Cats Down Cards, Roll on to Sweet 16

May 14, 2011

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - With the score tied 3-3 and a spot in the NCAA Championships Sweet 16 on the line, University of Kentucky men's tennis junior Alex Musialek downed Louisville's Viktor Maksimcuk 6-0 in the third set, giving No. 10 Kentucky a 4-3 victory over No. 24 Louisville in the second round of the NCAA Championships on Saturday in front of a packed house at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex.

The win for Musialek advances Kentucky to its second consecutive Sweet 16 of the NCAA Championships. It is the first time UK has advanced to consecutive Sweet 16s in 19 years when the 1991 team fell in the round of 16 and the 1992 team fell in the quarterfinals. The Wildcats are now 42-3-1 all-time against the Cardinals.

"I couldn't be any more proud of our team," said Kentucky head coach Dennis Emery, who has now led UK to Sweet 16 an amazing 10 times. "I know we have a very special group of people. We've had a lot of the same players here for two years. They have an uncommonly close bond. They really love each other and I think what came across today is you could see how much they love playing for the University of Kentucky and how much it means to them to put on the uniform."

Kentucky will face the winner of the Florida vs. Miami (Fla.) match in the round of 16 on Thursday at Noon PT at the Taube Tennis Center in Stanford, Calif. The quarterfinals of the event will be on May 21, while the semifinals will be played May 23 and national championship on May 24.

With Kentucky leading 3-2 and play at courts 1 and 2 singles continuing, Louisville's Austen Childs, who is ranked 16th in the nation, defeated Kentucky's Eric Quigley, who is ranked sixth in the nation, to tie the match 3-3. Minutes later, No. 53 Musialek would earn arguably one of his biggest singles wins of his career, posting a come-from-behind victory over No. 93 Maksimcuk.

Maksimcuk would take a hard-fought first set 7-5 before Musialek was able to fight off a break in the second set and tie the match at a set apiece. In the third set, Musialek kept his momentum going, holding serve to start and then earning a key break to go up 2-0. After the Kentucky junior held serve to make it 3-0, Maksimcuk would take a medical timeout with Musialek breaking serve again after the medical to take a commanding 4-0 lead. The native of Dax, France, then held serve and broke Maksimcuk for the third consecutive time to claim the set 6-0 and the match 5-7, 7-5, 6-0.

"You're hoping that you win one more and certainly we had the two guys on the court at the end that we wanted on the court," Emery said. "We had (Eric) Quigley on the court with (Austen) Childs and we had (Alex) Musialek on the court with (Viktor) Maksimcuk. Musialek clinched our win against Auburn in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament. He's been in this situation many times and he responds very, very well in that situation. Eric also is just a good closer and great clinching point for us most of the time. So it was a great match and I don't think it could be any better than to have these four guys on the court in the stadium with it packed. It's just kind of exactly what you would diagram."

"Yeah it was an intense atmosphere," Emery said about the near-capacity crowd of 686. "I mean we could say what we want before the match about, `This is going to be a lot of fun and it's a great opportunity.' We can say all that stuff. But the truth is there was a lot of pressure on our team today I felt like. We've had a tremendous season. We've been into the top 10. We were in the top 10 because we won matches like this all year long."

Kentucky (28-8) continues to add to its school record for wins in a single season, moving the record to 28 wins. The Wildcat are now 6-2 this year against teams ranked 11-25 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings and 17-8 overall against ranked foes.

After a 46-minute rain delay at the beginning of the match, UK gained the doubles point with No. 19 Quigley and senior Brad Cox taking down No. 45 Simon Childs and Maksimcuk 8-3. After U of L posted a win at No. 3 doubles, Musialek and sophomore Anthony Rossi downed Alejandro Calligari and Robert Hall 8-6 to give UK the doubles point. The Wildcats are now 16-3 this season when it wins the doubles point and 13-3 when it earns a win at No. 1 doubles.

"We knew the doubles point would probably decide the match," Emery said. "We felt like, going in, the doubles would decide it. We felt like we were probably favored on three (singles) courts. We felt like the other three courts were probably even to them being slight favorites maybe. Now they didn't all play out that way - and it never does - but yeah, had we not won the doubles point clearly we would have been in a lot, a lot of trouble."

In singles, Kentucky claimed the first finished match when senior No. 90 Alberto Gonzalez defeated Hall 6-2, 6-4 to give UK a 2-0 lead. After nearly a 15 minute rain delay, No. 125 Simon Childs won a hard-fought match at No. 3 singles over Cox 7-6 (4), 6-3 to cut the UK lead in half. Rossi would then give UK its third point by defeating Calligari 7-5, 6-2.

Louisville (18-12) would tie the match at 3-3 after Andrew Carter posted a key win at No. 6 singles over UK's Tom Jomby 7-5, 6-4 and Austen Childs defeated Quigley in a three-set thriller 6-7 (2), 6-2, 6-4 at No. 1 singles. Musialek would then end the match with his impressive win at No. 2 singles.

"This is more than I'd hope it would be," Emery said when asked if the match was everything he thought it would be. "This was a little too much. But we know how good Louisville is. We didn't have any illusions that this was going to be a stroll in the park. We knew this was going to be a very, very difficult match. We know they're a well-coached team. We know they fight their tails off. We've seen them play enough and they take a tremendous amount of pride in their program. They're hard to beat because of that. I think what they ran into today is a team that feels just as strongly about its program as they do."

Kentucky finishes the season with an 18-3 record at Boone and improves its home record to 46-9 since the start of the 2009 season.  

2011 NCAA Championships
Hilary J. Boone Tennis Center * Lexington, Ky.
Second Round

No. 10 Kentucky 4, No. 24 Louisville 3

Doubles Competition:
1.) No. 19 Eric Quigley/Brad Cox (UK) def. No. 45 Simon Childs/Viktor Maksimcuk (UL) 8-3
2.) Alex Musialek/Anthony Rossi (UK) def. Alejandro Calligari/Robert Hall (UL) 8-6
3.) Austen Childs/Adam Donaldson (UL) def. Alberto Gonzalez/Tom Jomby (UK) 8-4

Singles Competition:
1.) No. 16 Austen Childs (UL) def. No. 6 Eric Quigley (UK) 6-7 (2), 6-2, 6-4
2.) No. 53 Alex Musialek (UK) def. No. 93 Viktor Maksimcuk (UL) 5-7, 7-5, 6-0
3.) No. 125 Simon Childs (UL) def. Brad Cox (UK) 7-6 (4), 6-3
4.) No. 90 Alberto Gonzalez (UK) def. Robert Hall (UL) 6-2, 6-4
5.) Anthony Rossi (UK) def.  Alejandro Calligari (UL) 7-5, 6-2
6.) Andrew Carter (UL) def. Tom Jomby (UK) 7-5, 6-4

Order of Finish:
Doubles: 1, 3, 2*
Singles: 4, 3, 5, 6, 1, 2*