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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Southern California Downs Ohio State to Claim NCAA Division I Men's Tennis Championship


©Colette Lewis 2009--
College Station, Texas

There's something about the George Mitchell Tennis Center at Texas A & M University that agrees with the University of Southern California men's tennis team. The site of their last title, in 2002, the eighth-seeded Trojans claimed their fifth championship Tuesday afternoon, defeating No. 3 Ohio State 4-1.

"Prakash Amritraj facebooked me this morning and said, 'let's do it, let's do it,'" USC coach Peter Smith said of the player who had clinched the Trojans' title in 2002, coach Dick Leach's last year. "The last time USC won it, I was being offered the job...to be back here seven years later on the court, it's surreal."

The Trojans captured the doubles point at No. 3 when Matt Kecki and Jaak Poldma defeated Steven Moneke and Chase Buchanan, breaking Moneke at 7-8. Ohio State had taken the No. 2 doubles position with Bryan Koniecko and Shuhei Uzawa downing Abdullah Magdas and Daniel Nguyen 8-4, while Robert Farah and Steve Johnson had claimed the No. 1 singles over Buckeyes Justin Kronauge and Matt Allare 8-3.

Allare, who had turned his ankle in the last game of his match against UCLA in Monday's semifinal, wasn't obviously hobbled, but Magdas led all the way in their match at No. 4, recording a 6-2, 6-3 victory and giving USC a 2-0 lead. Daniel Nguyen of USC easily won the battle of the freshmen at No. 6, taking out Chase Buchanan 6-0, 6-2 to make it 3-0 USC, but Ohio State had won first sets at No. 1, No. 3 and No. 5 to give the Buckeye faithful some hope. Trojan Steve Johnson had taken the first set from Steven Moneke in a tiebreaker at No. 2, and was up a break on a couple of occasions in the second set, but couldn't hold that advantage.

Meanwhile, Robert Farah had recovered from the loss of the first set to Bryan Koniecko of Ohio State, taking the second set quickly 6-1. Justin Kronauge, who had clinched in the last match on in the Buckeyes semifinal win over UCLA, showed no effects from Monday's grueling contest, and he finished off Jaak Poldma at No. 3 7-6(1), 6-4.

Around that same time, Farah had broken Koniecko at 3-3 in the third set, and suddenly that match became the focus.

Farah held serving a 4-3, producing inspired tennis, while Koniecko hung with him on every point, even though he won none of them. There were no errors, just great shot after great shot, and the same held true for Koniecko's next service game, which he won to make it 5-4.

"I went and sat down at 5-4 and I just tried to keep my cool, take as much time as I could, close my eyes and believe I could do it," said Farah, a junior from Columbia. "To watch all these great players in the ATP winning great matches, how they take their time, how they control those moments, which I think is the hardest moment in a tennis match--closing the match. That's what I did, and I did it well. I did it against Texas, I did it against Stanford, and I think I'm getting better at that moment."

Farah, who was named the tournament's most valuable player, made it easy on his coach, going up 40-0 with aggressive yet error-free play, and finishing with a service winner. Moneke had just taken the second set from Johnson and Ohio State's Balazs Novak had a one-set lead over Matt Kecki at No. 5, but there would be no repeat of Monday's comeback from 3-1 down against UCLA.

"It was a tough day for us. I feel bad for them," said Ohio State coach Ty Tucker, referring to seniors Moneke and Koniecko. "We wouldn't be anywhere without them; their play on the court has been absolutely unbelievable, above and beyond. They put it all out there on the line, and it's got to be disappointing for Bryan to have the season end on his court."

Koniecko regretted a couple of forehands he missed in the long game at 3-3, but gave credit to Farah.

"He served well the last three games and there was not much I could do. Hats off to him, but it was a tough match."

With three freshmen in the lineup, even coach Smith seemed surprised at how everything had fallen into place in the final month of the season.

"I never get anything right the first time," Smith said with disbelief. "Trust me. I'm in the finals for the first time with my team and we win? My life doesn't work like that."

But as he left the media center, coach Smith was asking for advice on how to text message everyone in his address book that USC had won its fifth national championship since the dual match format was introduced in 1977.

