CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — No. 1 USC captured its first ITA National Indoor Championship title since 1991 with a gutsy performance on Monday in a 4-3 victory against third-ranked Ohio State. After taking a loss in the race for the doubles point, USC got back in stride during singles play. The Buckeyes rallied to tie the match 3-3 before USC’s Yannick Hanfmann served up comeback heroics on court five.
Hanfmann battled back for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win against Devin McCarthy to lock in the Trojans 30th consecutive dual-match win and fifth championship at the team indoor event. USC is now 11-0 overall in 2012, the Trojans best start to a season since 1987.
“I have never been in that situation before, being a freshman,” Hanfmann said. “This was all very new to me. The pressure was huge, so I was relieved to get the break because I knew all I had to do was serve it out. It is easier said than done. I just told myself I had to stay calm and block out the crowd. He was hitting big in the first set, but missed a lot in the second. I didn’t really do anything different, just tried to make more balls.”
The Trojans found themselves down 1-0 for the first time this season when Ohio State’s doubles strength pulled in the first point of the match for the Buckeyes. USC would power up in singles, however, with Daniel Nguyen making a statement for the Trojans with a smooth 6-1, 6-2 win against Peter Kobelt on court three to even things up.
Emilio Gomez gave USC the lead with a 6-4, 6-4 win at the No. 4 spot against Ille Van Engelen, but Ohio State leveled things from court six as Connor Smith beat USC’s Eric Johnson 6-3, 7-6 (6).
With the match tied 2-2, Steve Johnson clocked in with a 6-3, 6-4 win against No. 16 Chase Buchanan to mark down the senior’s 46th consecutive singles victory. Now clinging to a 3-2 lead, the Trojans would see the Buckeyes even the score once more as 12th-ranked Blaz Rola topped USC’s Ray Sarmiento 7-5, 6-3 to put all eyes on Hanfmann on court five. The Trojan freshman had shrugged off a loss in the first set against McCarthy, and plugged away in the next two sets to save the day with his 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 comeback win.
“We just got punched in the face in doubles,” USC head coach Peter Smith said. “I told them if you get punched in the face, you better get up and punch back. We have a couple of veterans that we knew we could count on, and I thought we had a good game plan in singles. I thought win or lose, that was a great situation for Yannick to be in. It was a great opportunity, and he obviously did great. In between the second and third sets of his match, I actually told him I see some positives from us losing this match. It was good to see the team compete as hard as they did. The guys came out and did the things we talked about, which was good to see.”