All Five Trojans Win NCAA First Round Singles|
May 25, 2011
STANFORD, CALIF. - USC's top guns Steve Johnson and Maria Sanchez showed their veteran status in the first round of action at the NCAA Singles Championships at Stanford today. Play was delayed by rainy skies that halted the first matches of the day and pushed by kickoff on the rest of the action to come. But once the weather broke, Johnson and Sanchez got on the board with wins, and set a powerful precedent for their fellow Trojans in the mix, as USC players swept through their competition to push all five into tomorrow's Round of 32. Danielle Lao, Daniel Nguyen and Ray Sarmiento are all heading to the NCAA Singles Round of 32 along with Johnson and Sanchez. Doubles competition also begins tomorrow with three USC doubles pairs taking the courts.
The No. 2 seed on the women's singles side, Sanchez hit the courts almost two hours after her original start time, but as the skies cleared so, too, did Sanchez' focus on her match. Her Baylor opponent, Diana Nakic, had taken the first set from Sanchez with a lopsided 6-2 score. Although shaken up by the rough start, Sanchez got her groove back in the second. As her shots gained strength and her confidence boosted, Sanchez methodically worked out ahead of Nakic. She held serve the rest of the way while dishing out a break here and there to blow by Nakic and lock in on a trip to the next round with her 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 comeback effort. That puts the recently crowned ITA Senior Player of the Year and Pac-10 Player of the Year up against Cal's Mari Andersson in tomorrow's Round of 32.
While Sanchez was powering up on court one, Steve Johnson was ripping into another win two courts down. Tabbed the NCAA Team Tournament's Most Outstanding Player the previous night as he and the Trojans claimed their third straight national championship, Johnson pounded out his 30th consecutive singles win with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Jeff Dadamo of Texas A&M. He'll go up against UCLA's Daniel Kosakowski tomorrow in the men's Round of 32.
Johnson's fellow national champs took the courts soon after. Freshman Ray Sarmiento and Daniel Nguyen both got embedded in three-setters to follow up similar long runs last night in the team title match. Sarmiento was up against Ohio State's 9-16 seed Chase Buchanan in his NCAA Singles debut, and getting into a hole in the first set, the USC freshman dug himself out and on top with a gutsy second-set tiebreak win and kept firing in the third set, creating space with some late breaks to go on the board with a 3-6, 7-6, 6-3 comeback effort. He now moves into the Round of 32 tomorrow against either UCLA's Amit Inbar or Florida State's Vahid Mirzadeh.
Nguyen had expended a great deal of energy the previous night in rocking out the championship-clinching match for the Trojans. In the singles first round, he was up to the task once again. Nguyen responded to his first-set loss with an impressive push to victory, notching a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 win over SMU's Artem Baradach to extend his first trip to the NCAA singles pool into the next round. He'll take on 9-16 seed Dennis Nevolo of Illinois tomorrow.
The Trojan wins didn't stop there, however. The last to take the court, Danielle Lao saw the sun set above as she set herself up with a trip to the Round of 32 with an upset win. Lao took down 9-16 seed Sona Novakova of Baylor with a smooth 6-2, 6-4 victory to wrap up USC's day on the courts. That puts Lao up against Stanford's Nicole Gibbs in tomorrow's singles action.
Tomorrow's doubles play will see Maria Sanchez and Kaitlyn Christian pair up as the No. 3 seeded women's team, along with teammates Valeria Pulido and Alison Ramos. On the men's side, Steve Johnson teams up with Ray Sarmiento for another day of double duty for the Trojans.
2011 NCAA SINGLES CHAMPIONSHIPS