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oakley
05-26-05, 02:22 AM
COMMENTARY: Bruins' comeback, end of 21-year curse miraculous

By Gilbert Quinonez Daily Bruin
Los Angeles, CA (U-WIRE) -- This is the best way it could possibly have ended.

The curse.

The streak.

The 21-year run of bad luck that has plagued the UCLA men's tennis program since it last won the NCAA title in 1984.

All that vanished over the course of four tension-filled hours and one miraculous comeback in the heart of Texas on Tuesday night.

One loss away from yet another agonizing dose of championship heartbreak, UCLA instead roared back to defeat top-ranked Baylor and exorcise its demons in the most fitting way possible.

Even the most ardent glass-half-full Bruin fan could not possibly have imagined that Tuesday would be the day UCLA's playoff misfortune would come to an end.

Baylor, undefeated in its last 57 matches, clobbered the Bruins in the NCAA Finals last season, sweeping them right off the court.

This year, the Bears once again won the doubles point - an accurate predictor of the winner of every NCAA Tournament match this year before Tuesday - and held a 3-1 lead, needing only to win one of the final three third sets to clinch their second consecutive national title.

And that's why this was the perfect way for UCLA to finally break through. In years past, the Bruins have been the heavy favorites and lost. So this year they won a match that almost nobody thought they could win.

To fully understand the significance of this victory, let's revisit some of the painful memories of playoffs past.

There was last year's final, which came a day after UCLA registered a historic victory over then-undefeated defending national champion Illinois.

There was 2003, when not even the death of a kamikaze sparrow with an apparent Bruin allegiance could help UCLA overcome upstart Vanderbilt in a marathon NCAA semifinal match.

And there was 1996, when an undefeated Bruin squad suffered its first loss of the season against Stanford in the NCAA finals.

But all of that is in the past now for UCLA coach Billy Martin after he watched his team rally against all odds.

First it was Alberto Francis, who pulled his third set out. Then Philipp Gruendler, down a break in the third set, came back to win in a tiebreaker. And finally there was Kris Kwinta, who hadn't even finished a match in Texas all week during UCLA's championship run.

But when it mattered most, the 25-year-old senior came through.

After dropping the first set, he stormed back to take the second and the third with his teammates and coaches cheering every point.

"I just tried to focus on what I had to do," Kwinta said. "I couldn't think about winning or the ring or the championship or how many years it's been without a championship. You have to fight and play out the moment."

The happiest of all the Bruins had to be Martin, who took over a program that had won 15 national titles before he became coach. But Martin, despite five prior appearances in the NCAA Finals, had yet to win a championship trophy of his own.

That, of course, is forgotten now, along with all the talk of Baylor's invincibility.

After the unlikeliest of victories on collegiate tennis' biggest stage, the Bruins at last are champions again.

And Martin will never again have to answer the question, "Will this be the year?"

DU BEAR
05-26-05, 09:33 AM
If this statement is true, then OUCH!

"This year, the Bears once again won the doubles point - an accurate predictor of the winner of every NCAA Tournament match this year before Tuesday - and held a 3-1 lead, needing only to win one of the final three third sets to clinch their second consecutive national title"

Congrats to UCLA...BU knows quite a bit about exorcising demons in our sports programs. They deserved it.

ybbodeus
05-26-05, 10:52 AM
25 year-old senior?

namechange
05-26-05, 11:07 AM
That's what I noticed, too...I hope people stop complaining about our guys' ages when it comes down to him defeating our freshman - then again, I just looked up Lars and he'll turn 21 in June meaning that he'll be 24 (a month away from 25) as a senior.

For the record, our 3 seniors are 24, 23 (about to turn 24), and 22 in Dorsch, Becker, and Shearer...pretty standard for international players.

Nijaki, for Texas Tech, was a 23 year old sophomore this season so he will be like Kwinta - a 25 year-old senior.