LUBBOCK, Texas – With the season on the brink and the NCAA Tournament hopes dwindling with just three matches remaining, the Texas Tech men’s tennis program fought off an incredible five match points to defeat Oklahoma 4-3 Friday night at the McLeod Tennis Center in a four hour and 11 -minute thriller.
Powered by a pair of clutch wins from Franco Ribero and Dimitrios AzoidisTexas Tech (13-9, 1-2 Big 12) moved one step closer to clinching the programs fifth-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.
In what could only be described as an absolute thriller, Ribero sealed the Red Raiders 13th victory, overcoming a 3-5 deficit in the third and final set to secure a break and two holds of serve that gave him a 6-5 lead and a chance to serve for the match.
After Ribero was broken at love in the 12th game of the set, the Argentinian won the final six points of the tiebreaker to secure a 7-6 (3), 5-7, 7-6 (1) victory on court number five.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
Tech got off to a quick 1-0 lead when Francisco Vittar and Olle Wallin closed out the pivotal doubles match with a clutch 6-3 victory on court number five.
The win by Vittar and Wallin clinched the doubles point after Reed Collier and Azoidis recorded an identical 6-3 victory on court three.
With the doubles point in hand, the race to three was on for the Red Raiders.
After Oklahoma (13-6, 1-1 Big 12) quickly evened the score with a 6-3, 6-3 victory on court six, Wallin quickly responded with a clutch 6-4, 7-5 victory over No. 82 Mark Mandlik. The win on three was
Wallin’s second ranked victory in the last three Big 12 matches.
OU used a late break of serve on court two and a second-set tiebreaker to even the score at two-all, before the Sooners and No. 41 Mason Beiler recorded a five and two victory on court one.
The win by Beiler gave the visitors a 3-2 lead.
Powered by a pair of opening-set tiebreaker victories, Tech took an early 1-0 set lead on both court four and five. OU tied the matches on four and five at one-set all later, forcing a pair of decisive third sets.
In the third set on court four, Azoidis used an early break to race out to a three-games-to-one lead. After OU broke back to even the score at three-all, Azoidis won the final three games of the third set to win 7-6, 2-6, 6-3.
With the score tied at three-all, all the attention turned to court five.
Ribero and Jordan Hasson split the first six games of the third set, as the score remained tied (3-3 overall and 3-3 in the final set). After Hasson held his serve in the seventh game, he broke Ribero to take a 5-3 lead in the set.
Down 3-5 and 40-15 in the next game, Ribero won back-to-back points to force a decisive point. The junior ultimately won the point to pull to within 4-5.
After a quick hold tied the match at five, Ribero broke again to take a 6-5 lead.
Hasson held in his next service game as the match went to a third-set tiebreaker.
In the breaker, Ribero won the first point, and seven of the eight points overall to secure the Red Raiders first Big 12 Conference win of the season.
HEAD COACH DANNY WHITEHEAD:
“Doubles has been a huge point of emphasis for us. We’ve struggled in doubles matches this season, and we had a couple of new teams tonight because Illgiz got hurt last weekend which was tough. But credit to my assistants and the guys on the team like Fran [Vittar] and olle [Wallin]. Those two guys stepped into a huge moment for us and got the win at line three. We’ve been struggling there in particular. The little things like that gave us a chance to find a way to win. Franco winning after facing five match points was crazy. I’m just really proud of this team for finding a way to beat OU on a night that we knew was extremely important for us and our season. We’ve been working really hard and doing a lot of good things, but we just haven’t been able to find that big win until tonight. For us to find a way to breakthrough in the biggest moment we’ve faced thus far was huge. I’m really happy and proud for our guys, and I’m appreciative of our coaches. This was the ultimate team win.”
On Azoidis’ performance:
“I’m very hard on Dimi during practice but during matches he’s someone that we can count on to play well in the big moments. He’s done that a lot this season and he’s very consistent in the big moments. He also finds a way to play big and aggressive which is what it takes to win these matches. You never know on any given day if someone is going to get it done or not, but I was extremely confident that he was going to get it done in the third set tonight “
On turning the page to Sunday:
“We need to find a way to recover our legs the best we can, but I don’t think it will be too difficult for us to find a way to get up for another Big 12 home match. Oklahoma State is an entirely new team and are off to incredible start considering the fact that it’s an entirely new team and coaching staff. They’re doing a great job and are ranked very similarly to us. It’s another opportunity for us to solidify our
NCAA Tournament resume.”
“This was awesome and the feeling of playing for Texas Tech and my teammates was really, really fun. It felt so good to find a way to win. This win meant a lot of for us, because we’re close to missing the NCAA Tournament here for the first time in a while. We played a really good team and fond a way to get a big win which should help us hopefully make the NCAA Tournament.”
The Red Raiders return to action on Sunday afternoon when the Oklahoma State Cowboys visit McLeod. First serve is set for 1 pm