NORMAN, Okla. -- The second-seeded Oklahoma Sooners defeated the Montana Grizzlies men's tennis team 4-0 on Saturday afternoon in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
The Sooners, which entered the match with four nationally-ranked singles players, were too much to handle for the Big Sky Conference champion Grizzlies, but head coach Kris Nord said he was very satisfied with his team’s performance on such a big stage.
“We were competitive in most of the matches, and that’s what we wanted,” Nord said. “We wanted to try and hang with these guys, and hope they play a little bit tight, and they didn’t. They are really talented one through six. Even the scores that look like blowouts, we still fought well, and that was our goal.”
In doubles, Axel Alvarez and Dane Webb defeated Semion Branzburg and Ethan Vaughn 8-3 at No. 1, while Mikolaj Caruk and Tomasz Soltyka fell 8-2 at No. 2 doubles. When OU earned the doubles point, Eric Braun and Andrew Warren were tied up 6-6 at No. 3 doubles.
“Eric and Andrew probably played their best set of the year,” Nord said. “They didn’t get to finish, but they were playing great tennis. It was really fun to see those two seniors play how they did.”
In singles play, the Sooners gained a 2-0 advantage after Dane Webb, who’s ranked 41st in the nation, defeated Branzburg 6-0, 6-1. Alex Ghilea gave OU a 3-0 lead soon after, knocking off freshman Peter Mimnagh-Fleming at No. 6 singles, 6-3, 6-1. The Sooners closed out the match when No. 53 Andrew Harris defeated Soltyka 6-0, 6-4 at No. 4 singles.
When Oklahoma won the match, Warren, Caruk and Vaughn were still playing. Vaughn won his first set 6-4, and was up 4-2 in the second set, very close to pulling off the upset singles match victory.
“It was hot and windy, and Ethan knows how to play in the wind real well,” Nord said. “He did everything he need to be able to beat the guy: he was keeping the ball in play, he was lobbing well.”
It was Vaughn’s last match as a Grizzly. In all, Nord loses seniors Warren, Braun, Zach Drost, Caruk and Vaughn to graduation. The 32nd year head coach said the team’s first trip to the NCAA tourney was unforgettable.
“It was a real special experience for all of the guys, “ Nord said. “Making the NCAAs, seeing what the big boys do, it was well done.”