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OU Tennis Falls In National Title

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The top-ranked Oklahoma men's tennis team fell just short of a national championship on Tuesday. The Sooners lost 4-1 to No. 3 Virginia in the final of the 2015 NCAA Division I Men's Tennis Team Championships in Waco, Texas to finish as the national runners-up for the second year in a row.

“They played a better match,” head coach John Roddick said. “We definitely had our chances, but they played a great doubles point against us and they were very deserving this week. It's nothing our guys did wrong. I give Virginia all the credit in the world and they are much deserving national champions.”

The Sooners finish the season 29-3, a program record for wins in season, and having won the 2015 ITA National Indoor Championship and their third Big 12 Championship in the last four years.

“It's hard because there are special guys on our team every time this comes around,” Roddick said. “It's not like the pros where you have 10-15 year careers. That's the hardest thing I think. We care about our guys in our program. They give us everything we ask for.”

The Cavaliers jumped out to an early lead by winning all three doubles matches to take the opening point.

For the 14th time this season, Oklahoma trailed 1-0 entering singles. The Sooners were 11-2 in that situation entering the day.

Freshman Spencer Papa tied the match at 1-all when he put away Alexander Ritschard 6-3, 6-2. The win caps an impressive performance at the NCAA Championships for Papa. The freshman went 4-1 in the tournament, including convincing straight sets wins in both the semifinals round and in Tuesday's final. The Edmond, Okla. native was named to the NCAA All-Tournament Team at No. 5 singles.

Virginia would take the next two points, winning at No. 3 and No. 4 singles to go up 3-1 and just a point away from claiming the title. The Sooners would make it interesting, however.

With junior Axel Alvarez leading by a break in the second set and one set to none, and sophomore Florin Bragusi having won the first set on court six, the Sooners looked like they might level the match at 3-all.

On court two, No. 7 Andrew Harris had dropped the first set 5-7 to No. 20 Mitchell Frank and trailed by a break in the second. The sophomore rallied and took a critical break at 2-4 and then held for 4-all to get the second match back on serve. With Oklahoma leading in the other two matches, the Sooners needed Harris to force a third set to stay alive and give Alvarez and Bragusi chances to finish their matches.

“I don't think it affected me knowing that I had to win,” Harris said. “I didn't put more pressure on myself. Before that match, after we lost the doubles' point, I already had the mindset that I had had to win my match to give us a shot. So I already knew in my head that I had to win my match. Nothing really changed when I saw the scoreboard and I knew I had to win.”

Harris held for 5-all, but Frank would hold and then break to win the set 7-5 and give Virginia a 4-1 win.

“I think we have to give Andrew a lot of credit,” Roddick said. “After he knew it was coming down to him he played better tennis. He was way down and he got back in and got it back on serve and made that second set interesting. A lot of credit goes to him for keeping it alive as long as he did.”

Alvarez and Bragusi's matches were not finished. Bragusi finishes NCAA play unbeaten with wins in all three of the Sooners' matches in Waco. The sophomore was named to the NCAA All-Tournament Team at No. 6 singles.

For the second time in as many years, the Sooners finish as the national runners-up. In 2014 Oklahoma fell in the final to USC. Oklahoma is 17-6 in NCAA play under Roddick and has appeared in three elite eights, two final fours and two national finals.

Oklahoma will return all but one starter next year, but will lose its senior captain Dane Webb.

“Dane is the heart and soul of our team,” Roddick said. “He's been under the weather for a while. To still go out and battle like he has--he still gives himself chances and he's been the emotional leader of our team. For me as a coach, we'll take six of him every time and take our chances.”

Even with the loss of Webb, the future is exceedingly bright for Oklahoma men's tennis.

“I'm just proud to be a part of this program,” Harris said. “I think next year we are going to very competitive and have another chance to win the whole thing again. I guess we just have to look forward to next year.”

“I'm sure we are going to grow stronger next year,” Bragusi said. “We are going to put in hard work in the fall and we are going to be here next year. We'll be back.”

The Sooners will have another chance at a national championship this season as Alvarez, Harris and Webb will all stay in Waco and compete in the Individual Championships and Alvarez and Webb will also compete in the Doubles Championships.

Alvarez, the No. 1 overall seed is scheduled to face Nik Scholtz of Ole Miss on Wednesday, May 20 at 3 p.m. Webb, an at large selection, will face off with Yannick Hanfmann of USC on the same day and time. Harris will see Wayne Montgomery of Georgia in the first round on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.

Alvarez and Webb are scheduled to play Tomislav Gregurivic and Tin Ostojic of Wichita State on Thursday, May 21. The Sooner duo last saw the Shocker pair in the final of the USTA/ITA Central Regional Championships in the fall.

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