Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Southern Cal Trojans Win Fourth Straight NCAA Men's Title with Dramatic 4-2 Win Indoors

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Athens, GA--

The circumstances surrounding the men's final were far from ideal, but the hundreds of fans who stuck around until 12:55 a.m. Wednesday morning will never forget how the University of Southern California Trojans won their fourth straight NCAA men's tennis championship.

When freshman Yannick Hanfmann won a third set tiebreaker from the University of Virginia's Justin Shane at No. 5 singles, giving top seed USC a 4-2 victory, the hundreds of fans packed into the Lindsey Hopkins Indoor Tennis Center were emotionally exhausted from the twists and turns the match took during its final hours. 

Rain arrived just as the doubles point was completed around 6 p.m., with Virginia dealing USC only its second loss of a doubles point all season, with wins at 2 and 3 doubles. There was a two-hour delay before the decision was made to move the singles matches indoors, and because there are only four courts, the prospect of a long night loomed.

With the Virginia fans outnumbering those from USC by a substantial margin, sitting in and standing behind the three-tiered aluminum bleachers and making their loyalties known on every point, the four-ring circus began at 8:30 p.m.

Without electronic scoreboards and with the deafening noise making chair umpire score calling inaudible, it was impossible to monitor what was happening on each court, with old-fashioned scoreboards manually changed by umpires the only source of information.

Virginia's fans began to sense the possibility that this would finally be their year when freshman Mitchell Frank took a big lead on USC's Daniel Nguyen at No. 3 singles. The senior Nguyen, who had clinched the last two USC titles, had not lost an NCAA singles match in his career, going 15-0, and earning the reputation as Mr. Clutch.

At No. 2 singles, USC's Raymond Sarmiento and Virginia's Alex Domijan where locked in an entertaining battle with Sarmiento showing off some deft hands while coping with the big ground strokes of the Cavalier sophomore.

Sarmiento got a late break in the first set to take it 6-4, and by that time Emilio Gomez had the first set over Drew Courtney at 4 and Steve Johnson had taken the first set from Jarmere Jenkins at 1.

Frank was leading Nguyen 6-3, 5-1 and had nine match points to put Virginia up 2-0, but before Frank could finally convert his tenth match point, Johnson had beaten Jenkins 6-3, 6-2 and Gomez had made it 2-1 USC with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Courtney.

With the No. 5 and No. 6 singles able to take the courts, Sarmiento was serving up 5-3, and he served for the match at 5-4.  With the players trading winners in the high-quality match, Domijan got his chance to break back and took it, hitting a backhand return winner to make it 5-5.  He was broken in the next game however, and Sarmiento had a second chance to serve for the match. Down 15-30, Sarmiento hitting a spinning, diving volley to make it 30-30 and earned a match point when Domijan made a rare error, on the backhand side. Sarmiento gave USC the 3-2 lead they would hold for a very long time when he hit a perfectly executed drop volley on match point, which the 6-foot-7 Domijan sprinted desperately for but couldn't reach, and Sarmiento had the 6-4, 7-5 win.

Virginia's Julien Uriguen had taken the first set from Roberto Quiroz at 6, while Hanfmann and Shane were at 4-4 in their opening set at 5. Hanfmann broke and held to give USC that first set, and the Trojans were one set from their fourth straight title.

Shane got an early break in the second set, and went on to win it 6-2, while Quiroz was staying with Uriguen in their second set, which reached a tiebreaker. If Uriguen could win it, all the attention would be on Shane and Hanfmann, but he was beginning to show signs of cramping and Quiroz, a freshman, stepped up his game to take the tiebreaker 7-3, forcing a third set.

Despite his medical issues, which resulted in a trainer administering to him at every changeover, Uriguen took a 3-0 lead in the final set. Shane and Hanfmann, similar players in body type and game style, were at 4-4 in the third when Shane got the break to serve for the match.  He missed two forehands wide however, to go down 0-30, and just missed a backhand to give Hanfmann two break points. Shane forced an error on the next point, but netted a forehand at 30-40 to make it 5-5, and Hanfmann quickly held for 6-5. Shane continued to play boldly serving at 5-6 and used a good serve and a forehand winner to get to the tiebreaker.

On 6, Quiroz had broken Uriguen serving at 4-2 to get back on serve in the third as Hanfmann and Shane began their tiebreaker. It was 3-3 at the change of ends, but Shane netted a backhand to trail 4-3 and missed a forehand wide for 5-3. Hanfmann then came up with an ace to make it 6-3, with two serves to come for Shane. Shane missed his first, made his second, but after a tense rally, the sophomore missed a forehand, doubling over in disappointment as the USC celebration began and the Trojan pep band launched into its exuberant rendition of the school's fight song.

"I knew I had this ability, that I could do that," said Hanfmann, who also clinched a 4-3 victory for USC in the finals of the ITA National Indoors three months ago. "But it's not just me, but the whole team was competing, playing their asses off. Just seeing everybody playing so hard, it was just an inspiration for me. And I think I was lucky for it to finish that way."

"For a freshman to do that is remarkable," said USC coach Peter Smith, who equals Stanford's Dick Gould's 1995-1998 streak with his fourth consecutive title. "It was tough for us, the last two matches were going to be freshmen against a sophomore and a junior, but the tradition lives on, it's unbelievable."

It was mission accomplished for Johnson and Nguyen, who joined Stanford's Paul Goldstein and Charles Hoeveler as the only players to win four consecutive NCAA team championships since the championship format was changed in 1977.

"I guess mission accomplished is the best way to put it," said Johnson, who was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. "I came back to win four, and I don't think there was ever a doubt in my mind that I was going to come back. But to do it with this group of guys, it's such a special group, and to be able to mentor these young freshmen...these guys are going to carry on the legacy in the next few years and I'm excited to watch them grow."

"Just to finish my career with these guys, we're just so close to each other," said Nguyen. "It's definitely a very special moment."

For Virginia's Brian Boland, whose team lost 4-3 to USC in last year's final, it was a disappointing, but not discouraging loss.

"These guys continue to get back here, to put themselves in position to become champions," Boland said. "And in my mind they're champions regardless of winning or losing this match. It's unfortunate we came up short, because I think we did things the right way and gave ourselves a chance to finish at the end with a national championship. But we fell short, and we'll bounce back."

The returning members of the USC team, sporting their National Championship T-shirts as they stood behind the makeshift media table and listened to Smith, Johnson and Nguyen talk about their fourth straight title, knew they had also been a part of something special.

"The standard was different for this team," said Smith. "Plain and simple. The only standard was winning it, and we knew it. But boy, it feels so good."

MEN: #1 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (33-1) def. #3 VIRGINIA (29-2), 4-2
Head Coaches: Peter Smith (SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA) and Brian Boland (VIRGINIA)

Doubles (Order of finish: 2,3) 
1.  #2 Steve Johnson/Roberto Quiroz (SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA) vs. #5 Drew Courtney/Jarmere Jenkins (VIRGINIA), 6-5, unfinished
2.  Alex Domijan/Mitchell Frank (VIRGINIA) def. Emilio Gomez/Yannick Hanfmann (SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA), 8-5
3. Julen Uriguen/Justin Shane (VIRGINIA) def.  #35 Daniel Nguyen/Ray Sarmiento (SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA), 8-4

Singles (Order of finish: 1,4,3,2,5*)
1.  #1 Steve Johnson (SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA) def. #4 Jarmere Jenkins (VIRGINIA), 6-3, 6-2
2.  #25 Ray Sarmiento (SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA) def. #39 Alex Domijan (VIRGINIA), 6-4, 7-5
3.  #2 Mitchell Frank (VIRGINIA) def. #21 Daniel Nguyen (SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA), 6-3, 6-1
4.  #57 Emilio Gomez (SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA) def. Drew Courtney (VIRGINIA), 6-4, 6-2
5.  #51 Yannick Hanfmann (SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA) def. #82 Justin Shane (VIRGINIA), 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(4)
6.  Roberto Quiroz (SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA) vs. Julen Uriguen (VIRGINIA), 2-6, 6-7(3), 3-4, unfinished


Austin said...

Great match, too bad the officials completing botched it and put them indoors for no reason. Were they looking at a different radar screen than I was?

I actually thought the video coverage was MUCH better than ESPNU for the womens final, too bad we had to follow the scoreboard for the biggest tennis match of the year. How there is not a contingency plan for video is beyond me...especially when there was a 2hr delay.

Anyway, great win by USC. The higher ranked player won every singles match. Sarmiento was the perfect guy to play Domijan. It also looked like Quiroz was going to come back and take #6 singles since Uriguen was cramping badly.

USC was the best team from start to finish this season, so very deserving, especially after playing poorly in doubles. People thought going indoors was an advantage for the Hoos and USC just proved again they are the better team.

2013 Preseason Top 20
1) Virginia
3) Duke
4) Ohio State
5) Southern Cal
6) Florida
7) Mississippi
8) Oklahoma
9) Tulsa
10) Baylor
11) Auburn
12) Michigan
13) Georgia
14) Kentucky
15) Pepperdine
16) Texas A&M
17) Tennessee
18) Texas
19) Washington
20) Stanford

*subject to change due to transfers, random international players we dont know about, etc.

Chuck said...

