OU Men's Tennis preparing for ITA National Indoors Championship
Oklahoma men’s tennis travels to Charlottesville, Va. this week for the 2017 ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championship, hosted by the University of Virginia. The 14th-ranked Sooners are set to open the tournament with a showdown versus the country’s No. 3-ranked team, Ohio State, at 8 a.m. CT on Friday.
The four-day tournament features 16 teams that earned bids to the event through winning their respective ITA Kick-Off Weekend tournaments. The Sooners earned their spot by taking down two ranked foes in No. 19 Michigan (Jan. 28) and No. 17 Illinois (Jan. 29) in Norman.
Oklahoma, seeded 14th in the field, enters the weekend 7-1 on the year and surging with five straight wins. The team’s only loss came on Jan. 21 at No. 2 Wake Forest. Since then the Sooners have taken care of Michigan, Illinois, Arkansas, Wichita State and Alabama.
The Sooners come into the tournament with three players at 6-1 in dual-play singles – Jochen Bertsch, Florin Bragusi and Alex Ghilea, The Crimson and Cream also boasts three ranked singles player in Bragusi (No. 105), Andrew Harris (No. 27) and Spencer Papa (No. 24). Oklahoma owns two ranked doubles tandems. Papa and Harris rank No. 42 while Papa and Ghilea sit at No. 49.
Harris, a Melbourne, Australia, native, has already earned himself two honors on the season, being named Big 12 Player of the Week in back-to-back weeks (Jan. 31-Feb. 7). He was the just the eighth player in Big 12 history to earn the honor in back-to-back weeks and the first since 2012.
Along with their three consecutive appearances in the NCAA Finals, the Sooners were National Indoor champions for the first time in school history in 2015, defeating USC 4-2 in the championship match to capture the title. Current Sooners Bragusi, Ghilea, Harris and Papa were all part of that championship team, with Ghilea taking home the championship's Most Outstanding Player award.
“That was my favorite moment as a Sooner,” Ghilea said.
Oklahoma also features four newcomers, sophomore A.J. Chamdani and freshmen Jochen Bertsch, Adrian Oetzbach and Arnaud Restifo, who have combined to go 12-5 on the season in singles.
The Buckeyes enter the weekend 10-0 on the season, having dropped just two points all season. Ohio State head coach Ty Tucker led his team to a 33-3 record in 2016, reaching the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament.
The No. 3 seed, Ohio State possesses the country’s No. 2 and No. 8 singles players in Mikael Torpegaard and Hugo Di Feo. Also ranked in singles for the Buckeyes are Herkko Pollanen at No. 47 and Martin Joyce at No. 75. Di Feo and Joyce are the 25th-ranked doubles tandem, while Pollanen/Torpegaard are slotted at No. 38 in doubles.
Ghilea and his teammates will look to advance to the quarterfinals to face the winner of 6th-seeded Northwestern versus 11th-seeded Oklahoma State on Saturday. Each team in the draw is guaranteed at least three matches in Charlottesville. The full draw can be found here.
"We've been talking a lot this week about just competing hard and being together as a team," head coach Nick Crowell said. "We want to have fun out there, but we're playing to win. I think we're ready to go."
Following the long weekend, Oklahoma will return home to the Headington Family Tennis Center for a home match versus Tulsa on Feb. 24. As always, admission to regular season matches is free for all fans.