Trojans Win National Championship
May 19, 2009
Courtesy of USC Athletics
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - The USC men's tennis team wrapped up an outstanding NCAA tournament run by capturing one last upset win as the Trojans' train charged to the 2009 NCAA Championship with a 4-1 victory over Ohio State. USC had entered the tourney fresh off a tough second-place finish in the Pac-10, but went up to serve up some shocking upsets in NCAA action to claim the Trojans' 17th NCAA team title. USC finishes out 2009 with a 25-5 overall record -- the same mark it hit in 2002 when it won its last national championship. As a whole, it is USC's 110th national championship as a university, including a national best 75 men's NCAA team titles.
For its winning 2009 run, USC had returned to the same site it won that last national championship - College Station, Texas. The No. 8-seeded Trojans made the courts of Texas A&M's George P. Mitchell Tennis Center feel like home by opening with a tight win over fellow Pac-10 power Stanford. USC went on to swivel some heads by dealing out a 4-0 sweep of top-seeded and undefeated Virginia in the quarterfinals. Next up was a 4-1 win over Texas in semifinal in front of a Longhorn-heavy crowd to move into the title match for the first time since 2002. Up against No. 3 seed Ohio State, the Trojans dug deep for one final upset to snag that championship trophy.
USC's championship effort began on the doubles courts. While #4 Robert Farah / Steve Johnson got an early win with an 8-3 victory over Kronauge/Allare at No. 1, the Buckeyes brought it back even on an 8-4 win at No. 2 by Uzawa/Koniecko over USC's #59 Abdullah Magdas / Daniel Nguyen. On court three, the Trojans and the Buckeyes traded breaks to fall on serve at 6-6. A hold from Poldma was answered by an Ohio State hold to make it 7-7. Kecki held tight next for the USC edge, and the Trojans brought it home with one final big break to wrap up the doubles point for USC with a 9-7 win over Buchanan/Moneke.
USC had been warned of Ohio State's powerful singles lineup, but the Trojans made early dents in the Buckeyes thanks to wins at No. 6 and No. 4. Freshman Daniel Nguyen put the Trojans on their next step forward to the title as he steamrolled from the No. 6 slot. Nguyen blanked his Buckeye opponent in the first set and finished out a 6-0, 6-2 win over Chase Buchanan to boost USC ahead 2-0. After having his previous two matches suspended with USC wins, Nguyen's win in today's final was his eighth straight victory to finish out his freshman year with a 33-9 overall singles record.
At No. 4, Abdullah Magdas had claimed the quarterfinal clincher days before, and the senior was bound and determined to round out his Trojan career with a big win. Two dominant sets later, he had done just that, pounding out a 6-2, 6-3 win over #113 Matt Allare to put USC a point away from the title. With his third win of the NCAA run, Magdas winds up with a 26-13 overall record in singles play.
On court three, USC's #81 Jaak Poldma was up against one of Ohio State's three top-25 players. Poldma was edged out in the first set on a tiebreak and fell prey to a couple breaks by OSU's #25 Justin Kronouge as the Buckeyes made it 3-1 in the match with a 7-6 (1), 6-4 win at No. 3.
Ohio State's win at No. 3 shifted momentum a bit on court two, but did nothing to throw junior Robert Farah. While USC's #53 freshman Steve Johnson headed into a third set against #9 Steve Moneke at No. 2, #8 Farah took control in his third set against #3 Bryan Koniecko at No. 1. Farah had dropped the first set thanks to a late break from Koniecko, but the Trojan junior roared back to take the second in commanding fashion. On serve for the first half of the third set, Farah made his move by getting up a break at 4-3. At the line for the opportunity to serve out the match, Farah did just that, rifling in an ace to secure the 2009 national championship for USC with a 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 comeback win on court one. It was Farah's second clinching win of the NCAA tournament and his fifth straight victory in NCAA play to lift the junior to a 31-6 overall singles record.
Farah and Johnson are both lined up for NCAA Singles and Doubles competition, which will run May 20-25. Farah is the No. 8 seed in singles play, and Johnson carries a 33-12 overall record into his first NCAA singles tournament. In doubles, Farah/Johnson are 34-10 overall and are a 5-8 seed in the doubles play, which begins on May 21.
Farah's NCAA championship-clincher brought Johnson off court two and freshman Matt Kecki off court six. Kecki was battling through a long match with #74 Balazs Novak, suspended at 5-7, 3-3. Johnson's match with #9 Moneke was stopped at 7-6 (4), 4-6. Kecki's freshman season with a 27-12 overall record.
The 2009 NCAA Championship is the first for USC head coach Peter Smith, who had tallied his 400th career victory in the Trojans' quarterfinal upset of No. 1 Virginia. Today's title match was also Smith's first visit to the NCAA final. Now with 17 NCAA team titles all-time, USC is tied with Stanford for the most men's tennis national championships. USC pulls even with the Cardinal in the title count for the first time since 1997 when Stanford won its 15th championship.