STANFORD, Calif. — No. 2 USC took the wind out of Kentucky’s sails early in its NCAA quarterfinal match and kept in control for a 4-1 victory to advance the back-to-back national champions to the NCAA semifinals.
After to a gutsy doubles effort and a springboard singles win from Steve Johnson, the Trojan freshmen again came through with big wins to lock in on a USC victory. Now 25-2 overall and riding an 18-match winning streak, second-seeded USC will face No. 6 seed Georgia in Monday’s NCAA semifinal.
The Trojans pulled off a tense doubles point as the winds picked up at Taube Tennis Stadium.
After USC’s Emilio Gomez and Steve Johnson shoved their way to an 8-3 win against Musialek and Rossi on court two, Kentucky was able to hold off a late comeback push by Trojans Daniel Nguyen and Ray Sarmiento on court three. Kentucky’s Gonzalez and Jomby posted a break to win 8-6 and put the pressure on court one for the decider.
USC’s No. 22 tandem of Jaak Poldma and JT Sundling fell behind 7-5 against Ketucky’s No. 19 Cox and Quigley before catching a break to steal away the Wildcats’ first opportunity at a point. With Poldma on the service line, the Trojans continued to battle, leveling things 7-7. USC stared down a 40-0 deficit in the next game, firing back to snag another break for an 8-7 lead that put Sundling on the line for the win. A blustery service game put things up in the air, but the Trojan tandem claimed the match and the all-important doubles point.
USC’s top gun, Johnson created some room for himself and the Trojans by giving USC a lift to a 2-0 lead with his 6-4, 6-2 win over No. 6 Eric Quigley on court one. Kentucky managed to get on the board with No. 53 Alex Musialek’s 6-2, 6-4 win against No. 38 Jaak Poldma on court two, while taking a lead on court three in the first set.
But the Trojans were taking care of business on the back courts. Freshman Emilio Gomez drilled a 6-1 win in his first set, and fellow freshman Ray Sarmiento and senior Peter Lucassen dominated in their respective first-set tiebreakers to build up some extra force behind the Trojan movement. Of the group, Sarmiento finished things off first as he rolled past Kentucky’s No. 90 Alberto Gonzalez for a 7-6 (2), 6-1 win that made it a 3-1 USC lead.
Nguyen was making a push to take the second set on court three, and Lucassen was nearing the finish line on court six, but Gomez would close up shop for the Trojans as he reeled off a tiebreak win in his second set to post a 6-1, 7-6 (3) final that got USC the 4-1 win.