OXFORD, Miss. – Vanderbilt had seen this situation before. In fact they’d seen it the last 10 matches, so on Saturday when No. 38 Indiana won the doubles point to take a 1-0 lead in the match, the 29th-ranked Commodores didn’t panic. Instead of panicking, Vanderbilt stood strong and rallied to win four of six singles matches to advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a dramatic 4-3 win over the Hoosiers.
“I’m just proud of the guys and how hard they fought,” Vanderbilt head coach Ian Duvenhage said. “We had to fight our way back and win four singles matches, which wasn’t easy.”
Playing in the NCAA Tournament for the seventh time in the past eight years and eighth time overall, Vanderbilt (14-9) moved its record to 8-0 all-time in the first round of the tournament with its win over Indiana (16-10) at the Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center.
The win marked the fifth time this season that the Commodores have rallied to win four of six singles matches after losing the doubles point. In fact, Vanderbilt’s last five wins have all been by the score of 4-3.
Clinching the match for the Commodores was Vijay Paul in the No. 3 position. Paul won the first set, 7-6 (2), before IU’s Philip Eilers knotted the match at one set apiece with a, 6-4, win in the second set. Both players traded games in the third set before reaching another tiebreaker. In the tiebreaker, Eilers jumped out to a 6-3 advantage and was serving before Paul made an incredible rally to clinch the match, 7-6 (7).
“Vijay did a sensational job of hanging in there after trailing 6-3 in the tiebreaker,” Duvenhage said.
With the win, Vanderbilt will now face No. 5 Ole Miss in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at 12 p.m. on Sunday. Ole Miss advanced to the second round with a 4-0 win over Marist on Saturday. In their only meeting earlier this year, Ole Miss downed Vanderbilt 6-1 in Nashville.
“Today’s match lasted five hours, so we’ve got to regroup as much as we can tonight and get ready to face Ole Miss,” Duvenhage said.
After falling behind 1-0 after the doubles point, Vanderbilt’s Nick Cromydas knotted the score at one with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Indiana’s Dara McLoughlin in the No. 2 position. The win moved Cromydas’ win streak to four, surpassing his previous season-best win streak of three straight in March.
Following Cromydas’ win, Bryant Salcedo gave Vanderbilt its first lead of the match with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Indiana’s Lachlan Ferguson in the No. 4 position. The win was Salcedo’s third in a row.
With Vanderbilt leading 2-1, in the match, Indiana tied the score at two when Michael McCarthy earned a 6-3, 1-6, 7-6(4) win over Alex Zotov in the No. 5 position. The loss was Zotov’s first in his last three matches.
Tied at two, Indiana was able to regain the lead when Thomas Richter defeated No. 53 Ryan Preston, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3), in the No. 1 singles position. However, the lose by Preston didn’t come under normal circumstances.
“After the first set, Preston suffered from heat stroke and was throwing up on the court,” Duvenhage said. “It was just remarkable that he got the score to 6-6 in the third set.”
Just when it looked like Indiana was seizing the momentum of the match, Vanderbilt’s James Moye kept the Commodores alive and evened the match at three with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Santiago Gruter in the No. 6 position. The win was Moye’s third in his last four matches. Lately, Moye has found a penchant for coming up with victories when Vanderbilt needed it most. Just two matches earlier, Moye clinched Vanderbilt’s 4-3 win over Arkansas in the first round of the SEC Tournament.
Moye’s win set the stage for Paul.
In doubles play, Vanderbilt looked as if it may snap its streak of losing 10 straight doubles points when Ryan Preston and Alex Zotov built a 7-3 lead in the No. 1 position. Unfortunately, it was not to be, as Indiana came storming back to win the first two completed matches.
The Hoosiers were able to clinch the point in the No. 1 position, where IU’s duo of McLoughlin and Richter came back from a 7-3 deficit to defeat Preston and Zotov, 9-8 (7).
No. 29 Vanderbilt (14-9) def. No. 38 Indiana (16-10), 4-3
1. Dara McLoughlin/Thomas Richter (IU) def. Ryan Preston/Alex Zotov (VU), 9-8 (7)
2. No. 46 Lachlan Ferguson/Philip Eilers (IU) vs. Nick Cromydas/Evan Dufaux (VU), 8-7 (Susp.)
3. Peter Antons/Javier Gruter (IU) def. Adam Baker/Vijay Paul (VU), 8-6
Order of Finish: 3, 1
1. Thomas Richter (IU) def. No. 53 Ryan Preston (VU), 3-6, 6-3,7-6 (3)
2. Nick Cromydas (VU) def. Dara McLoughlin (IU), 6-3, 6-1
3. Vijay Paul (VU) def. Philip Eilers (IU), 7-6 (2), 4-6, 7-6 (7)
4. Bryant Salcedo (VU) def. Lachlan Ferguson, 6-4, 6-4
5. Michael McCarthy (IU) def. Alex Zotov (VU), 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (4)
6. James Moye (VU) def. Santiago Guter (IU), 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
Order of Finish: 2, 4, 5, 1, 6, 3