ATHENS, Ga.— The OU men’s tennis team did something no team before them had ever done.
They didn’t walk away with a title, but they walked away with the best finish in program history.
The Sooners (28-4) came out strong but were ultimately topped by the USC Trojans (32-3) in a close 4-2 match.
“USC played a tremendous match,” OU head coach John Roddick said. “We played well and we had chances. I think we played some of the best doubles that’s been played this year.”
This was the first time in program history that the Sooners were in the championship match. Before this year, the best finish was an Elite Eight appearance in 2010 when host Georgia knocked out Oklahoma.
Alex Ghilea and Nick Papac went all the way to a tiebreaker on court three as USC held serve and tied the match at 7-all. The pair won the tiebreaker in dominating fashion, allowing USC to only score two points as OU took an 8-7 (2) win on court three.
After getting a break early on, senior Guillermo Alcorta and freshman Andrew Harris ran away with the match on court two. The duo topped Connor Farren and Roberto Quiroz 8-5 to clinch the doubles point for the Sooners.
Singles was a battle as USC took four first sets and Oklahoma took two. Dane Webb put the Sooners up 2-0 with an easy 6-1, 6-2 win on court three. This win would land him a spot on the All-Tournament team for No. 3 singles.
“I was a little nervous in the first game but after that I really got it rolling,” Webb said. “This is probably one of the best matches I’ve played all year long.”
USC cut into the Sooners lead as Alcorta fell 7-5, 6-2 at the premier spot. The Trojans then tied the match as Alvarez fell 6-4, 7-6 (4) on court two.
The fate of the Sooners title hope lied in the hands of the back three courts where Harris, Ghilea and Austin Siegel were battling to keep the Sooners alive.
Siegel fought hard to try and force a third set, but the comeback fell short as he fell 6-1, 7-6(2). With Harris down 2-1 in his third set and Ghilea battling to force a third, the match would come down to the wire.
The Sooners fight would end just short as Harris fell in his final set. The freshman tied the match at 4-all but it wasn’t enough as USC got a break and held serve to win it all.
The OU men finished the season with a program best 28-4 record. Roddick was named the ITA National Coach of the Year and has taken the team farther than anyone else.
Four Sooners will have the chance to continue playing as the singles and doubles competitions are slated to begin tomorrow. Alcorta, Alvarez, Harris and Webb will all represent OU in the singles bracket while Webb and Harris will team up for doubles.
Oklahoma's journey to the title match wasn’t an easy one. After falling to Baylor in the Big 12 Championship final, the Sooners had to refocus, change some lineups and prepare themselves for the battle ahead.
After going 2-0 in the Norman Regional, Oklahoma advanced to its second straight Sweet Sixteen. A 4-0 domination of Kentucky meant the Sooners were to face North Carolina in the quarterfinals. A win there would make program history, as OU had never seen a Final Four appearance.
History is what they made. A 4-2 win over the Tar Heels secured a rematch against UCLA and the chance to advance to the championship match for the first time. In February, the Sooners fell 4-2 to the Bruins at the ITA National Indoor Championships. They knew what a loss would feel like and capitalized in what can only be described as a thrilling match. The Sooners took two tiebreakers to clinch the 4-2 win and a spot against tennis powerhouse Southern California.
USC had eight national titles in tennis upon entering the match. The Trojans rode a four-year win streak from 2009-2012 and were looking for their fifth title in six years. The Sooners were looking for number one.
And they’ll keep looking. Oklahoma fought hard but USC showed why it hasn't lost in a championship match by topping the Sooners 4-2.
This season is something to be proud of though. Oklahoma finished with the best single season winning percentage in program history, the best NCAA tournament finish in program history and reached the No. 1 ranking for the first time.
It was a historic season and the Sooners still have a chance to bring home individual championships as the doubles and singles competitions are slated to begin Wednesday. The four men representing OU could continue to make this season that much more impressive.
In five years, Roddick has transformed this program into something great and will continue to make history.