Oklahoma ousts UNC men in NCAA quarterfinals
North Carolina put itself in position Sunday to earn its first trip to the semifinals of the NCAA men’s tennis championships. The seventh-seeded Tar Heels took an early lead against No. 2 Oklahoma, but couldn’t close out the Sooners.
Playing in Georgia’s Lindsay Hopkins Indoor Courts due to rain, UNC won the doubles point and took the first set in a couple of singles matches. The Sooners promptly bounced back and advanced to the semis for the first time, winning 4-2.
“You’ve got to credit Oklahoma, they beat us in some of our best spots,” UNC coach Sam Paul said. “What a heck of a match.”
The Tar Heels (27-6), playing in the quarters for the first time since 1992, were trying to match the UNC women by advancing to the Final Four. The No. 7-seed women (28-5) will face 11th-seeded Stanford (20-2) today at 1 p.m.
North Carolina took a 1-0 lead into the singles after winning the doubles point. Carolina’s No. 3 team of Jack Murray and Ronnie Schneider won 8-6 and about two minutes later, at No. 1, Brett Clark and Brayden Schnur won 8-5.
Oklahoma picked up wins at Nos. 3 and 4 singles to give the Sooners a 2-1 advantage.
UNC’s Schneider, at No. 2, won a grinding first set 9-7 in the tiebreaker, holding off three set points. Then Schneider didn’t win another game. Oklahoma’s Axel Alvarez, ranked No. 7, won 6-7, 6-0, 6-0, putting the Sooners up 3-1.
“That guy caught fire and we couldn’t put it out,” Paul said.
Schnur and fifth-ranked Guillermo Alcorta were locked in a marathon at No. 1, where every game was like an epic mini-series. After losing the first set in a tiebreaker, Schnur won the second, and the third was on serve until 5-all. Schnur fought off a match point on his serve at 4-5, hitting a big second serve up the stripe for a service winner.
Schnur started hitting harder and playing more aggressive after that, and with good results. He held for 5-all and broke Alcorta for a 6-5 lead after Alcorta double faulted on break point. Schnur then served out the match to make it 3-2.
That left two matches on the court, but not for long. Oklahoma’s Alexandru Ghilea closed out UNC’s Nelson Vick with little trouble, sending the Sooners onward with a 6-2, 6-0 win.
“Our guys didn’t quit and I’m so proud of my guys,” Paul said. “The saddest thing is that the year’s got to end some time and I don’t have a chance to work with these guys again as a whole team. It’s been certainly one of the best, if not the best group I’ve ever had.”
The season isn’t over for all the Tar Heels. Freshmen Schnur and Schneider will play in the singles tournament later this week and Schnur and Clark are in the doubles field.