CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The top-ranked USC is in the final of the ITA National Team Indoor Championship for the first time since winning it all in 1991 after posting a 4-1 win against No. 4 Georgia on sunday in the semifinals. This will be the Trojans’ fifth time in the title match, with a 4-for-4 record in their previous championship appearances at the event (1976, 1977, 1985 and 1991). USC is now 10-0 on the year with today’s victory against the Bulldogs.
“It was no surprise how difficult that match was,” USC head coach Peter Smith said. “Georgia is a great program. They have a lot of talent and show a lot of fight. I thought we had the advantage in doubles going in. It was an absolute dogfight out there. I am proud of the way we played; we really showed the heart of a champion today. Ray (Sarmiento), Daniel (Nguyen), and Emilio (Gomez) really showed who we are in their matches. Emilio did a great job of coming back to win the last two sets. This year is going to be a daily challenge for Steve (Johnson). He is getting everybody’s best shot. Guys are excited just to get to 3-2 against him. He definitely has to adjust to some things that most guys never have to, but he is a warrior and competitor.”
It was Johnson who came through with the clincher in singles, beating Georgia’s No. 21 Sadio Doumbia 6-4, 7-5 to follow up a gutsy comeback win from Emilio Gomez at the No. 4 spot. Gomez fought back against No. 43 Ignacio Taboada for a 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory that put USC ahead 3-1 in the match.
The Trojans had taken a 1-0 lead on solid doubles wins at the top two courts to put the pressure on Georgia in singles. The Bulldogs responded with a win on court six from Nathan Pasha against USC’s No. 86 Roberto Quiroz — the freshman’s first dual-match singles loss of the year. With it tied up 1-1, USC freshman Yannick Hanfmann lifted his Trojans back on top 2-1 with a straight-set win against No. 72 Hernus Pieters at the No. 5 spot. On courts two and three, USC’s Ray Sarmiento and Daniel Nguyen had rebounded from losing the first set to take the second and force a third, but Johnson’s heroics on court one sealed the deal for the Trojans to put them in tomorrow’s title match.