What happened to the OU men’s tennis team this season can only be described as Sooner Magic.
The Sooners may not have been crowned national champions at season’s end, but the 2014 squad produced the best season the program has ever seen.
OU headed into 2014 fresh off its second straight Big 12 title and an appearance in the Sweet Sixteen at the NCAA Championships. The team had higher expectations than ever before and wanted to prove that Oklahoma could hang with the best of best.
And they did prove it, all season long.
OU started the season hot, winning six straight matches before falling to then-No. 2 UCLA Feb. 2. The Sooners never got off track, though, compiling four victories and giving up just nine points before their biggest challenge of the season visited Norman March 7.
Ohio State had claimed the No. 1 ranking for three weeks prior to trekking to Norman. The Buckeyes were on a 16-match win streak and had no intention of losing anytime soon. OU had another plan, however. After 3.5 hours of play, junior Dane Webb clinched the Sooners’ 4-2 victory over the Buckeyes.
This triumph not only marked the biggest win the program ever recorded, but the beginning of its historical season.
After beating the No. 1 ranked team, the Sooners reached another milestone when they landed the No. 1 ranking the week of March 19, a first for the program. OU was tested during conference play, but only suffered one loss at the hands of rival Texas on March 28.
A favorite to three-peat at the Big 12 Conference Championship, OU was the No. 2 seed and faced host-TCU in the first round. After sailing through the first and second rounds, OU looked at a rematch in the finals, facing Baylor for the third consecutive year in the championship match.
Despite being up 3-1 in the Big 12 finale, the Sooners were unable to hold on and suffered a 4-3 setback as the Bears captured their first Big 12 title since 2009.
After the loss, OU set its sights on the ultimate goal: a national championship. As the overall No. 2 seed, the Sooners were selected to host the first and second rounds of the tournament.
OU cruised through its first two matches, not dropping a single point. The Sooners then headed to Athens, Ga., to continue their hopes of claiming a national championship. Continuing their success, OU toppled Kentucky to advance to the Elite Eight where they faced the North Carolina Tar Heels.
UNC gave the Sooners their first honest test of the tournament. The Sooners lost the doubles point for the first time in the tournament and Webb had to make an aggressive comeback at the No. 3 spot to put OU back in the lead. After nearly five hours of play, freshman Alex Ghilea secured OU’s first-ever Final Four appearance with a 6-2, 6-0 victory.
In the semifinals, OU faced UCLA for a second time. However, the results would be reversed. Tied a 2-2, the match laid on the shoulders of Guillermo Alcorta and Ghilea. Both were forced to tiebreakers in their respective third sets and a loss would’ve sent OU packing. However, both prevailed, punching OU’s ticket to compete in the national championship.
The Sooners were looking at USC and its 21 national titles in the championship match. The odds were not in the Sooners’ favor, but they didn’t let that stop them from giving the Trojans all they could handle.
OU was up 2-0 after securing the doubles point and Webb continued his postseason dominance with a 6-1, 6-2 victory. USC chopped OU’s lead in half as Alcorta fell in the No. 1 spot. The Trojans tied it up when Alvarez dropped his match, putting the match in the hands of the back three courts.
Austin Siegel battled to force a third set but was unsuccessful, losing 6-1, 7-6(2). The Sooners tournament run then ended just short of the ultimate prize as Andrew Harris lost in his final set.
Despite the loss, 2014 was a monumental season for OU men’s tennis. This team accomplished more than any before them and has put this team on the map. With only two players departing, the Sooners are poised to build on the season as they head into 2015.