be carrying some confidence into this match. As I noted above, the Sooners lost to the Red Raiders earlier this year, so the Bruins know that if they keep playing good tennis and have some early success in today's match, they can pull off an upset.
That said, it's hard to look past the Sooners' exceptional success in big matches this season. If the Bruins are going to find a way to win today, it has to start with doubles, and the key matchup is likely going to be on court 1, where Mackenzie McDonald and Martin Redlicki will face Andrew Harris and Alexandru Ghilea. In singles, the Bruins probably need to get points from Karue Sell and Mackenzie MacDonald, and then will need another one of the singles matches to go their way. If the Bruins have early success in this match, they have the talent to take Oklahoma to the wire.
Prediction: Oklahoma 4, UCLA 2.