Trojans Are Back-To-Back NCAA Champs!
May 25, 2010
ATHENS, GA. - The No. 5-seeded USC men's tennis team served up one more upset to make it back-to-back NCAA Championships for the Trojans. In tonight's 2010 NCAA title match against No. 2 seed Tennessee -- held in Athens, Ga. -- USC fought back from an early hole to claim four impressive singles matches and secure the rights to the 2010 crown. USC finishes the season with a 25-3 overall record as the Trojans pin up their first back-to-back NCAA titles since 1993-94. Overall, the 2010 crown marks USC's 18th all-time NCAA men's tennis championship, making the Trojans the all-time leader in such team victories.
For his match-clinching win tonight as well as four other singles wins during NCAA Tournament play this year, Daniel Nguyen was named the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player. More NCAA All-Tournament Team honors went to: Robert Farah / Steve Johnson (No. 1 Doubles), Daniel Nguyen / JT Sundling (No. 2 Doubles), Robet Farah (No. 1 Singles), Steve Johnson (No. 2 Singles), Daniel Nguyen (No. 4 Singles) and Peter Lucassen (No. 6 Singles). USC's 2010 men's tennis NCAA title is the 113th overall national championship won by the university and 90th men's national championship for the Trojans.
USC got in a 1-0 hole after a rare loss of the doubles point. The Trojans got down a break late in the game on all three courts, with the Tennessee pair on court one getting to the first win of the night. #3 Vols Sandgren/Smith handed USC's #2 Robert Farah / Steve Johnson their first loss in 18 matches, snapping a 17-match win streak with an 8-6 Tennessee win at the No. slot. At the No. 2 position, USC's sophomore-freshman combo of Daniel Nguyen / JT Sundling held off Tennessee's #12 Conkic/Williams, but was down two breaks while competition wrapped up on court three. There, USC's Jason McNaughton / Jaak Poldma were unable to fight back from a late break and fell 8-6 to Fago/Jones to see the Vols take a 1-0 lead in the match with singles competition on tap.
After losing the doubles point - a deficit that had led to USC losses in previous matches this season - the Trojans regrouped and put forth a ferocious effort in singles. Every singles match had its own dramatic story, with pressure ratcheted up thanks to an outpouring of Tennessee supporters in the stands. Despite the best efforts of the crowd and the Vols' #36 Boris Conkic, USC's #3 Steve Johnson worked ahead by a break in the first set and then added one more for good measure in the second while the Trojan sophomore provided a lift for USC with the equalizer in his 6-3, 6-2 win at the No. 2 position. Next to him on court three, USC's #89 Jaak Poldma was doing battle against Tennessee's #45 Rhyne Williams. Poldma shocked his opponent with a powerful first set, only to have the Vols' higher-seeded Williams answer back and push the match to a third set. Tennessee would take back the lead in the match on Williams' 1-6, 6-2, 6-1 win over Poldma at the No. 3 slot, but the Trojans were far from out of the race, even down 1-2 on the scoreboard.
In the hot spot on court one, USC's #9 Robert Farah was up against Tennessee's top-ranked JP Smith. Farah fell behind early in the first set, but didn't give Smith any slack the rest of the way. Despite the cheers of the crowd, Farah's composure continued, and the Trojan senior got a key break late in the set to even it 5-5 and push on to a tiebreak. Farah's strength shined in the tiebreak, as he rolled up a 7-3 decision to take the first set. In the second, Farah picked up a huge break of Smith to take a 3-2 lead that he would not relinquish down the stretch, and the Pac-10 Player of the Year served up one last ace to hold serve and notch his 16th straight singles win with the 7-6 (3), 6-4 upset of Smith to make it 2-2.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the stadium, USC's #121 Peter Lucassen had Matteo Fago on the ropes, up 6-3, 5-2 before the pair's long games saw the score tighten somewhat. Lucassen finally put the finishing touches on his victory with one last service game to win a 6-3, 6-4 decision that boosted the Trojans to their first lead of the match, up 3-2 with three-setters going strong on courts four and five. At No. 5, sophomore Matt Kecki had slipped in a second-set tiebreaker to extend to a third against #115 Matt Brewer. And at No. 4, another Trojan sophomore was seeking comeback homes as #83 Daniel Nguyen had shrugged off a lapse in his first-set tiebreaker and claimed a powerful second set for some momentum going into his all-important third set against #111 Tennys Sandgren. While Kecki was embroiled in a tough third in which he sidestepped a late break with an answering break to trail 4-5 in the third, Nguyen was charging toward victory as he held Sandgren silent in the third. Nguyen had fought off break point midway through the third and rolled on from there, clinching a superstar comeback and the national championship victory for his team with a 6-7 (3), 6-1, 6-0 win to shut things down on a 4-2 win in a long and wild night at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens. Ga. That last victory marked Nguyen's fifth straight singles win in NCAA action this year, netting him honors as the NCAA Most Outstanding Player in the tournament.
And as an extra launchpad to the coming NCAA Individual Championships, senior Robert Farah was named the Farnsworth/ITA Senior Player of the Year. A finalist for the national award as the Southwest Region Senior Player of the Year, Farah was announced as the national honoree today in Athens, Ga. Farah and sophomore Steve Johnson now turn to both NCAA Singles and Doubles competition starting tomorrow (May 26) at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. Johnson is the No. 2 seed in the singles action, with Farah a 9-16 seed. Johnson will open up with a first-round match against Tennessee's Rhyne Williams in a 6 p.m. ET match, and Farah faces Baylor's Jordan Rux at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday (May 26). On Thursday (May 27), the pair teams up again in doubles as the No. 3 seeded duo, facing TCU's Brighiu/Price in the first round.