NORMAN, Okla. – The No. 41 Texas Tech men's tennis team dug deep and rattled off a quartet of three-set victories at the top of the lineup to snatch a gritty 4-3 comeback win over No. 8 Oklahoma State during Friday's Big 12 Conference Semifinal Round at the Headington Family Tennis Center.
The Red Raiders (13-14) dialed up their third straight win over a Top 10 opponent in a seven-day span and will play in the Big 12 Championship Match for the second consecutive year. The victory for Texas Tech also ended a two-match losing skid to the Cowboys (21-6) and gave second-year head coach Brett Masi a win over every Big 12 opponent.
"It doesn't matter how they win, our guys are leaving it all out there on the court," Masi said. "I told them at the beginning of the match, 'We don't have anywhere else to go. If we don't win, we don't have the rest of our season.' We have a couple seniors in Jolan and Carlos that know that any day can be their last day. I can't be any more proud of them than I was today. Our guys just didn't give up, and our guys didn't stop fighting. Even when we lost those close matches in doubles and tight first set in singles, we came back and won the matches."
Texas Tech squares off with top-seed and No. 4 TCU, a 4-1 semifinal winner over No. 15 Oklahoma, during Saturday's final. First serve is set for 11 a.m.
Facing a 2-0 deficit, the Red Raiders began their climb back into the match. Connor Curry put Texas Tech on the scoreboard and reeled off the last three games of a 6-0, 3-6, 6-3 triumph against Tristan Meraut in the No. 4 position.
The Red Raiders drew even at 2-2 when Alex Sendegeya captured a 7-6 (4), 1-6, 6-1 victory over No. 110 Lucas Gerch on court three. A key for Sendegeya was closing out the first set tiebreaker with five of the last six points. He also fired out to a 5-0 advantage during the third set en route to his team-leading 15th dual-match singles win.
Texas Tech grabbed a 3-2 advantage as No. 79 Bjorn Thomson outlasted No. 103 Arjun Kadhe in a hard-fought 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 battle at the No. 2 spot. Thomson won the last two games of set two and carried that momentum to a 5-2 edge in the winner-take-all third frame. He overcame a pair of tough overrules by the chair umpire on match points to improve to 14-3 on the dual season.
"Connor got off to a racing start, beating the guy 6-0 in the first," Masi said. "Then, he had a little bit of a mental blip in the second but got right back engaged in the third. He play tough and had some easy service holds. Connor was ready to break the entire time and got one at 4-3 when his opponent double faulted. Then, he played a great service game at the end."
"Bjorn has been battling a lot of demons," Masi continued. "This guy has been playing so incredible well. He had three match points, faced some really close calls (ahead 5-3) and didn't get it. Bjorn came over at the changeover and said to me 'I'm still up 5-4'. He went out and broke the guy to win the match. A quick turnaround in terms of his belief and not necessarily thinking about losing those three match points. He just went out and overcame it."
The Cowboys responded with a 6-4, 7-6 (6) win courtesy of No. 76 Lukas Finzelberg againstJackson Cobb on the No. 6 line.
The deciding point came down to a pair of Top 30 players on court one. It was OSU and No. 24 Julian Cash who struck first with a 10-8 first-set tiebreaker win. No. 29 Cailleau answered the bell for the Red Raiders and captured a 6-4 second-set win. He was able to open up a 3-0 lead and closed out the 6-1 rout in the third set to secure his third straight win over a Top 20 opponent.
"Jolan has been climbing up the latter left and right with the wins he's racking up," Masi said. "That's what you want is your senior leadership playing at No. 1. He's leading the program, leading the troops and doing an awesome job. He was very patient and very diligent during the last points I watched in the third set. He had his drop shots working, he loves those things. I thought he played a very persistent and consistent match against Julian and didn't let his opponent have anything."
The Cowboys used a pair of late surges to claim the doubles point. Gerch and Jurence Mendoza registered a break to clinch a 6-4 decision versus Cailleau and DiLaura at the No. 2 slot.
At the top of the lineup, No. 6 Cash and Kadhe pieced together the last three points of the tiebreaker to slip past No. 11 Curry and Thomson by an 8-6 margin.
Play was halted at 9-9 in the tiebreaker during the Cobb-Sendegeya and Dubinki- Meraut matchup on court three.
Oklahoma State stretched its advantage to 2-0 when Artur Dubinski knocked off Carlos DiLaura by a 7-6 (4), 6-2 margin on court five.
Texas Tech faces No. 4 TCU in Saturday's final at the 2017 Big 12 Championships. First serve is scheduled for 11 a.m.
The Red Raiders have fallen in their last two matchup versus the Frogs which include a 4-2 decision in the finals of the 2016 Big 12 Championships and by a 4-0 scoreline on April 13 this season in Fort Worth.
"First and foremost, it's a final," Masi said. "I was told early on in my career 'If you get to a final, anything can happen.' I'm hoping that's the case. I think our guys deserve to be here and have reached a great point. We just need to go out and keep playing the same way – don't change a thing just because we're playing TCU. We didn't change anything today, and we can't change anything tomorrow. We just have to go out there, play hyped, play with that same desperation in a win-or-go-home situation and see where the cards lie. At the end of the day, if we can duplicate our effort and put a little pressure on them, my hope is we will come out on top."
No. 41 Texas Tech 4, No. 8 Oklahoma State 3
April 28, 2017 – Headington Family Tennis Center (Norman, Okla.)
1 – No. 29 Jolan Cailleau (TTU) defeats No. 24 Julian Cash (OSU): 6-7 (8), 6-4, 6-1
2 – No. 79 Bjorn Thomson (TTU) defeats No. 103 Arjun Kadhe (OSU): 3-6, 6-4, 6-4
3 – Alex Sendegeya (TTU) defeats No. 110 Lucas Gerch (OSU): 7-6 (4), 1-6, 6-1
4 – Connor Curry (TTU) defeats Tristan Meraut (OSU): 6-0, 3-6, 6-3
5 – Artur Dubinski (OSU) defeats Carlos DiLaura (TTU): 7-6 (4), 6-2
6 – No. 76 Lukas Finzelberg (OSU) defeats Jackson Cobb (TTU): 6-4, 7-6 (6)
Order of finish: 5, 4, 3, 2, 6, 1
1 – No. 6 Julian Cash/Arjun Kadhe (OSU) defeats No. 11 Connor Curry/Bjorn Thomson (TTU):
2 – Lucas Gerch/Jurence Mendoza (OSU) defeats Jolan Cailleau/Carlos DiLaura (TTU): 6-4
3 – Jackson Cobb/Alex Sendegeya (TTU) vs. Artur Dubinki/Tristan Meraut (OSU): 6-6 (9-9), unfinished