The nation’s top-ranked singles player sat alone on the court one bench with his head in his hands, after dropping just his sixth match this season.
“It was one of those matches (in which) the margins are points,” said senior Martin Redlicki. “It’s not games, it’s not sets, it comes down to 3 or 4 points and it went Ohio State’s way today.”
No. 2-seeded UCLA men’s tennis fell 4-1 to the No. 3-seeded Ohio State on Monday at Wake Forest University in the final four of the NCAA tournament. The Bruins have not advanced to the championship match since 2013.
In singles, errant balls flew across the court and double faults plagued nearly every UCLA court. Redlicki’s serve was broken in the second set by Ohio State’s Mikael Torpegaard as a result of a double fault and unforced error by Redlicki.
“I just think we gave away a bunch of opportunities that we couldn’t afford to do,” said coach Billy Martin.
The Bruins fell in the Sweet 16 with Redlicki as a freshman. They were then eliminated the following two years in the Elite Eight. For the senior, advancing to his first-ever Final Four was already something the captain had never accomplished.
UCLA also captured the Pac-12 regular season championship and remained undefeated at home for 16 matches this year.
“I left it all out there on the court,” Redlicki said. “I can leave that match with my head up because I know I gave it everything I had.”
Despite the loss, the team has supported each other the entire season.
With the cries of “Let’s go Bruins,” junior Maxime Cressy, who was down 4-1, rallied back to knot the third set at 4-4 singles. Cressy directed his teammates to change sides with him to keep the positive reinforcement alive after breaking his opponent and winning his serve.
Throughout the season, the Bruins have emphasized the camaraderie that exists within the team.
“I mean, everybody is just so close,” Redlicki said. “I really think that that helped us get through some really tough adverse moments throughout our year. Honestly, we could have gotten it again today, but just came up a little short.”
With three seniors graduating – Redlicki, Austin Rapp and Logan Staggs – the Bruins will have big changes in their lineup next season. The incoming recruits, three of which are five-star, will have a chance to make a big impact on the team lineup.
“I think next season will be good too,” said sophomore Evan Zhu. “There’s a bunch of new recruits coming in, who are very good players, so we can try and go at it again.”