Mister Roger's Neighborhood: The road to the final four
Mister Roger's Neighborhood takes to the road this week for the NCAA Tennis Championships at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. UT senior Roger Gubser discusses the Longhorns' two matches in the Bay Area, including Sunday's thrilling 4-3 win over Ohio State. Texas takes on second-seeded Pepperdine in Monday's NCAA semifinals at 4 p.m. CDT.
Welcome back to the Neighborhood. It has been an eventful few days here in Palo Alto. We arrived late last Wednesday night (May 17), and the following two days consisted of practicing, eating, practicing and eating some more. Before I discuss the matches, I want to tell you a story about a dream I had. About a month ago, before the NCAA announced the tournament draw, I told Coach (Center) I had a dream that we were going to play Mississippi in the tournament. Well, we faced them in the round of 16 after winning our regional in Austin.
We knew that the match was going to be a battle. We played the match at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Stadium, which is incredibly nice, and won 4-1. They tested us at every spot, but we competed hard and came out with the "W." On Sunday, we played against a very, very tough Ohio State squad. The Buckeyes only had one loss on the season, and the match proved that they were not going to go away easily.
We won the key doubles point on the outside stadium court No. 2, located next to the main stadium. After losing at position No. 2 and winning at No. 3, it came down to Miguel (Reyes Varela) and Callum (Beale) to pull through for us. They faced a 7-4 deficit before pulling out two gutsy breaks and winning the match.
Singles play began, and most of the first sets had completed when rain force us to delay the matches. The rain eventually forced us to drive about an hour to San Francisco to finish the match. Once the match started indoors, Ohio State came out extremely strong, garnering wins at Nos. 2 and 6. With Ohio State leading 2-1, Milan (Mihailovic) lost a tough three-setter to put us down even further. I was then able to start the momentum shift with a tough 6-2, 7-6 win followed by Travis' (Helgeson) 6-3, third-set win.
The stage was set for Miguel to once again pull through for the team.We were faced with a third set tie-breaker to decide our destiny. Miguel was serving 2-5 in the breaker, and I could not even watch because I felt like I was getting sick from being extremely nervous. A quick flash of my career at Texas ran through my mind, and for a split second, I felt like this could be my last time playing for the Texas tennis team. Miguel had a "Vince Young-like" moment reminiscent of the Texas-Ohio State game at the Horseshoe in Columbus. He was simply too tough and won five straight points to win the breaker 7-5. We probably played the most exciting match since I have been a Longhorn, and I have seen several great matches.
We are now resting at the hotel for our next battle against Pepperdine on Monday. We are schedule to play sometime after 2 p.m. local time (4 p.m. CDT). If you are interested in watching some of our tennis, just visit Stanford's athletics Web page at GoStanford.com. We are all very excited to play in the Final Four tomorrow.
I want to leave you with a few freshman moments from two of my teammates, Michael Venus and Evan Bridges, who is redshirting this year. On our trip over here, Evan was convinced that we were playing against Mississippi State in the first match. Of course, we played Mississippi, instead. Venus saw the draw, which read that we were playing Ole Miss, and told Coach Center, "You see, we are not playing Mississippi. We are playing Ole Miss."
I want to give a special thank you to our fans and UT staff members who traveled here to Palo Alto from Austin to support us this week. Thanks to Mikey and Jim Herndon, August Petersen, Allison Center, Travis Feldhaus, Devon Hendricks, my best friend and roommate Dillon Walker, Danny Walker, my parents, and last, but certainly not least, Ron "Rocket Man" Rodgers.
Thank you for logging on to Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. The dream I had certainly went further than just playing against Mississippi. We have adopted Texas Football's directive to "Live the Dream."