ATHENS, Ga. – The Virginia men’s tennis team fell short of its first NCAA Championship, falling to No. 1 USC 4-2 in the final at the Dan Magill Tennis Center. The Cavaliers (29-2) fell in the final to the Trojans (33-1) for the second consecutive year, as USC won its fourth consecutive national title.
“I am proud of my team, they left it out on the court tonight,” said head coach Brian Boland. “I always tell the guys that they have to be willing to go through the pain to play the game. These guys worked hard to get back here and be in position to win a championship. In my mind, they are champions, regardless of this outcome. They did everything the right way this year. Both teams played great tonight, but one had to lose and unfortunately that was us. Congratulations to Southern California for winning another national championship. They deserve all the credit for getting it done.”
The match, which started at 5 p.m. outdoors ended nearly eight hours later, indoors, as rain delayed play and eventually moved the match inside.
Despite a slow start, Virginia took a 1-0 lead by winning the doubles point. The Cavaliers trailed early 3-1 at all three positions, but put together comebacks at the No. 2 and No. 3 spots. At No. 2, Alex Domijan (Wesley Chapel, Fla.) and Mitchell Frank (Annandale, Va.) won five straight games to turn the 3-1 deficit into a 6-3 lead. They served out the rest of the way for an 8-5 win over Ray Sarmiento and Daniel Nguyen. At No. 3, Julen Uriguen (Guatemala City, Guatemala) and Justin Shane (Falls Church, Va.) rolled off six straight games after trailing 3-1 and won 8-4 over Emilio Gomez and Yannick Hanfmann. Uriguen and Shane’s victory came seconds after Frank and Domijan’s win, and just a minute before a thunderstorm hit the courts that delayed the start of singles play.
“We felt good (after winning the doubles point), but we knew we had a lot of work still to do,” said Boland. “The guys had a really good mindset about it and handled the adversity of the changes. I thought they handled those transitions really well.”
After a two-hour delay, play was ready to resume outdoors when another storm hit, moving the singles matches indoors. Since Georgia only has four indoor courts, play began with positions 1-4. The Trojans jumped out to a quick start, winning three of four first sets. USC drew even in the match, 1-1, as Steve Johnson, the nation’s top ranked player, defeated Jarmere Jenkins (College Park, Ga.) 6-3, 6-2 at the top position. USC took a 2-1 lead with a victory at No. 4, where Gomez defeated Drew Courtney (Clifton, Va.) 6-4, 6-2. Virginia tied the match at 2-2 when Frank downed Nguyen 6-3, 6-1 at the No. 3 position. It was the first loss in the NCAA Tournament of Nguyen’s career, who clinched the 4-3 USC victory over Virginia in the 2011 final. The Trojans retook the lead, 3-2, when Sarmiento defeated Domijan 6-4, 7-5 at the No. 2 position.
The final two matches were early in the first set when the first four matches were completed. Each team took the first set of one of the final matches, with Uriguen winning the first set at No. 6 against Quiroz, and Hanfmann taking the first set from Shane at No. 5. In both matches, the other player rallied to force a decisive third set.
At No. 5, the third set remained on serve until Shane broke Hanfmann’s serve to take a 5-4 lead. He had a chance to serve for the match, but Hanfmann broke back in the next game and the set eventually went to a tiebreaker. In the breaker, Hanfmann went up a mini-break at 4-3 and won the next two points on his serve for a 6-3 lead. Shane fought off the first championship point with a service winner, but Hanfmann won the next point to clinch the Trojans’ championship just before 1 a.m. In the match that was abandoned, Uriguen led Quiroz 4-3 in the third set.
“I didn’t even realize it was 12:30 in the morning,” said Shane. “It was tough waiting around with the rain, but I came out and played to the best of my abilities. It is not ideal, but it didn’t bother me. I was just taking it one point at a time.”
Two Cavaliers were named to the NCAA All-Tournament team. Domijan and Frank were selected for No. 3 doubles, while Frank was honored for his play at No. 3 singles.
Four Cavaliers will remain in Athens for the NCAA Individual Championships, which begin Wednesday at the Dan Magill Tennis Center. Domijan, Frank and Jenkins are in the 64-player NCAA Singles Championship, while Jenkins and Courtney are in the 32-team NCAA Doubles Championship.
#1 USC 4, #2 VIRGINIA 2
1. #2 Johnson/Quiroz (USC) led #5 Courtney/Jenkins (UVa) 6-5 DNF
2. Domijan/Frank (UVa) def. #35 Nguyen/Sarmiento (USC) 8-5
3. Shane/Uriguen (UVa) def. Gomez/Hanfmann (USC) 8-4
1. #1 Steve Johnson (USC) def. #4 Jarmere Jenkins (UVa) 6-3, 6-2
2. #39 Alex Domijan (UVa) vs. #25 Ray Sarmiento (USC)
3. #2 Mitchell Frank (UVa) def. #21 Daniel Nguyen (USC) 6-3, 6-1
4. #57 Emilio Gomez (USC) def. Drew Courtney (UVa) 6-4, 6-2
5. #51 Yannick Hanfmann (USC) def. #82 Justin Shane (UVa) 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(4)
6. Julen Uriguen (UVa) led Roberto Quiroz (USC) 6-2, 6-7(3), 4-3 DNF
Order of Finish: