©Colette Lewis 2012--
Three-time defending champion and top seed University of Southern California survived a tough doubles point against 16th seed Illinois and went on to roll through singles for a 4-0 win Friday in the third round of the NCAA Division I men's team championship.
The Trojans top doubles team of Steve Johnson and Roberto Quiroz were down 6-5 to the Fighting Illini's Roy Kalmanovich and Dennis Nevolo, with Kalmanovich serving and each team with one match in the books.
Illinois had taken the No. 3 doubles match and Southern Cal won at 2, leaving it up to the top court to decide the point.
Kalmanovich was broken for 6-6 and in the next game a controversy on a first serve of Johnson's propelled the Trojans. Johnson had thought his serve was out, and Illinois played it, but as is allowed in college rules, Johnson had the option of asking the chair and replaying the point if she agreed it was out. There was a discussion and Johnson immediately asked for the referee, who agreed a let should be played. There wasn't much of a protest from Illinois, but Johnson and Quiroz had renewed energy and won nine of the next ten points, holding, then breaking Nevolo for a routine-looking-but-not-really 8-6 win.
"I was really happy the doubles point was close," said USC coach Peter Smith. "We need experiences playing in tough situations and they gave it to us in doubles."
USC squashed any hopes for an upset early, taking all six first sets in singles. At No. 1, Johnson trailed Nevolo 4-2, but then reeled off four straight games to take the set. After wins by Emilio Gomez at 4 and Ray Sarmiento at 2, Johnson clinched the shutout with a 6-4, 6-3 victory, his 63rd consecutive collegiate singles victory.
"We thought we had some really good matchups and that's as good as I've seen Ray play all year. And Emilio wow, 6-0, 3-0, wow. And Stevie's Stevie. Stevie gets going and it's a train that's hard to get out of the way of....he's a competitor first and foremost, and a competitor wants a challenge. So if someone wants to give him a challenge, he's going to rise to it. If the crowd wants to do that, I'm all for it."
#1 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (30-1) def. #16 ILLINOIS (19-8), 4-1 - Henry Feild Stadium
Head Coaches: Peter Smith (SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA) and Brad Dancer (ILLINOIS)
1. #2 Steve Johnson/Roberto Quiroz (SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA) def. #21 Roy Kalmanovich/Dennis Nevolo (ILLINOIS), 8-6
2. #35 Daniel Nguyen/Ray Sarmiento (SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA) def. Ross Guignon/Tim Kopinski (ILLINOIS), 8-4
3. Bruno Abdelnour/Stephen Hoh (ILLINOIS) def. Emilio Gomez/Yannick Hanfmann (SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA), 8-6
1. #1 Steve Johnson (SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA) vs. #7 Dennis Nevolo (ILLINOIS), 6-4, 6-3
2. #25 Ray Sarmiento (SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA) vs. #31 Roy Kalmanovich (ILLINOIS), 6-3, 6-2
3. #21 Daniel Nguyen (SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA) vs. Bruno Abdelnour (ILLINOIS), 6-4, 1-4, unfinished
4. #57 Emilio Gomez (SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA) def. Tim Kopinski (ILLINOIS), 6-0, 6-3
5. #51 Yannick Hanfmann (SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA) vs. Stephen Hoh (ILLINOIS), 6-2, 5-3, unfinished
6. Roberto Quiroz (SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA) vs. Ross Guignon (ILLINOIS), 7-5, 4-1, unfinished
Next up for the Trojans, who have now won 21 straight NCAA tournament matches, are the Duke Blue Devils.
Duke handled a veteran Baylor team that wasn't seeded, but had the experience to challenge the No. 8 seeds.
After taking the doubles point with convincing victories at 2 and 3 , Duke got singles wins from Jason Tahir at 6, Henrique Cunha at 1 and Chris Mengel at 2.
"We really set the tone in doubles," said Ramsey Smith, Duke's coach. "We come out with just extraordinary energy and got up big at 2 and 3. That really set the tone and gave us a lot of momentum going into the singles."
Smith knew Baylor had two seniors against his two freshmen at 5 and 6, so there was no looking past the Bears.
"The last 10-12 years I think they've finished Top 10 almost every single year," said Smith. "They have a bunch of veterans on the team, a bunch of seniors, and they're a tough out. They are playing their best tennis of the year going into this tournament. So we were ready for a battle, and I'm just really proud of our guys."
As for their chances against No. 1 USC, Smith joked, "oh, they won?"
After he shared a chuckle with the reporters, Smith continued.
"No, they're the team to beat. They certainly have some pressure on them, because I think this is the first year they've been seeded 1. We have beaten them the last two years, but they got us pretty handily at National Indoors, but we no we can beat them, and they're beatable. They did lose this year, and we're in a really good place right now, so we're going to give it everything we've got. We're looking forward to it."
#8 DUKE (25-5) def. #17-32 BAYLOR (19-12), 4-0 - McWhorter Courts
Head Coaches: Ramsey Smith (DUKE) and Matt Knoll (BAYLOR)
1. #16 Henrique Cunha/Chris Mengel (DUKE) vs. Diego Galeano/Mate Zsiga (BAYLOR), 5-7, unfinished
2. David Holland/Fred Saba (DUKE) def. #45 Kike Grangeiro/Roberto Maytin (BAYLOR), 8-4
3. Raphael Hemmeler/Torsten Wietoska (DUKE) def. Julian Bley/Marko Krickovic (BAYLOR), 8-2
1. #5 Henrique Cunha (DUKE) def. #17 Mate Zsiga (BAYLOR), 6-4, 6-1
2. #38 Chris Mengel (DUKE) def. #86 Roberto Maytin (BAYLOR), 7-5, 6-4
3. #113 Torsten Wietoska (DUKE) vs. Marko Krickovic (BAYLOR), 6-4, 3-5, unfinished
4. Fred Saba (DUKE) vs. Diego Galeano (BAYLOR), 3-6, 5-6, unfinished
5. Raphael Hemmeler (DUKE) vs. Kike Grangeiro (BAYLOR), 6-4, 5-4, unfinished
6. Jason Tahir (DUKE) def. Julian Bley (BAYLOR), 7-5, 6-0
Order of Finish