In Houston, the top-ranked Virginia men’s tennis team saw its bid for a sixth ITA National Team Indoor Championship come up short with a 4-3 semifinal loss to No. 5 Ohio State Sunday at the Downtown Club at the Met. The Cavaliers (6-1) had their school-record 36-match win streak snapped with the defeat, while the Buckeyes (12-0) advance to Monday’s final.
“It was a great match and I am really proud of the team,” said head coach Brian Boland. “This is exactly what we need this early in the season. It is the kind of situations we want to be in as we prepare for the rest of the season. Give Ohio State credit, they played a great match. There were a lot of momentum shifts and it could have gone either way.”
The Cavaliers took an early lead by winning a dramatic doubles point. At No. 1, Ohio State’s Peter Kobelt and Kevin Metka, the second-ranked team in the nation, downed Alex Domijan and Justin Shane, 6-3, to give the Buckeyes the early advantage.
The Cavalier pair of Mitchell Frank and Luca Corinteli topped Herrko Pollanen and Hunter Callahan, 6-2, at No. 2 to draw Virginia even. At No. 3, the team of Mac Styslinger and Thai-Son Kwiatkowski rallied from down an early break at 1-4 and saved two match points serving at 4-5 to force a tiebreaker against Chris Diaz and Ralf Steinbach. In the breaker, the Cavalier pair dominated, winning it 7-1 and giving Virginia the opening point of the dual match.
The match remained close in singles, with each side winning three first sets. The Buckeyes drew even in the match as Callahan defeated Jordan Daigle, 6-3, 6-4, at the No. 6 position. The Cavaliers retook the lead, 2-1, as Ryan Shane completed a 6-2, 6-5(5) victory at No. 3 singles over Pollanen.
The final four singles matches all went to a decisive third set. Domijan extended the lead to 3-1 as he downed Diaz 6-1, 5-6(1), 6-4 at No. 2. Ohio State answered with a victory at No. 1, where Kobelt topped Frank, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, to make the score 3-2.
The final two matches on the courts went to a third-set tiebreaker, with the Cavaliers needing to win just one to clinch the match. At No. 4, Steinbach edged Justin Shane, 4-6, 6-2, 6-5(5), to even the match at 3-3.
At No. 5, Kwiatkowski and Metka exchanged tiebreaker victories in the first two sets, with Metka winning the first and Kwiatkowski the second. In the third-set tiebreaker, both players had chances, as Kwiatkowski saved four match points and Metka saved two. On Metka’s fifth match point, he took advantage and clinched the 6-5(5), 5-6(5), 6-5(10) win that sent Ohio State into the semifinals.
“It was great to have a first-year out there in that situation so early in his career,” said Boland. “Hopefully it becomes a motivation for him. Thai handled it extremely well and really embraced the moment. How you handle adversity is how you grow as a player and how you grow as a team. We came up a little bit short today, but we are going to be a lot better later on because of it.”