No. 4 Cal Defeats Ohio State, 4-0, to Advance to NCAA Quarterfinals
May 17, 2003
Athens, Georgia - The University of California men's tennis team (21-4) survived an extended rain delay and a pesky Ohio State squad in advancing to its 12th ever NCAA quarterfinal appearance, and first since 1991, with a 4-0 victory over the Buckeyes in this evening's NCAA Round of 16 match at Henry Field Stadium at the University of Georgia.
After dropping the doubles point in a 4-1 victory over Boise State in the NCAA Round of 32, the Bears looked to be on the verge of a second consecutive doubles loss to put them in an early hole. On court three, Conor Niland and Balazs Veress took control early, establishing a 4-1 lead over Phil Metz and Brenton Contini. The Ohio State duo cut the Cal lead to 5-2, but the Bear tandem persevered with three consecutive games to claim an 8-2 victory for the early advantage. Things were not looking so good for Cal on courts one and two, however, with both pairs facing deficits.
Patrick Briaud and John Paul Fruttero could not recover from a 5-2 deficit as the Buckeyes' tandem of Vincent Ng and Jeremy Wurtzman rolled to an 8-3 victory on court two to even things up at one match apiece. It came down to court one, as the Bears' top tandem of eighth-ranked Steve Berke and Robert Kowalczyk were in an early hole against Ohio State's Scott Green and Ross Wilson. The Buckeye duo looked to be in control from the get-go, cruising out to a 5-2 advantage. But Cal rallied to knot things at 6-6 and again at 7-7 to give the Bears a glimmer of hope. With the momentum now in their favor, Berke and Kowalczyk took two straight games to claim a 9-7 victory to hand Cal the 1-0 lead in dramatic fashion.
Pumped from the comeback doubles victory, the Bears took to the singles courts with a newfound sense of optimism. Cal jumped out to leads on courts four through six before the match entered a rain delay. The match finally resumed indoors after the completion of the Stanford-Tulane match, and the Bears returned to form, claiming first set victories on four of six courts.
In his first singles action since April 22 at the Pac-10 Championships, Steve Berke's return to the lineup was a welcome addition. He polished off Brenton Contini with a dominating 6-1, 6-2 performance on court five for the first singles victory for the Bears, extending Cal's lead to 2-0. Berke was never threatened in the victory, claiming 3-1 leads in both sets in the win. Senior All-American #57 Robert Kowalczyk followed Berke's lead with his own swift 6-1, 6-3 decision over Ross Wilson on court No. 6. After Kowalczyk's relatively easy first set victory, Wilson knotted the score at 2-2 in the second set before the Cal senior regained the lead at 4-2. Wilson cut the margin to 4-3, but that was as close as he would get as Kowalczyk closed it out in the match's later stages for the victory.
With the 3-0 lead, one more victory from the remaining four courts would seal the deal and set a date with Stanford in tomorrow's quarterfinals. #124 Balazs Veress was up to the challenge, clinching the match with his 7-5, 6-0 decision over Phil Metz on court four. Veress took a 3-0 lead in the early going, but Metz tied it up at 4-4. The Cal junior buckled down to claim a 7-5 first set victory before blanking Metz in the second set, 6-0, to win the match.
The three remaining matches were suspended with Veress' clinching victory. John Paul Fruttero was upended, 7-5, in his first set with #38 Vincent NG, but was in command with a 5-0 lead in the second set. #36 Conor Niland split the first two sets with #33 Jeremey Wurtzman and freshman Or Dekel was leading 2-0 in the third set against Dennis Mertens.
With the victory, Cal advances to a quarterfinal match with Bay Area rival Stanford at 3 p.m. (EST) Sunday, May 18. The two squads split the two meetings in 2003, with each team claiming 4-3 victories.
COMPLETE RESULTS:Doubles: (California wins point)1. #8 Berke/Kowalczyk (Cal) d. Green/Wilson (OSU), 9-7*2. Ng/Wurtzman (OSU) d. Briaud/Fruttero (Cal), 8-33. Niland/Veress (Cal) d. Contini/Metz (OSU), 8-2ORDER OF FINISH: 3, 2, 1** Clinched doubles point
Singles:1. John Paul Fruttero (Cal) vs. #38 Vincent Ng (OSU), DNF (5-7, 5-0)2. #36 Conor Niland (Cal) vs. #33 Jeremy Wurtzman (OSU), DNF (6-4, 3-6)3. Or Dekel (Cal) vs. Dennis Mertens (OSU), DNF (2-6, 6-2, 2-0)4. #124 Balazs Veress (Cal) d. Phil Metz (OSU), 7-5, 6-0*5. Steve Berke (Cal) d. Brenton Contini (OSU), 6-1, 6-26. #57 Robert Kowalczyk (Cal) d. Ross Wilson (OSU), 6-1, 6-3ORDER OF FINISH: 5, 6, 4** Clinched match