NORMAN – Sooner Magic keeps rolling on at the 2017 NCAA Men's Division I Doubles Championship in Athens, Ga.
Senior Andrew Harris and junior Spencer Papa took down the nation's No. 4-ranked tandem in the NCAA semifinals round Sunday to earn a chance to play for the national championship on Monday.
The Sooners' newly-minted All-America duo split sets one and two with Wake Forest's Skander Mansouri and Christian Seraphim, seeded No. 4, and then clinched the match in a superbreaker. The deciding frame was back and forth from the start, with OU leading by three points early and then having to fight off two match points before ultimately winning 12-10 to earn their shot at the title.
"I am enjoying every moment of this. This is my last college match ever."
- Senior Andrew Harris
"Whenever you are playing Skander and Christian from Wake you know you are playing one of the best serving teams in the country," Oklahoma head coach Nick Crowell said. " They're serving 125-130 mph. You are trying your best to get those returns past the net guy and it took us a little while to get a read on those serves. Once we did we locked in a broke in the second set."
Harris and Papa, ranked No. 15 in the nation as a pair, are the first Sooners ever to make the NCAA final in either doubles or singles. OU's top duo has racked up wins over teams ranked No. 23, No. 6, No. 3 and No. 4 during their run to the title match.
A slow start to the first set yielded a 6-3 loss for Harris and Papa, but OU charged out of the gate in the second set. The Sooners broke Wake early to take the lead, but the Demon Deacons challenged OU the rest of the way, forcing five separate break points. Harris and Papa defended them all and took the second 6-4 to force the breaker. OU won three of the match's five deuce points on the day.
OU jumped out to a 5-2 lead early in the breaker, but Wake again clawed its way back, eventually taking the lead and putting OU on the brink with match points at 9-8 and 10-9. OU defended both, including one on Wake's serve, and won the last three points of the breaker to take the win.
"In the second we fought off a lot of break points and got it to a superbreaker," Crowell said. "Once you get to that super tiebreaker its anybody's game. We stepped it up when we were down 8-9 and 9-10 and then closed out the match."
“We were just able to pull through,” Papa said. “It is not every day you get to play for an NCAA Championship, so it just feels good. Every match could be Andrew's last, so it is fun to play for him.”
The Sooners will face their toughest challenge yet on Monday in the title match. Harris and Papa will face No. 1-ranked Robert Loeb and Jan Zielinski of Georgia in front of their home crowd at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex at noon CT. Live scoring and video will be available here.
“I am enjoying every moment of this,” Harris said. “This is my last college match ever. I am just trying to enjoy this time with my team and Spencer (Papa). I am having a blast, and trying to ride this fun momentum wave to a championship.”
"These guys are playing at an elite level right now," Crowell said. "The chemistry is really good and they are having a lot of fun playing together. They are very emotional and are playing with a lot of energy. We're going to come out and keep that going tomorrow."
OU's path to the title match started on Thursday with a straight-sets win over No. 23 Sean Donohue and Parker Wynn of Louisville in the round of 32. The Sooners then bested sixth-ranked Mike Redlicki and Jose Salazar of Arkansas with a superbreaker win in the round of 16. That win earned Harris and Papa a berth in the NCAA quarterfinals round and garnered them All-America honors.
In the quarterfinals the Sooners logged a second straight-set win, topping the nation's No. 3-ranked duo of Martin Redlicki and Evan Zhu of UCLA. Redlicki was part of UCLA's national champion doubles team a year ago.
PATH TO THE FINAL
Round of 32
#15 Andrew Harris/Spencer Papa def. #23 Donohue/Wynn (LOUIS) - 6-3, 6-4
Round of 16
#15 Andrew Harris/Spencer Papa def. #6 Redlicki/Salazar (ARK) - 6-2, 2-6, 1-0(7)
#15 Andrew Harris/Spencer Papa def. #3 Redlicki/Zhu (UCLA) - 6-1, 7-6(4)
#15 Andrew Harris/Spencer Papa def. #4 Mansouri/Seraphim (WAKE) - 3-6, 6-4, 1-0(10)