NCAA Tournament Round of 16
#2 UCLA Men's Tennis (24-2)
Opponent: #29 Stanford (15-10)
When: 5:00 PM PDT, Friday, May 20, 2016
Where: Michael D Case Tennis Center, Tulsa, OK
Video: Tulsa Live Stream
Live Stats: Tulsa Live Stats
Last year the Bruins waltzed into the third round of the NCAA Tournament after sweeping the competition in the first two rounds. But the Bruins stumbled at the third hurdle, with Oklahoma ending UCLA's 2015 NCAA Tournament run.
So far, the Bruins have followed the same script in the 2016 NCAA Tournament. An opening round 4-0 victory over Weber State was followed by a 4-0 win over San Diego. Up next is a familiar foe: Stanford.
The Bruins and the Cardinal have already played three times this season. On each occasion, UCLA has finished on top. There's no reason to expect a different result today, but as Stanford has already proven once this season, it can be a very difficult opponent.
Although the Bruins swept the Toreros in the second round, it wasn't a cakewalk. The doubles point came down to a tiebreaker on court 3. Maxime Cressy and Austin Rapp broke serve late in the dual to pull even with the Torero pair, and in the tiebreaker, Rapp and Cressy built a big lead that the Toreros couldn't erase, thereby claiming the crucial first point of the match for UCLA.
In singles, UCLA looked strong on the bottom courts and struggled on the top courts. Karue Sell, Logan Staggs, and Joseph Di Giulio won their first set handily, while Mackenzie McDonald and Gage Brymer both needed tiebreakers to earn first set victories. Meanwhile on court 2, Martin Redlicki dropped his opening set.
Thanks to UCLA's strength on courts 4, 5, and 6, the Bruins' uneven play on the top courts didn't matter. Playing fast as usual, Karue Sell earned UCLA's second point of the day with an impressive 6-0, 6-1 victory on court 4. Joseph Di Giulio claimed UCLA's third point shortly thereafter, dispatching his opponent 6-2, 6-1 on court 6. Logan Staggs then clinched UCLA's fourth point and the match with an efficient 6-3, 6-2 win on court 5.
When the match was decided, McDonald was up a set on court 1, Redlicki was even on court 2, and Brymer was up a set on court 3 though down a break in the second set.
Stanford's path to the Sweet 16 has been more difficult. The Cardinal eliminated Notre Dame with a comfortable 4-1 victory in the first round before pulling off a 4-3 upset of 14th-seed Northwestern in the second round.
As mentioned at the outset, UCLA is 3-0 against Stanford this season. The Bruins first victory over the Cardinal dates back to late February. On that afternoon in Palo Alto, UCLA struggled to put Stanford away. The Bruins lost the doubles point, fought back with three straight singles points from Sell, McDonald, and Redlicki, and then let the Cardinal come back to tie the match before Logan Staggs earned the deciding point.
A little over a month later, UCLA overcame a slow start at home to defeat Stanford 4-1. Once again, Stanford claimed the doubles point, but this time, UCLA strung together four straight singles wins (Staggs, Sell, Redlicki, Di Giulio) to secure the win.
UCLA's most recent encounter with the Cardinal was in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals. Again, Stanford won the doubles point. Again, UCLA roared back with fourth straight victories in singles (Sell, Di Giulio, McDonald, Brymer) to move on to the conference tournament championship match.
The good news for the Bruins is that over the course of the season, every one of Coach Martin's singles players except Gage Brymer has beaten his Stanford opponent at least twice. Or to put it another to highlight UCLA's dominance over Stanford in singles, only Di Giulio and Brymer have lost a singles contest against a Stanford opponent in 2016.
UCLA has the firepower and the focus to down Stanford for a fourth time in 2016. If the Bruins can keep their perfect record against the Cardinal intact today, they will face the winner of 11th-seed Oklahoma and 6th-seed Wake Forest in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals on Sunday.