(by Steve Hopkins)
Ochsenhausen had a big win yesterday to keep their playoff hopes alive. At this point, the shorthanded squad that is missing two of its top three players, needs to win all of their remaining matches to have a chance. Muhlhausen holds the fourth spot, but because of COVID rescheduling, Muhlhausen has to play two make-up matches in the final weeks (and among their final matches are No. 1 Dusseldorf and No. 3 Fulda). Muhlhausen is now 11-7 and Ochsenhausen is 11-9. Barring a complete collapse by Fulda, overtaking Muhlhausen is Ochsenhausen’s only path to the Final Four tournament.
The big win on Wednesday was over TTC Neu-Ulm. Ochsenhausen is still without Kulczycki and Gauzy (both injured), so on paper Neu-Ulm held a slight advantage. That advantage became larger when Tiago Apolonia upset Kanak Jha 3-2 giving Neu-Ulm a win over Ochsenhausen’s top ranked player. But young French player Can Akkuzu was on fire for Ochsenhausen – topping Kay Stumper 3-2 and then defeating Apolonia 3-2 as well. Even after Neu-Ulm’s Sidorenko defeated Maciej Kubik (also 3-2), the two wins by Akkuzu were enough to push this match to doubles. In doubles, Kanak Jha and Maciej Kubik topped the much higher ranked team of Sidorenko and Katsman. All of the matches of the day were won 3-2 (and 9 of the 25 games played were decided by 3 points or less). A close match and a well-earned victory for Ochsenhausen. The stakes were high, as just as this win keep Ochsenhausen’s hopes for a playoff birth alive – they also effectively ended any chance for New Ulm.
Going into the weekend, Dusseldorf is comfortable in first at 18-1, Saarbrucken is comfortably in second at 14-4, Fulda holds a narrow lead at third at 12-7, and Muhlhausen is in fourth at 11-7. Ochsenhausen is 11-9 and Bergneustadt is 10-9. The upcoming matches that matter in the fight for fourth are as follows:
- Muhlhausen plays Bremen (8-11), then Fulda (12-7), then Saarbrucken (14-4), then BKO (9-10)
- Schwalbe plays Saarbrucken (14-4), then ASV (5-14), then Fulda (12-7)
- Ochsenhausen plays Konigshofen (9-10), then Bremen (8-11)
If Ochsenhausen can hang on and win both of the remaining matches, they would finish at 13-9. If Muhlhausen tops both teams beneath them and loses to both above them, they would also finish at 13-9. Schwalbe’s slim playoff hopes lie in upsetting either Saarbrucken or Fulda and then watching both Muhlhausen and Ochsenhausen falter.
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