STANFORD, Calif. — No. 2 USC has muscled its way into the NCAA title match once again after a sizzling shutout of No. 6 seed Georgia in Monday’s semifinals. The Trojans are now 26-2 overall and coasting along on a 19-match winning streak as they set up to defend their back-to-back national championships Tuesday against top-seeded Virginia at 3 p.m. ET at Stanford’s Taube Tennis Stadium.
USC opened up the match with an authoritative statement in doubles to get a head of steam going for singles. USC’s No. 1 Steve Johnson took no prisoners in his singles match at the top spot, blanking his opponent No. 12 Wil Spencer with a 6-0, 6-0 slam that sent the Bulldogs reeling. The Trojans took first-set leads on all courts but two, and USC’s Daniel Nguyen and Ray Sarmiento made decisive work of their Georgia opponents to get the win and put USC in position to capture a third consecutive NCAA crown.
As they now head into the 2011 NCAA Championship match, USC and Virginia are familiar foes in recent NCAA history. The Cavaliers have been the top seed in the tournament for four consecutive seasons now, and enters NCAA play undefeated for the third time in the past four seasons. The last two years, however, the Trojans have upset top-seeded Virginia teams on the way to claiming the NCAA title. In 2009, USC topped the Cavaliers 4-0 in the NCAA Quarterfinals, and in 2010 the Trojans beat Virginia 4-2 in the Semifinals. For 2011, top-seeded Virginia will take a 33-0 record into the title match against the two-time defending NCAA champs.
In today’s NCAA Semifinal against Georgia, USC got a leg up on things with a powerful doubles push as the Trojans were up at least a break on all three courts. At No. 3, Daniel Nguyen and Ray Sarmiento left no doubt in their match as the Trojan duo roared to an 8-3 win against Bernstein/Spencer capped by a winner from Nguyen. Soon after, No. 22 Jaak Poldma and JT Sundling brought home the doubles point thanks to some strong service games, upsetting Georgia’s No. 6 Garrapiz/Pieters with an 8-6 decision that wrapped up doubles action while Emilio Gomez and Steve Johnson were leading No. 88 Doumbis/Tabaoda 6-4 on court two.
As singles play started up, Steve Johnson left no doubt in his clash with No. 12 Wil Spencer on court one. The Trojan junior was in cruise control in his match, as he overpowered Spencer on every occasion to achieve a rare feat at the No. 1 singles slot – a perfect 6-0, 6-0 decision – to notch his 28th consecutive singles match and boost his fellow Trojans to a 2-0 lead. The quick and easy win was a powerful statement for USC and put wind in the sails of the rest of the Trojans down the line. Senior Jaak Poldma had fallen in his first set, but kicked back into gear in the second on court two.
Freshman Ray Sarmiento had his opponent Drake Bernstein on the ropes in the first set and continued to roll in the second to pick up USC’s third point of the day with a 6-2, 6-3 win on court four. Junior Daniel Nguyen was putting together a similarly dominant match next door on court three, meanwhile, as he pushed through for the clincher with a 6-3, 6-2 victory against No. 51 Sadio Doumbia that jammed the Bulldogs and sent the Trojans on to the NCAA Championship match.
Nguyen’s powerful clincher put a stop to the remaining matches, as Poldma was on the prowl to force a third set on court two and Emilio Gomez and Peter Lucassen were trailing in their second sets after matching each other with 7-5 wins in their respective first sets.