All credit to USC, but wow Domijan and Courtney pulled a chokey choke. If your 6'7 and serve 140 you can't lose your serve indoors! He lost to a 5'10 guy! Unreal!Same for Courtney, these guys need to watch Isner play. Boland seems to produce too many guys that can't come forward. Ok for college but that's why you don't see UVA guys transitioning to the next level. Gotta come forward big fellas!

USC wont be the same without Steve Johnson. Steve will have a rough transition to pros. Top 100 that is, he will do fine at the challenger level but will need to improve the backhand a lot if he wants to play the grand slams/master series. He is slicing the bhand more than 50% of the time. When he drives the bhand it's always on the back foot.

Brent said...

Unbelievable final last night. Shame it wasn't on TV. Colette, thanks for your coverage.

Haven't looked at scores yet this morning (and who knows if they are actually updated!), so predictions are as follows...

Round of 64
1 Johnson over Kalmanovich
Slilam over Pecotic
9 Meister over Skupski
McMorrow over Doumbia
6 King over Domijan
Andrews over Coupland
9 Musialek over Hume
Zsiga over Taboada
Klahn over 4 Jenkins
Boutillier over Mengel
9 Buchanan over Libietis
Singh over K.King
8 Fanselow over van Overbeek
Cant over Hanfmann
Klegou over 9 Scholtz
Watling over Hernandez
Thacher over Escobar
9 Paval over Pieters
Nguyen over Jones
5 Cunha over Puget
Andrews over Lutjen
Tearney over Miles
3 Quigley over Dome
Bubnic over Gomez
9 Rola over Borsos
Thiemann over Alcantara
7 Nevolo over Pulgar
Somen over Carleton
9 Spencer over Spir
Sarmiento over Sayer
2 Frank over Rossi

Round of 32
1 Johnson over Slilam
McMorrow over 9 Meister
6 King over Andrews
Zsiga over 9 Musialek
Klahn over Boutillier
9 Buchanan over Singh
8 Fanselow over Cant
Klegou over Watling
Thacher over 9 Paval
5 Cunha over Nguyen
G.Andrews over McLachlan
3 Quigley over Tearney
9 Rola over Bubnic
7 Nevolo over Thiemann
9 Spencer over Somen
Sarmiento over 2 Frank

Round of 16
1 Johnson over McMorrow
6 King over Zsiga
Klahn over 9 Buchanan
8 Fanselow over Klegou
5 Cunha over Thacher
3 Quigley over G.Andrews
7 Nevolo over 9 Rola
Sarmiento over 9 Spencer

1 Johnson over 6 King
Klahn over 8 Fanselow
5 Cunha over 3 Quigley
Sarmiento over 7 Nevolo

1 Johnson over Klahn
5 Cunha over Sarmiento

1 Johnson over 5 Cunha

Austin said...

I think Cunha is spent.

Pending no one pulling out today I will say, beginning with quarters:

(1)Johnson over (6)King
(9)Buchanan over Hernandez
(3)Quigley over (9)Paval
(2)Frank over (9)Rola

(1)Johnson over (9)Buchanan
(2)Frank over (3)Quigley

(1)Johnson over (2)Frank

russ said...

I agree Johnson's slice backhand is an issue and I think he knows it. I saw him working on hitting heavy aggressive two handers this fall in Tiburon during the challenger there.

I'm curious about the Domijan match against Sarmiento. Did Sarmiento go toe to toe with him, or was it his defensive quickness and court coverage, or something different altogether that won him the match? Last summer in a future I saw Robbye Poole really expose Domijan's weaknesses: movement and agility. He dropped shotted him to death. Moved him side to side with slow paced balls with plenty of slices mixed in. Gave him a lot of short low slices as well, which Domijan had trouble getting down to. If those shots didn't result in approach errors there were enough botched volleys or weak volleys that left Domijan vulnerable to a pass. By the end of the match Domijan was completely frustrated: hitting a couple of balls over the fence and tossing his racket.

Brent said...

It is not really possible that Shabaz got kicked out for heckling, is it? What is the deal? I think people were floored by last year's stunt but willing to chalk it up to a one-time error in judgment. Maybe he just is 'that guy'.

Austin said...

Shabaz got kicked out for heckling? hahah, what did he say? Who was he yelling at?

Also, yeah, I mentioned last year about Johnsons backhand, he will get owned on tour if he keeps that up.

Brent said...

Baker over Monfils!!!! Wow. What a story.

russ said...