For complete scores see the aggieathletics website.

18 comments:

Eric Amend said...

Colette,

Great job with your long hours at the NCAA Tournament this week, you've done a great job with your reports. But I would like to make a correction to the number of National Championships USC has won. The correct number is now 17; we have 5 since the NCAA went to the dual match format in 1977.

Thanks,
Eric Amend

George Toley said...

I won a few titles, too. This one give the Men of Troy 17, not 5, tying Stanford for most overall.

Colette Lewis said...

@Amend, @ Toley:
I would never want to shortchange the accomplishments of the USC program, but ESPN and some other journalists have gone with the number since the dual match format was introduced, which makes sense to me. The AP is reporting it as 17, so I guess there's no consensus, but congratulations on another one, regardless of the number!

Austin said...

USC stepped it up when it counted.

Matt Allare was undefeated at #4 this season, then he didnt win a set in his final three matches.

Not even sure what to say about Chase Buchanon, other than yikes.

I went and looked at my predictions i posted on here for this season the day after the finals last season, and there were some hits and misses:

Preseason Rankings
1)Ohio State
2)Stanford
3)USC
4)Baylor
5)Texas
6)Georgia
7)UCLA
8)Michigan
9)Tennessee
10)Florida State
5/21/2008


Looking ahead to next year, heres a wild guess:

2010 Preseason Rankings
1) USC
2) Texas
3) Virginia
4) Stanford
5) Baylor
6) UCLA
7) Texas A&M
8) Tennessee
9) Georgia
10)Florida State

tnss said...

It was a good week for USC in texas, even there recruit for next year won the itf he was playing in. FIGHT ON TROJANS

eric said...

This is so surreal for USC after the tough Pac 10 loss to UCLA . Regardless they are the National Champions and congrats to them .

wonderingwhy said...

What happened to Ohio St? They were supposed to win it all . I guess getting Buchanan was not even a factor since he lost pretty easily at #6 . On the other hand USC stepped it up and I guess they wanted it more. I just feel bad for Konieko and Moneke for not getting a team title in their respected college careers . Goodluck to both .

Austin said...

Mens Sinlges Predictions

Quarters
(1)Brugues over Aubone
Klahn over Spencer
(9)Schnugg over Beidas
(9)Pollock over (2) Nedovyesov

Semis
(1)Brugues over Klahn
(9) Pollock over (9)Schnugg

Finals
(1)Brugues over (9)Pollock

*who really knows, quality is way down, most competitive up-in-the-air tournament i can ever remember

Mens Doubles Predictions

Quarters
(1)Berg/Ten Berge over Kronauge/Moneke
(5)Krajicek/Pollock over Donato/Fogelman
(4)Hunt/Schnugg over (5)Farah/Johnson
(5)Forman/Parr over Buikema/Thibaudeau

Semis
(5)Krajicek/Pollock over (1)Berg/Ten Berge
(4)Hunt/Schnugg over (5)Forman/Parr

Finals
(4)Hunt/Schnugg over (5)Krajicek/Pollock

Womens Singles Final
Fink over Vallverdu

Womens Doubles Final
(3)Remynse/Schnack over Andersson/Juricova

UVA said...

Austin, what do you have against UVA?

Didn't even rank UVA in the top 10 coming into the year and they lose once (to the national outdoor champs) and win 1/2 team championships and will probably finish the season #2.

Then ranking UVA behind Texas for next year? I can understand SoCal (even though I disagree) because they won this year and only lose #4 but I couldn't disagree more with Texas. We only lose Inglot and as much as I love him that will be a huge jump in consistency - Singh is definitely ready to play #1 and we're pretty excited around here in Charlottesville with the recruiting class we have coming to town and word on the street is it might not even be complete yet...

getalife said...

Austin said Quality is way down, I dont think Austin even has a valid opinion.

Austin said...

UVA,

Texas returns everyone except at #6. They have made it further than UVA each of the past two seasons, so with UVA losing their top guy I think the ranking is valid. Getting Jarmere Jenkins is huge for the 'Hoos, thats why they are #3. Its not like Im some expert though, Im just a guy making a guess, but I think I am right a lot more than I am wrong. I know they were undefeated coming into NCAA's, but obviously I dont think as highly of them as others because they have yet to prove me wrong when its all on the line. I'd love to hear anyone elses rankings though.

