The Bluegrass tennis version of Dream Game did not disappoint Saturday.
Kentucky's Alex Musialek beat Viktor Maksimcuk 5-7, 7-5, 6-0 at No. 2 singles to clinch the Wildcats' 4-3 victory over Louisville in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex.
Tenth-seeded Kentucky (28-8) moves on to play the winner of Saturday night's match between Miami (Fla.) and Florida in the round of 16 on Thursday at 3 p.m. EDT in Stanford, Calif.
Playing in front of a rowdy 686 fans, with both schools well represented, the Cats beat the 24th-ranked Cardinals in the teams' first meeting since 2005.
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Asked if he'd ever experienced such an atmosphere at home, UK Coach Dennis Emery recalled playing Georgia about 25 years ago. UK won 17-15 on a third-set tiebreaker before about 1,000 fans.
"I don't care where you are in this country, you're not going to get a match in the second round this intense," said Emery's U of L counterpart, Rex Ecarma. "I don't care if it's UCLA and USC. You have to understand, we don't have a home-and-away. ... When you have a locker room — guys are crying in there. I'm just proud."
Musialek, a junior from Dax, France, was mobbed by his teammates upon scoring the final point. He also won the clinching point for UK in the second round last year, against Georgia Tech.
"I was really proud and really happy for my team," said Musialek, known as "Frenchy" to his teammates. "It's such a great feeling."
Musialek also combined with Anthony Rossi to edge Alejandro Calligari and Robert Hall 8-6 at No. 2 for the clinching doubles point.
Earlier, 19th-ranked Eric Quigley and Brad Cox of UK dispatched No. 45 Maksimcuk and Simon Childs 8-3, while U of L's Austen Childs and Adam Donaldson handled Alberto Gonzalez and Tom Jomby 8-4.
"We knew the doubles point would probably decide the match," said Emery, whose team completed an 18-3 home season.
The match, which was delayed at the start for 45 minutes because of rain, was delayed about 15 minutes midway through singles.
When play resumed, it didn't take long for Gonzalez to finish off Hall 6-2, 6-4 for a 2-0 UK lead.
Simon Childs got U of L on the board, beating Cox 7-6 (4), 6-3 at No. 3.
Then Rossi bested Calligari 7-5, 6-2 at No. 5 for a 3-1 Wildcats lead.
U of L (18-12) won the No. 6 singles as Andrew Carter held off Jomby 7-5, 6-4.
That left only the players in the main stadium — No. 53 Musialek versus No. 93 Maksimcuk and No. 6 Quigley against No. 16 Austen Childs.
Childs, 2010 NCAA runner-up and two-time Big East player of the year, edged Quigley 6-7 (2), 6-2, 6-4.
By then, though, Musialek was moments away from finishing off the team victory.
"It was a great atmosphere today," Frenchy said. "There were so many people cheering. It was unbelievable and, at the end, my teammates were in the crowd as well, cheering in French for me."
Quigley was quick to join in piling atop Musialek.
"I'd obviously like to win," Quigley said. "But it was awesome. It was the best feeling I've felt after a loss ever.
"It was a great day to be a Wildcat, and I'm proud of all my teammates. It feels so great even though I came up a little short."
Emery was thankful to be bound for Stanford.
"We can say what we want before the match about how this is going to be a lot of fun and it's a great opportunity," he said. "But the truth is there was a lot of pressure on our team today, I felt like. We've had a tremendous season, we've been into the top 10.
"We're in the top 10 because we've won matches like this all year long. You're hoping that you win one more. Certainly we had the two guys on the court at the end that we wanted on the court."
Ecarma had the back of Maksimcuk. The coach noted that his senior from Serbia had Friday's toughest first-round matchup, against Cornell's Jonathan Jaklitsch, and thus "put more mileage in his legs than anybody on the team did."
"Then you follow it up with somebody even better. ... He got up a set and a break. We thought that was going to be it. I really feel Musialek saved UK today. He saved UK because, if Viktor had gotten that one hold to go up a set and 5-3, I think think that's us climbing all over each other instead of a locker room of crying guys."