Huskies Bound For Round of 16 After Wild 4-3 Win Over USC
May 14, 2005
- SEATTLE, Wash. - In a match that perfectly captured the back and forth nature of the sport, the Washington men's tennis team got the final momentum push and rallied to defeat the USC Trojans, 4-3, in the second round of the NCAA Championships today at Bill Quillian Stadium. For the fourth time in the past five years, the 12th-ranked Huskies (20-4) will be part of the final 16-team field which takes place this year in College Station, Texas. Second-seeded Virginia is next up for Washington in the Round of 16 on Saturday, May 21.
In winning the regional, the Huskies had to battle back against a deep and determined Trojan squad. Trailing 3-2, Washington needed third-set wins from senior Alex Vlaski at No. 1 singles, and sophomore Alex Slovic at No. 3 singles. The pair of Serbians-Vlaski from Belgrade and Slovic from Pancevo-proved up to the challenge, but not before some intense drama. Vlaski's match with 19th-ranked Jamil Al-Agba was farther along than Slovic's, and looked to be the more troubling of the pair. Serving down 2-3 in the final set, Vlaski lost his serve, but broke right back in the next game to get back on serve. The two continued to hold in tight service games, before Vlaski finally broke through at 5-5 when an Al-Agba groundstroke landed just long. Vlaski, the all-time winningest Husky, then served out the match for a 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 win, the 111th of his illustrious career and final home win.
Meanwhile, Slovic looked much more comfortable, rebounding from a heartbreaking first set which he lost in a tiebreak, 12 points to 10. Slovic, ranked 44th, had taken the second set, 6-2, without a hitch, and got another early break in the third set. Serving up 5-4 in the third and 40-0, Slovic had three match points to end things, but USC's Johan Berg saved each one then proceeded to break Slovic to add another level of tension just when things had looked safe for Washington. Berg took a 30-0 lead in the 11th game, but then missed a key volley, and Slovic recaptured the momentum, breaking Berg's serve and then holding his own in the next game to clinch the victory. After a forehand winner up the line on match point, the Huskies mobbed Slovic and Head Coach Matt Anger fell to the court in elation.
'I'm exhilarated, I'm relieved, a lot of emotion obviously,' Anger said. 'We missed (senior) Pete Scharler out there with the depth, and I'm hoping he's going to be ready to go next Saturday. Alex Slovic, he was not playing his best tennis, I think both guys were struggling out there, and it was just a matter of just hanging in there and getting it toughed out in the end. This court here, (the number one court of UW's Alex Vlaski and USC's Jamil Al-Agba) had great tennis but it was just back and forth, back and forth. Alex Vlaski, he's something else. I don't think people here realize what they are going to miss.'
Also pivotal to Washington's success today and all year long was senior Christoph Palmanshofer. In a rematch against 55th-ranked Drew Hoskins, who defeated 65th-ranked Palmanshofer in a third-set tiebreak during conference play, Palmanshofer was all business, defeating Hoskins 6-4, 6-3 at No. 2 singles. The win stemmed the tide of what was a tough start to singles play for the Huskies, as USC had already picked up wins at fifth and sixth singles and taken first sets on Nos. 3 and 4. Palmanshofer's 23 singles wins and 17 dual play singles wins are both team-highs.
In the day's early doubles play, Washington came out and took control of the top two doubles matches to clinch the doubles point that would prove to be crucial. The 18th-ranked team of Slovic and sophomore Daniel Chu downed the No. 35 team of Al-Agba and Berg, 8-3, while Vlaski and Palmanshofer upset the 52nd-ranked team of Hoskins and Adam Loucks, 8-2.
The winners from each NCAA Regional across the country now converge on College Station, Texas for the remainder of the championship from May 21-24. The Huskies have reached the Round of 16 on three previous occasions (2001, 02, 03) but have never advanced to the quarterfinal round. The match time for the Washington-Virginia match has not been revealed.
NCAA Div. I Men's Tennis Championships - Second Round
#12 Washington vs. #21 USC
May 14, 2005 - Bill Quillian Stadium - Seattle, Wash
Washington 4, USC 3
Doubles (UW wins point)
1. (18) Chu/Slovic (UW) def. (35) Al-Agba/Berg (USC), 8-3*
2. Vlaski/Palmanshofer (UW) def. (52) Hoskins/Loucks (USC), 8-2
3. Ricks/Kuharszky (UW) vs. Kazarian/Van't Hof (USC)
Order of Finish: 2, 1
1. (6) Alex Vlaski (UW) def. (19) Jamil Al-Agba (USC), 6-3, 3-6, 7-5
2. (65) Christoph Palmanshofer (UW) def. (55) Drew Hoskins (USC), 6-4, 6-3
3. (44) Alex Slovic (UW) def. (92) Johan Berg (USC), 6-7 (10), 6-2, 7-5*
4. Kaes Van't Hof (USC) def. Daniel Chu (UW), 6-3, 7-6 (6)
5. Brian Wright (USC) def. Chris Floyd (UW), 6-1, 6-1
6. Adam Loucks (USC) def. Andy Kuharszky (UW), 6-3, 6-2
Order of Finish: 5, 6, 2, 4, 1, 3