The top-ranked UCLA men’s tennis team was put through the wringer on Monday against Ohio State, but came out clean with a spot in tomorrow’s national championship. If the Bruins can win one more match, it’ll mean national title No. 109 for UCLA—an NCAA-best mark that has been stuck at 108 for close to two years.
The Bruins topped the Buckeyes, 4-3, after sophomore Marcos Giron clinched the match on a third-set service break. Ohio State was the first team to score any points against UCLA in the NCAA Tournament, claiming three singles matches after dropping the doubles point. But as the pressure mounted, the upset-minded Bucks couldn’t quite hang with the No. 1 team in the nation. The decisive point for Giron came on an OSU double fault with the match tied 3-3, bringing the most intense match of the season to a sudden and unfulfilling end.
The victory bumped the Bruins’ record to 29-1 in 2013, and kept their winning streak alive at 20 consecutive matches. Most importantly, it earned UCLA a shot at its first national title since 2005 versus No. 2 Virginia at 2 PM PST tomorrow.
Despite a lower ranking, the Cavaliers have the most compelling case for being the top team in the country over the Bruins. UVA is a perfect 29-0 on the year, including a seventh straight undefeated ACC season and conference tournament crown. Virginia only allowed three points twice this season, once against the very same Ohio State team that gave UCLA fits earlier today.
This really is the most appropriate pairing there could have been for the national championship—No. 1 vs. No. 2, 29-1 vs. 29-0, Pac-12 Champs vs. ACC Champs. Whoever gets the quick start tomorrow by nabbing the doubles point will be in the driver’s seat for the title. Both squads have been essentially unbeatable this year, but something’s got to give.
UCLA may have the upper hand with history, owning 16 NCAA Championships to UVA’s zero, but the Cavs do have the edge when it comes to experience. This Virginia team has finished national runner-up in each of the last two seasons, falling victim to Southern Cal’s four-peat title run twice, so they know what it’s like under the brightest lights.
Will tomorrow be the day that UVA claims its first ever Division I men’s tennis title? Or will the Bruins play up to their billing and take home banner No. 17?
We’ll have to wait and see, but one thing is for sure—tomorrow’s champion will be the best in the land, unequivocally.
Go Bruins! Beat Virginia!
The above image is courtesy of the official UCLA men’s tennis Twitter page.