TROJANS FIGHT ON FOR FOUR IN A ROW
May 22, 2012
ATHENS, GA. - The top-seeded USC men's tennis team won its fourth straight NCAA Championship in one of the most dramatic victories yet. The Trojans fought through rain delays, venue changes and some of the tensest matches on record as the clinchers came down on the shoulders of two USC freshmen. Yannick Hanfmann would be the hero of the day, shrugging off a rough second set and battling back from down a break in the third to win it all in a tiebreaker. The showdown in Athens, Ga., was a rematch of the 2011 national championship, this time with USC as the top seed and Virginia as the No. 3. After the match was moved indoors with USC trailing 1-0, the Trojans captured four of the five singles matches completed to get the four-peat with a 4-2 win over the Cavaliers. USC finishes 2012 with a 33-1 overall record.
Virginia captured the doubles point after shifting the momentum on courts two and three. The Trojans had gone up a break on both courts before the Cavaliers managed to rally back almost simultaneously to turn things in favor of Virginia. At the No. 2 spot, USC's #35 Daniel Nguyen and Ray Sarmiento took their first loss of NCAA action this year with an 8-5 defeat to UVA's Domijan/Frank. Shortly after, Emilio Gomez and Yannick Hanfmann slipped 8-4 to Shane/Uriguen, and Virgina took the 1-0 lead. Suspended on court one were USC's #2 Steve Johnson and Roberto Quiroz, who were in a tight one, up 6-5 on #5 Courtney/Jenkins.
After a two-and-a-half hour break to dry courts, the rains returned to Athens and pushed the competition indoors, where both teams had wrapped up their semifinals about 20 hours earlier. Playing side-by-side for the first time because of the unique setup, #1 senior Steve Johnson and #57 sophomore Emilio Gomez had their respective No. 1 and No. 4 matches next to one another. The two Trojans seemed to feed off each other's energy, as Johnson picked up the pace against Virginia's #5 Jarmere Jenkins and registered the tying win with a 6-3, 6-2 decision at the No. 1 spot. Gomez wasn't far behind, outplaying Virginia's Drew Courtney to the tune of a 6-4, 6-2 win that bumped the Trojans ahead 2-1.
At the No. 3 spot, however, Virginia had the advantage with #2 Mitchell Frank facing USC's #21 senior Daniel Nguyen for the third time this season. Frank had captured the previous two meetings, and was strong once again as he dealt Nguyen the first NCAA singles loss of his career with a 6-3, 6-2 decision that locked it up 2-2. USC freshmen Yannick Hanfmann and Roberto Quiroz both were getting started in their respective No. 5 and 6 matches with courts opened up for action. Meanwhile, #25 Ray Sarmiento was seeing the finish line at the No. 3 spot. Sarmiento got broken to extend his second set, but the sophomore delivered the knockout punch soon after, rattling off the next two games to bump USC ahead 3-2 with his 6-4, 7-5 victory.
That put the remaining action on the shoulders of USC's freshmen Hanfmann and Quiroz. Quiroz, who didn't get to try out the indoor courts yesterday in the semifinal win vs. UCLA, was slow to start but was making noise in the third set. Hanfmann, however, sealed the deal as he broke back against #82 Justin Shane to force the deciding tiebreaker and creating space to round up a 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (3) clincher that secured USC as national champions for the fourth straight year.
USC is the first team since Stanford's 1995-98 teams to win four consecutive national championships. The Trojans lead all, however, in total team championships as they now hold 20 national titles. The victory also brings the university its 117th national championship, as the USC men's tennis team matches the men's water polo team with four straight crowns.
Following the action, USC had landed a solid group on the NCAA All-Tournament Team. Led by Most Outstanding Player Steve Johnson, who reigned at No. 1 singles and at No. 1 doubles with his All-Tournament partner Roberto Quiroz, USC had sophomore Ray Sarmiento selected at the No. 2 singles spot. Sarmiento and partner Daniel Nguyen also picked up the No. 2 doubles selection.
2012 NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS (Dan Magill Tennis Complex - Athens, Ga.)