No. 14 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Ohio State
REGIONAL CHAMPS... AGAIN
For the fifth consecutive year the Sooners advanced out of their regional and on to the final site of the NCAA Championships. Hosting for the eighth year in a row, Oklahoma knocked off Bryant and Mississippi State last weekend, giving up just one point in the process.
By virtue of their regional win, the 14th-seeded Sooners will face the tournament's No. 3 overall seed, Ohio State, on Thursday at 11 a.m. CT.
SCOUTING THE BUCKEYES
The Sooners are no strangers to Ohio State, having played the Bucks twice already this year. The first meeting came in the first round at the National Indoor Championships in Charlottesville, Va. OU dropped that meeting 4-0, but went on to snag two top-10 wins over Florida and Northwestern in the back draw. OU also traveled to Columbus on March 5 for a road meeting, falling 4-0. Senior Andrew Harris did not play in the second meeting due to injury.
With just three losses on the year, OSU ran through the Big 10 Championship en route to the conference title. The Buckeyes boast a pair of top-10 singles players and a pair of top-30 doubles tandems as well. Ohio State has won its last 15 matches, giving up just seven total points in that span.
THIS YEAR'S SOONERS
Oklahoma comes to Athens as one of the most experience teams in college tennis. OU boasts four players who have been a part of multiple national runner-up teams--seniors Florin Bragusi, Alex Ghilea and Andrew Harris and junior Spencer Papa---as well as a national indoor championship. The Sooners' veterans will feel right at home in Georgia, as they made their first NCAA finals run at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in 2014.
A trio of freshmen have proved quite productive for first-year head coach Nick Crowell. Jochen Bertsch, Adrian Oetzbach and Arnaud Restifo have all been crucial for the Sooners, racking up 28 singles wins and 13 doubles wins. Junior walk-on Mason Bridegan has also provided depth in doubles, with a 3-3 dual match record.
A trio of Sooners earned All-Big 12 honors for the 2017 season. Senior Alex Ghilea and junior Spencer Papa both earned a spot on the All-Big 12 First Team in singles while Papa and senior Andrew Harris earned a spot on the All-Big 12 Second Team in doubles.
Harris now boasts a total of seven All-Big 12 honors in his career, Ghilea has earned all-conference designation three times, while Papa makes his All-Big 12 debut.
The awards kept piling up this week as the ITA announced its regional awards on Tuesday. Senior Alex Ghilea was named the ITA Central Region Arthur Ashe, Jr. Sportsmanship and Leadership Award winner. The honor is given annually to the player who best exhibits outstanding sportsmanship and leadership as well as scholastic, extracurricular and tennis achievements.
Spencer Papa was named the ITA Central Region Player to Watch. To be named a Regional ITA Player to Watch, the player must have been ranked nationally or regionally and be one of the top returning regional players next year. Papa has played at No. 1 singles for most of the year for Oklahoma, racking up five ranked wins while facing the nation's top singles players week after week.
Rounding out the Sooners' honors, assistant coach Nate Feldman was named the ITA Central Region Assistant Coach of the Year. In his first year with the Sooners, Feldman has been a vital part of the Sooners' 2017 success.
The Sooners have improved their doubles play since the return of Andrew Harris. In fact, OU has won the doubles point in each of its last five matches, including both matches in regional play and two doubles point wins over top-10 teams in the Big 12 Tournament.
SOONERS IN THE RANKS
Oklahoma is up to three top-50 singles players - No. 24 Papa, No. 35 Harris and No. 47 Ghilea. Papa, an Edmond, Okla., native has been spectacular at No. 1 singles in the absence of Harris, going 7-5 at line one with two wins over top-10 singles players, Eduardo Perez of Florida and Juan Benitez of Baylor. Ghilea has skied up the ranks this year, as he began the season unranked. He is currently 18-3 in singles action, and Bragusi, ranked No. 113, is 15-6.
NEWCOMERS ADDING DEPTH
Four of OU's eight student-athletes had no collegiate playing experience coming into 2017, but they all have been contributors. Bertsch, Oetzbach, Restifo and Bridegan entered the season with zero combined collegiate wins, but they're up to a total of 28 in singles and 16 in doubles.
Bertsch has been a force in the middle and back end of the singles lineup with his 14-6 record. Oetzbach has found his game recently, winning three of his last four matches in crucial moments for OU at the No. 6 spot in earning his sixth and seventh singles victories of the season. Oetzbach, a Velbert, Germany, product notched his first career win over a ranked opponent when he took care of No. 109 Johannes Ingildsen of Florida in the Sooners' 4-3 win over the No. 7 Gators. Restifo earned his way into the lineup in February, and has continued to improve.