UCLA students bringing volunteerism to the masses

Mark Dakkak got together with a few friends to create the Student Task Force as a way to motivate other Bruins to volunteer at UCLA and throughout Los Angeles.

"UCLA students bringing volunteerism to the masses"

COLLEGE STATION, Texas “”mdash; Up 3-1 in the NCAA semifinals, the UCLA men’s tennis team needed to beat Ohio State in just one of the three singles matches remaining to get its second upset victory in two days and clinch a spot in the title match, where rival USC was already waiting.

But with second-set tiebreak losses on both Court 6 and Court 1, it came down to senior Harel Srugo’s match on Court 3, which was already in a third set.

Then, in a moment, the Bruins’ 2009 season disappeared.

In another intense marathon of a final match, the last stretch of Srugo’s racket came just inches short of connecting on the final volley and the Bruins’ captain fell to the Buckeyes’ junior Justin Kronauge, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4.

After winning a 4-3 battle in the quarterfinals over No. 2 Mississippi, No. 7 UCLA came out on the other end of that same score the next day.

“It was just another unbelievable, great match as far as I’m concerned,” UCLA coach Billy Martin said on Monday. “As lucky as we were to win yesterday, it was just the reverse coin today. That’s how these matches are here. There’s very little difference between winning and losing.”

After UCLA won the doubles point, the teams stayed relatively even throughout the day, but OSU would ultimately finish stronger, winning four of the six singles matches.

The Bruins’ only singles victories came from senior Michael Look at Court 5 and sophomore Holden Seguso on Court 4, who each needed only two sets to do it.

The emotions were high all day, as an equal portion of Buckeye scarlet and Bruin blue filled the grandstand at Texas A&M’s George P. Mitchell Tennis Center. One UCLA supporter was asked to leave the stadium early during singles play.

The action on the court did not disappoint.

“That was a very physical match,” Martin said.

Seguso’s opponent, 6-foot-7-inch Matt Allare, fell to the ground in his second-set tiebreaker on Court 4, hurting his leg. During OSU’s injury timeout, harsh words were exchanged between members of each team’s training staff.

In Srugo’s final match, Kronauge came up lame just as the last game was about to begin. Kronauge called another injury timeout and, after the delay, finished the match strong enough to advance the Buckeyes to their first team title match ever.

This was UCLA’s second straight year losing in the national semifinals, going out at the hands of Texas in 2008, but this match was one of the closest of the entire tournament.

“For me, I loved it,” said senior Michael Look, who won his Court 5 match 6-4, 6-4. “This is what college tennis is all about.”

As it slowly became apparent which court the match would finish on, a large crowd encircled the two deciding players. UCLA’s entire team gathered together as close to its senior captain as possible.

“You fight your heart out and then go and cheer on your teammates and feel all the anxiousness and the nervousness that they go through as well,” Look said. “I think those were the emotions running through the entire team.”

Despite 16 consecutive trips to the NCAA quarterfinals for Martin, his Bruin teams have still amassed just one NCAA championship, which came in 2005. The Buckeyes were determined not to let the UCLA get another chance at a banner this year.

“(OSU) was the team I was very fearful of, going into this tournament,” Martin said. “I think they’re as strong as anybody, one through six. I think they’re as well conditioned team as there is out there. Playing them deep in the tournament like this, it’s going to be tough.”

USC ADVANCES TO TITLE MATCH: In the day’s other semifinal match, No. 8 USC defeated No. 12 Texas, 4-1, setting up a Buckeye-Trojan finale on Tuesday for the NCAA title. The Bruins defeated USC twice this season.