Although I think it's way early to start speculating about next year, I'll play along. First off, neither Ohio State or USC has an American recruit so far. The only one left is Bjorn and if Bjorn doesn't turn pro, Ohio State might get him and they really need him to replace Buchanan. The strength of Ohio State's lineup was in its doubles and top two. The bottom four was bit more problematic. They could be great, as in Kobelt's win over Frank at indoors; or they couldn't be depended on in a tight situation, as in the match against UCLA. My guess is that both those teams will be looking hard and long at international players. No way Coach Smith stands pat, even though his bench is long and Eric Johnson is a very good player, but he needs two spots to fill and I bet he fills them. Nothing he would love more than five in a row.

The other thing that jumps out is the thirteen ranking for Georgia. My thought is that they might have had the best recruiting class despite what tennis recruiting says. Austin Smith is a top five American, Wagland a top ten ITF with a long list of notable wins against current college players, and Nunez a top fifty ITF with a win over Krueger. Pasha had a phenomenal year and KU Singh won't have any trouble replacing Spencer at one. They'll be very solid and Diaz is a great coach. The job he did resurrecting Pasha's career when it hit the rocks at the end of juniors was great.

Virginia and Stanford, the top two at tennis recruiting, both have a high quantity of top notch recruits, but only Styslinger is really cream in my mind. He"ll be in the lineup for sure, but I don't see any of the others Virginia recruited beating out Uriguen. The big question in my mind for Virginia is: will the top three stay? Jamere, I think will, as he will be a senior. Domijan should, as he needs work on his movement and agility. Frank, if he gets to the final and has a good match against Johnson, might be the one to disappear.

As for Stanford, I don't see them as low as twenty, but losing Thacher and Klahn will be tough to replace as nobody that they have now is a top two in the lineup competitor. My guess is that Morrissey will be their number one. More dependable and better overall game than Kandath.

The other recruiting class I like is Texas AM. Vinsant and Krueger are an excellent catch, but their team had really an iffy season and so I don't really know if they'll be legitimate contenders, but I can see them in the top ten.

Duke, I'd put at four behind Virginia, UCLA, USC. Four of their six losses came against Virginia and USC and they need to show me they can beat the big boys before I can put them above one of them. As for their recruiting class, I love it. Redlicki will be great and Semenzato was an 800 ATP player. The pressure will be on them to get along as a team and to up their games to beat the top three.

As for Florida I don't see them that high. Zero recruits for them so far and I bet they lose somebody to a transfer, as they always do. So Georgia, or Ohio State (if they get Bjorn), are my number fives.

Athens said...

Austin, even though it didn't keep raining there was off & on thunder. The rules officials said (like the night before) whenever there is thunder in the area, there is a 30 minute delay. That kept them from going back outside. In Sarmiento's match, he did a great job moving Domijan around. All credit to Ray. Played aggressive when the opportunity was there, unlike many others. Also, Sarmiento's match against Meister was outstanding. Meister didn't play bad. Ray hit winners all over the place. Incredible shot after incredible shot. He really raised his game in the semis and finals.
At #4, Courtney couldn't get to net & Gomez is a better baseliner. Also, in the UCLA match, Giron out hit Gomez from the baseline and just outplayed him.
At #6, Uriguen seemed to be the better player even though he was having trouble physically,likely from lack of match fitness all year.

Got to give USC credit, at key points, their guys were willing to be aggressive when possible and make something happen versus sitting back and hoping the other guy misses. They played to win. That seemed to be the slight difference at this high college level.

College Tennis said...

Austin- You did an impressive job assembling that pre-season ranking list for next year. However, one flaw is that you did not include Cal in the entire Top 20 and I am assuming that this was just oversight.

I also would not put Michigan nearly that high; I don't know what makes you think they can be as high as 12.

Finally, while Washington deserves to move up with all 6 of their singles starters returning, and Stanford deserves to move down with Klahn and Thacher graduating, I'm not sure that I would go so far as to put Washington ahead of Stanford. I think Cal should be ahead of both of them.

Austin said...

Obviously making any preseason list so far away from next season is somewhat of a crapshoot.

I had UGA that low because they are losing their #1,3,4 guys from this season, that is tough to replace.

Michigan is returning all starters, maybe #12 is a little high, but they should be able to host a regional and I put them ahead of a few teams based on having the best player.

I love A&M's two recruits as well, but their team was not nearly as good as I thought they should have been this season.

I didnt like Cal this season, and really dont like them next year when they lose their #2 & 3 guys from this season.

Again, international players change things soooo much. If Ole Miss were to pull a Swede or Norweigen out of nowhere like they tend to do who can step in at #1 or 2 then they may be a top contender. Also curious to see who Kentucky gets to replce their top two guys. They probably have some French guy up their sleeve, ditto with Georgia and conveniently getting a really good transfer to replace Doumbia or Taboada.

I usually have to see Indoors and the qualifying rounds for it before being able to make an accurate prediction for the season.