STANFORD, Calif. – The top-ranked Virginia men’s tennis team’s comeback in the NCAA Tournament final fell short as it lost 4-3 to No. 2 USC on Tuesday at the Taube Tennis Center. The Cavaliers fell behind 3-0 before rallying to the tie the match, but the Trojans (27-2) won the final match to win their third consecutive championship and hand Virginia (34-1) its only loss of the season.
“This was a great college tennis match and I am proud of the team,” said head coach Brian Boland. “All the credit to USC for playing a great match. They certainly came out and took it to us in doubles and then early in singles. My guys left everything they had on the court and battled back to get back even in the match. It was going to be a tough match for someone to lose. It was a tremendous experience for us to compete for a national title and I am sure we will learn from this experience.”
For the second consecutive match, Virginia opened the match by dropping the doubles point. Emilio Gomez and Steve Johnson topped Jarmere Jenkins (College Park, Ga.) and Julen Uriguen (Guatemala City, Guatemala) 8-2 at No. 2 doubles. Daniel Nguyen and Ray Sarmiento followed with an 8-4 win over Alex Domijan (Wesley Chapel, Fla.) and Sanam Singh (Chandigarh, India) at No. 3 to give the Trojans the opening point.
In singles, USC continued its strong play early, winning five of the six first sets. The Trojans won two of those matches in straight sets to extend their lead to 3-0. Gomez defeated Justin Shane (Falls Church, Va.) 6-0, 6-3 at No. 5 and Johnson downed Michael Shabaz (Fairfax, Va.) 7-6(2), 6-3 at the top spot.
The other four matches all went to a decisive third set. The Cavalier rally began at No. 2 where Domijan defeated Jaak Poldma 3-6 6-3, 6-4. Uriguen added a 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 win at No. 6 over Lucassen to bring the Cavaliers to 3-2 down. Jenkins tied the match with his win at No. 4, defeating Sarmiento 3-6, 6-1, 6-4. The championship came down to the match at No. 3 between Nguyen and Singh. Nguyen held a 5-2 lead in the third set when Singh saved a championship point en route to holding serve for 5-3. He followed by breaking Nguyen in the next game to get back on serve. However, Nguyen answered back in the next game, benefitting from a pair of net cords that went his way, to break Singh and clinch the title for the Trojans.
“I am just really disappointed,” said Singh. “I had my chances in the third set and I have to credit Daniel on playing a great match. I had all the momentum heading into the third set after winning the second 6-0. I had a lot of break chances in the first game of the third set. I got broken for 2-4, but found a way to get level. I made a couple errors in that last game. I was in the same situation against Stanford (in the quarterfinals) and came through. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be today.”
It marked the third consecutive season that USC has defeated Virginia in the NCAA Tournament. The Trojans topped the Cavaliers in the 2009 quarterfinals and the 2010 semifinals.
“Even down 3-0, I was confident out there,” said Boland. “There was great fight in these guys. We lost the doubles point, we lost five first sets, but we kept fighting and got back into the match. Sanam got back on serve in his match and it came down to a few net cords and an incredible second point by Daniel Nguyen, and that was the difference. Those are the kinds of matches that make the NCAA Tournament so special. We just game up on the short end today.”
Three Cavaliers were named to the NCAA All-Tournament Team for their play throughout the event. Domijan (No. 2 singles), Singh (No. 3 singles) and Jenkins (No. 4 singles) were selected to the team.
Five members of the Cavaliers will be in action on Wednesday as the NCAA Singles Championship begins at the Taube Tennis Center. Shabaz, Domijan, Singh, Jenkins and Drew Courtney (Clifton, Va.) are all in the 64-player field.
#2 Southern California 4, #1 Virginia 3
1. #2 Courtney/Shabaz (UVa) led #22 Poldma/Sundling (USC) 8-7 DNF
2. Gomez/Johnson (USC) def. Jenkins/Uriguen (UVa) 8-2
3. Nguyen/Sarmiento (USC) def. Domijan/Singh (UVa) 8-4
1. #1 Steve Johnson (USC) def. #5 Michael Shabaz (UVa) 7-6(2), 6-3
2. #2 Alex Domijan (UVa) def. #38 Jaak Poldma (USC) 3-6, 6-3, 6-4
3. #44 Daniel Nguyen (USC) def. #34 Sanam Singh (UVa) 7-5, 0-6, 6-4
4. #56 Jarmere Jenkins (UVa) def. #47 Ray Sarmiento (USC) 3-6, 6-1, 6-4
5. Emilio Gomez (USC) def. Justin Shane (UVa) 6-0, 6-3
6. Julen Uriguen (UVa) def. Peter Lucassen (USC) 6-2, 1-6, 6-3
Order of Finish