Top Husky Moments Of 2009: NCAA Comeback
Dec. 23, 2009
It was the equivalent of a 30-point halftime deficit on the basketball court or the gridiron. If there was a run rule in tennis similar to softball, the Texas Tech Red Raiders had the clinching run on third needing one more base to sew up the blowout win.
In other words, things were grim for the Husky men's tennis team in the first round of the 2009 NCAA Championships, May 8th in Austin, Texas. Washington, seeking its first tourney win since 2006, quickly fell into a 0-3 hole against Texas Tech, as the Red Raiders took the doubles point, and won the top two singles matches emphatically.
Meanwhile, at fifth and sixth singles, senior Ryo Sekiguchi and sophomore Tobi Obenaus were quickly down a set, losing 6-2 and 6-1 respectively in their openers. The Huskies did manage to get on the positive side at No. 3 singles, where Martin Kildahl earned a 6-2 first set win, and junior Derek Drabble came back from 5-2 down in his first set with five straight games to take a 7-5 lead at No. 4 singles. But just as quickly those two lost their second sets to make the road back even longer.
In the best of seven showdown, Washington needed to win all four remaining matches, including comebacks from Sekiguchi and Obenaus who had been so outclassed early. Facing Milos Kustudja at the No. 6 spot, Obenaus fell behind again in set two, and Kustudja took a 5-3 edge, and held a pair of match points up 40-15 on his own service. One last miscue by Obenaus on either of the two points and UW's season would be over with an inglorious 4-0 sweep.
Somehow Obenaus managed to stave off the match points, and wound up getting the break of serve. He forced a second set tiebreak, and took the breaker 7-2. Washington was still alive, but it was still a long climb back. Sekiguchi raised his level of play in the No. 5 match, and forced a third set with a 6-4 win over Michael Breler. That meant all four matches would come down to third and final sets.
Obenaus' survival energized his teammates, and surprisingly, the Texas heat coupled with the likely disbelief at still being on the court seemed to wilt the Red Raiders moreso than the men from the Pacific Northwest. Consequently, the third sets turned into a route equally as one-sided in the Huskies' favor as the first sets had been for Texas Tech.
The matches went off court in perfect order, with Kildahl finishing his match with a 6-3 third set win at No. 3. Drabble followed with a 6-1 victory at No. 4, and Sekiguchi rolled to a 6-1 win as well at No. 5. Finally, Obenaus touched off the wild celebration with yet another 6-1 third set route.
Although the Huskies were unable to get past 12th-seeded Texas the next day (the Longhorns reached the NCAA semis), the win will forever be one of the greatest comebacks in program history, and a lesson in fighting to the last point for the four Huskies that return from that match for the 2010 season.
'It is, for sure, the greatest comeback that I've been a part of. This was special,' said head coach Matt Anger. 'As the match was going on, I thought maybe we were more ready and able to handle the weather. We were trying to finish the right way. If someone is going to get you, they have to earn it.'