University of Minnesota-Twin Cities - Minneapolis, Minnesota
April 27-30, 2006

Friday, April 28, 2006-Day Two

The rains came and moved play indoors at the Big Ten Championships, but that didn't dampen the excitement as the quarterfinals finished with a match that came down to a few seconds in a marathon that lasted almost five hours.

I don't usually begin with the end. Today has to be the exception. The final match of the day between Minnesota and Penn State was what college tennis is all about. I'd like to say I've never seen anything like it, however, it reminded me a lot of last year's men's NCAA Championships when UCLA came from behind and took the match. Today the underdogs were actually Lions, the sixth-seeded Penn State Lions, who overcame a (huge) homecrowd against them to just barely squeeze it out in the end.

The rain brought play indoors to the Baseline Tennis Center where there were only six courts set up for viewing. It was decided that two matches would go on simultaneously so in the afternoon it was No. 7 Northwestern against No. 2 Illinois at the same time as the Minnesota/Penn State match. The Illini came out fighting, led by senior Ryler Deheart, who had just won his second consecutive Big Ten Athlete of the Year Award. They took the doubles point faster than Northwestern could say Wildcats and didn't spend too much longer at the singles. Freshman Marc Spicijaric did it quick and easy against Adam Schaecterle, 6-1,6-1 and Kevin Anderson, GD Jones and Ryler didn't take much longer. Only Ryan Rowe struggled a bit with a set-splitter, but by that time the Illini had one more point than they needed to take the match in a shutout.

No. 3 Minnesota and No. 6 Penn State were no where near finished when the other teams came off. In fact, they had another two hours to go. It was two hours of edge of your seat tennis that started with a doubles competition of side-by-side scores that weren't budging in anyone's favor. It was finally decided for Minnesota with an 8-6, a 9-7 and a deadheat of 8-8 left standing.

Singles for the two teams was not any easier. Michael James defeated Adrien Debreyne to even the score to 1-1, but before long Raoul Schwark got one for Minnesota and the Gophers were leading again. The next two came within the half hour with Andres Osorio of Minnesota and Mark Barry of Penn State bringing the hometeam back to 3-2. Then the fun began. Ryan Berger pulled off a 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 win and the match was again tied. It was down to the last match on the court -- for nearly another hour -- as the crowd grew and it looked like Penn State would be swallowed up in it. Brenden Lynch hung in there, and left the crowd without a winning team as he took out Sion Wilkins, 6-3,4-6,6-4.

Unfortunately, the problem with starting at the end is that the first matches of the day seem so much less exciting in retrospect, even though they really were not. No. 1 Ohio State had quite a challenge from the Wisconsin Badgers. Though the final score was 4-0 it does not tell the whole story. With the exception of top player Bryan Koniecko, who last night won the award for Big Ten Freshman of the Year, the Buckeyes just barely made it through their matches and the ones they left unfinished they were down a set on. Still, the win earned them a place in the semis tomorrow to prove their top seeding against Michigan.

No. 4 Michigan also had to struggle for their semifinal berth. It was Indiana who put up the fight and the Hoosiers kept it coming throughout the match. It was Brian Hung who sealed it with a 5-7,6-4,6-2 win over Dara McLoughlin.

It will be hard to top the excitement of today, but I'm sure there will be some great tennis tomorrow as four of the top six Big Ten men's teams battle it out for to make Sunday's finals.

Until Tomorrow,
Marcia Frost


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