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NCAA Men's Semifinal Recaps

NCAA Men's Semifinal Recaps
Photo: Bill Kallenberg
After reaching the NCAA Team Championship for the first time, the North Carolina men's tennis team will play the role of the underdog when it takes on a heavyweight Virginia squad seeking its third straight national title on Tuesday in Athens, GA.

Barring more delays from rain, which has soaked the Dan Magill Tennis Complex courts for the past three days, the first ball will be struck at 1 PM ET as the Tar Heels and Cavaliers clash for the fourth time this season.

Here's what went down during the semifinals on Monday:

No. 2 Virginia 4, No. 3 Ohio State 2

Semifinal Stat: The Cavaliers have won three of the last four NCAA titles (2013, '15, and '16) and have advanced to the NCAA Championship match in six of the last seven seasons.

Here's How It Happened: Boom. Boom. That's about how fast it took for the No. 2-seeded Virginia Cavaliers men's tennis team to complete play indoors and waltz into the NCAA Men's Championship once again following a four-hour, two-minute rain delay.

Leading three matches to one when the rain fell in Athens, both Ohio State's Mikael Torpegaard at No. 1 and Virginia's Henrik Wiersholm at No. 6 held match points during the long delay. When play resumed, Torpegaard won his point in a third-set tiebreaker over Alexander Ritschard to make it 3-2, with the junior from Kirkland, WA, Wiersholm, doing the same a moment later to end the match following a long rally against Kyle Seelig.

"We just had to keep things simple and make sure that we took care of our bodies and prepared for each point," Virginia head coach Brian Boland said. "That is what it comes down to.

You can't look ahead. You have to focus on the present and I thought the players did a good job of that and they stayed relaxed and calm in the bus during the delay.
Wiersholm said after the match that he was frantically trying to rush his opponent Seelig to try and beat the rain.

"He was slowing down, but I wanted to play the point," Wiersholm said. "Things like that happen and you have to be prepared for that and we talk about it all the time. Actually, coach had already talked about how in the past here in Athens there had been rain and had prepared us mentally for the possibility of it. In the moment when it happened, I was trying to rush but then I depressurized, relaxed with the guys and got some fuel in me. We waited it out and I was ready to go from the first point. It all panned out well for us."

Indeed, it did as the now 33-1 Cavaliers set their sights on ACC rival North Carolina (29-4) in the championship on Tuesday.

Ohio State won the doubles point, but the momentum was short-lived as the dominating Virginia singles players rallied to win five of the six first sets in singles.

We'll Leave You With This: The Cavaliers and the Tar Heels have faced one another three times this season. Virginia won 4-0 in the semifinals of the ITA National Team Indoor Championship and then picked up 4-3 victories in the regular-season meeting and the semifinals of the ACC Championship. Three of North Carolina's four losses this season have come against Virginia. See the complete results here.

No. 9 North Carolina 4, No. 12 Georgia 3

Semifinal Stat: UNC set a program record for wins in a season by improving to 29-4 on the year.

Here's How It Happened: ​North Carolina's Blaine Boyden is getting used to this clinching stuff. The sophomore from Raleigh did it once again on Monday, pulling out a three-setter with the match knotted at three-all and sending the Tar Heels into the NCAA Team Championship for the first time with a 4-3 win over Georgia.

Boyden, the same player who clinched UNC's quarterfinals win over No. 1 Wake Forest on Saturday, was down 0-1 in the third set when the rains came down, and he was left to sit through a four-hour delay and think about things.

It was during that time he also received some sage advice from North Carolina associate head coach Tripp Phillips.

"[Phillips] said, 'You can be nervous about situations like this, or you can think of it as, this is what we play for, this is what all the hard work is for and this is an atmosphere you're never going to see again,' " Boyden recalled.

I went in with that mentality: 'This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I'm just going to embrace it.'
Boyden dug deep, ultimately pulling out a 6-3 third-set win over Georgia's Robert Loeb to seal the victory for the Tar Heels.

"I'm just so proud of my guys," said UNC head coach Sam Paul, who is in his 24th year with the program. "Total team effort. Georgia gave us everything they had. The crowd was incredible. I think our guys embraced the atmosphere -- you feel the energy of playing here. Manny (Diaz) runs such a class act, and I have nothing but respect for their team and their program."

After winning the doubles point, the Tar Heels went to work and quickly went up 2-0 thanks to a 6-3, 6-2 win at No. 2 from William Blumberg. Besides Blumberg's first-set win, UNC also took first sets on courts three, four, and six, with Boyden coming up huge in a 7-0 blanking in a tiebreaker against Loeb.

But the Bulldogs claimed the next point, with Walker Duncan beating North Carolina senior Jack Murray on court five 6-1, 7-5, to cut UNC's lead to 2-1. Robert Kelly then won on court three, beating Emil Reinberg in straight sets 6-3, 6-4.

After a Nathan Ponwith win over Ronnie Schneider at No. 1 moved Georgia to within one at 3-2, the lower courts were where everyone gathered for the final two matches on courts four and six. But that's when the rains came, and the move was made indoors some four hours later.

Georgia's Jan Zielinski came up huge in the third set of his 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-3 win over Simon Soendergaard at No. 4, and North Carolina's hopes then rested on Boyden's shoulders at No. 6, who didn't disappoint clinching the match against Loeb.

"Sports are crazy! We had a lot of momentum, but you know the rain came, and Saturday it worked in our favor, and we were able to maintain our momentum," Georgia head coach Manny Diaz said. "I am so proud of our guys. They fought a great fight, not only today but during this tournament. We really came together as a team and improved so much during the close of the year. I think this has been a great ride, the future is very bright."

We'll Leave You With This: Despite starting the season 3-5, the Bulldogs had won 19 of their last 21 matches entering Monday's loss. See the complete results here.
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