Bruins secure Round of 16 bid in Palo Alto (2nd Round Match Recap)

“On the verge of having its season end in regional play for the first time in school history, the 12th-seeded UCLA men’s tennis team pulled off a dramatic comeback on Saturday, clawing out a 4-3 victory over Ole Miss in an NCAA Second Round match at the Los Angeles Tennis Center.”

That all sums it up there, right? No problem, eh? Well, let’s just say it was a match for the ages and there was a whole lot of “stuff” that happened in between. Although I knew it would be a tough match, I of course never expected it to come down to a few points or so that would decide whether I get to go to the NCAA Championships. I’m still trying to catch my breath and find the words describe the sense of relief–in all honesty–that we are all going. Not only did I tell my parents to buy tickets last week to Palo Alto (and so they would of been out hundreds of bucks!), more importantly, I just did not want to “go out” like that without having one more crack at a Championship. Luckily for me, the courageous players on this team did not let that happen.

Following the doubles point, we knew we had our work cut out for us–winning four singles always puts a little bit of added pressure. And right from the get go, things were pretty tight but still looking pretty positive; Daniel had won an easy first set as did Max, and Clay and Amit both were out grinding in tight ones. Despite Holden and Adrien losing their first sets, I felt confident in the other three matches.

But as these roller coaster matches go, things got really, really tight and downright confusing; I always say that the match eventually develops into a “we need this win” situation where we can predict what wins we will get to take the overall match. Man, I’ll tell ya’, I never hit that point until the very end! Amit won an epic first set tiebreaker while Clay lost one where he had set points–and then DK lost the second set quickly 1-6. So two matches that I we started well off became questionable. As the match pushed on, things most definitely swayed towards Ole Miss. I do want to give a shout out to Max who has just played unbelievable through two rounds of this tournament–aggressive, focused, he tied the match at 1-all.

And then, going to be my point, it was all the Rebels from there. Adrien eventually went down in straight sets and Clay similarly lost in straights after a close first set. So just like that, we were down 3-1 in the match and down to our last breaths. Holden had won his second set, Amit lost his second set and DK was entering a third….could things better ANY crazier?! I kept thinking to myself that for us to win this match and avoid a colossal upset, everything has to go perfectly–and to the credit of DK, Amit, and Holden, it actually did….

…well for a while. Amit was neck and neck in the third set while Holden started the set down 0-2 and game points. And DK was battling hard on serve, too. By this point, I was just pacing around and running from court to court hoping, praying, do anything possible I could to cheer these guys on! Amit kept grinding while Holden came back from his early break to go up 5-3 match points. So just while it looked like we might actually pull this thing out, DK gets broken at 4-4 in the 3rd set.

Honestly, it was then that I realized we might lose this match–up to then I still thought we would pull through but it was officially then that it dawned on me that Ole Miss was four service points away from ending my Bruin career early. BUT IT WAS NOT TO BE! Daniel, showing such amazing heart that he has ALL season long, fought back to break Ole Miss in one of the most spirited games I’ve ever seen. The crowd was going nuts, DK was going nuts, and not for a second did he–or us–ever believe he could not win this match. Down 15-0, he hit the hugest running forehand passing shot and a few points later at 30-30 (Ole Miss being two points away from winning! UNREAL!), DK came up with the bigs and won the match for us. And shifting momentum, our Senior and our Captain, Amit Inbar, broke his opponent at 5-3 and closed out the match–ending his Bruin career in style. His opponent is a top players and Amit played with heart and was determined to not go out this way.

So it came down to Holden. After being up 5-3 and having match points at 5-4, Holden got broken and then found himself down 5-6, serving to stay in the match–and serving for our NCAA hopes and dreams. Ole Miss also was two points away in this game from winning it all but “The Goose” as we call him, came through, forced a tiebreak, and won it for us as we all rushed the court after. It truly an unforgettable match!

And yet, although I’ve been a part of great matches like this before, this was a bit different; UCLA had never not made it to the Round of 16 so this was more a sense of relief, than anything. And now I am just so excited for Palo Alto. If there is any doubt in any Bruin’s mind about the character, heart, and determination of this team, it was put to rest tonight; with our backs against the wall, our Seniors and the rest of the team stepped up today. It was beautiful and I feel fortunate to be a part of it. I’m so proud of these guys and extra proud–and happy–for Amit and Holden to end their playing career at LATC in such dramatic fashion.

Looking ahead, I have never been so excited for NCAA’s so far–I feel confident in this team and excited to have Bruin nation up there traveling with us. A win is a win and we are through, and I’m incredibly grateful. There is no doubt that we can make a run at this and as Amit said in his post-match interview (check it out HERE), hopefully we can make a deep run at this thing and I wholeheartedly agree.

Thanks again for everyone for coming out today. See you up in Palo Alto. GO BRUINS!!!!!!!!!

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2 Comments on “Bruins secure Round of 16 bid in Palo Alto (2nd Round Match Recap)”

  1. Emily W. Says:

    Loved the recap, Barry! Seemed like an amazing win! As Grant would say, “Un-fricking-believable!” Wished I could’ve been there to see this match.

    Good luck up in Palo Alto! Let this momentum carry forward against Baylor!



  2. carl Says:

    I was at the match and it was one of the most thrilling matches i have ever witnessed. The character of this Bruin team really showed and no one stopped believing in each other. Regardless of what happens in Palo Alto, I am proud of the Bruins. Go Bruins!!!

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