Getalife,

Do you see future Top100-150 pro players in college this season? I dont. Think about the last 4-5yrs in college. We have had Warburg, Dorsch, Becker, Isner, Levine, Anderson, Kohleffel, Witten, Devarmann, etc.

Do you really see that level of players this year? Look at the top seeds: Brugues, Nedovyesov, Koniecko, Lukacs. Do you see them making a mark on tour? Are they even the true favorites in this years draw? Has anyone been a dominant player this year? I think its a fair statement to say its down, just like college basketball was down this year. Every analyst says so and how its the weakest draft in a decade.

UVA said...

Austin, I'd also be surprised to see Klahn get past Moneke...

GETALIFE said...

There are so many good freshman, did you think any of those guys you just listed were going to be top 150 in there freshman year.

Anthony said...

jean yves aubone of florida state split sets with ryan sweeting, when sweeting split sets with del potro just a few weeks earlier.... any indication of a future top 150?

UVA said...

Austin, teams don't try hard at the national indoor? It's not "all on the line" then? They've won it 2 years in a row and while this year they were definitely a better indoor team, they really should've won the outdoor last year too. If not for cramping (admittedly a part of tennis - but the fact that it was in Tulsa, OK certainly made it more than it had been all year) UVA would've beaten UGA and definitely beaten Texas (for the 2nd time).

Yes, Texas had an easier draw last year and this year they made it further again (though UVA lost to the champs again) but UVA and UT have played both years - once in VA and once in TX - and UVA has won both matches. Also, if you've been following the matches today: In a preview of the #1 singles match next year, Singh destroyed Kutrovsky 6-2 6-0. Losing Inglot is tough - he's been a big part of this team for a while - but we're going to gain a lot of consistency.

Austin said...

I have been disagreeing wholeheartedly for the past year that Singh would have beaten Hunt had he not cramped. I think Hunt would have won regardless. That was the match I was watching the most and it Hunt was either up a game or it was tied in the second set, I believe 4-3 or 3-3 when Singh started showing fatigue. He was by no means in control of the match.

There is only one NCAA champion, and it isnt crowned indoors in February. If UVA wants the respect they feel they deserve then simply win it in May, then no one can deny them, until then they are late 90's, early 00's version of Illinois.

tennisfan said...

UVA , Austin is entitle to his opinion . Yes you were undefeated this season, but you lost to the National Champion USC 4-0 . So, you have a lot to prove next year and show us why you should be ahead of USC and Texas in the pre season rankings as Austin stated in his post .

iluvtennis said...

Honestly the first rankings are pointless, the only rankings that matter are the end of the year rankings. Having said that I think Austin was a little off in his predictions, not having Virginia in the top 10 and having Michigan in there was way off.
My preseason for next year is:
1. USC
2. Texas
3. Virginia
4. Baylor
5. UCLA
6. Georgia
7. Mississippi
8. Ohio State
9. Stanford
10. Tennessee

I assume I'm entitled to my opinion as well and I was at the match with Hunt and Singh and I think Singh would have won if it wasn't for the cramps. He was the better player up to that point and the cramps set in at 3-3 in the second, I would have loved to see it finish one way or another. They also played at National Indoors this year and they split sets when UVa won and it was also a great match.
Austin, you have some high standards if you don't respect UVa. I guess you also don't respect Ohio State, Mississippi, and Texas as none of those teams have won an NCAA Title either. In fact, Virginia has won the last 2 National Team Indoor Titles and the last 2 Individual NCAA titles so it would be hard to argue they do not have one of the top 5 programs in college tennis. As I said in a previous post if you put in perspective who they lost from last year (Devvarman, Huey, Angelinos), and maybe the top recruit in the country (Milos Raonic) I would say the season they had was probably the best in college tennis....although you would have to say USC was great as well, especially since they lost Gary Sacks as well. In my opinion Ohio State had the best team, they just fell a little short at the end.