Southern California swats Duke 4-1
Trojans trekking toward fourth national title in a row
ATHENS, Ga. -- Top-seeded Southern California continued to defend the turf where it picked up its 2010 NCAA Championship, as the Trojans dug in for a swift 4-1 win against No. 8 seed Duke in Sunday's quarterfinal match at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga. After picking up the doubles point, the Trojans rattled off straight-set wins from Daniel Nguyen, Emilio Gomez and Steve Johnson, with Johnson's clincher standing as the senior's 64th consecutive win. In beating Duke's No. 5 Henrique Cunha on court one, Johnson also avenged the last dual-match singles loss he had taken - way back in March 2010. Now 31-1 overall, the Trojans head into the semifinals for the right to play for a possible fourth consecutive national championship.
In doubles action to start the day's play, Duke managed to get out ahead of USC's Emilio Gomez / Yannick Hanfmann and register an 8-3 win on court three. But that Blue Devil energy was quickly sapped by USC's power pair at the No. 2 slot. No. 35 Daniel Nguyen and Ray Sarmiento ripped through Duke's Holland/Saba with an 8-2 win that put the decider in the hands of No. 2 Steve Johnson / Roberto Quiroz on court one. The Trojan duo answered the call, hauling in the last two games to tack up an 8-4 win against No. 16 Cunha/Mengel and set up USC with a 1-0 lead to take into singles competition.
Bolstered by that early advantage, USC went on to win the first sets on four courts. Roberto Quiroz was the first to hone in on his first set victory, but his teammates would get to the finish line for the USC win before the freshman could wrap up his No. 6 singles match. No. 21 Daniel Nguyen was a man on a mission in his No. 3 match against Duke's No. 113 Torsten Wietoska. Nguyen got up a break in game one, and cruised to a 6-3, 6-1 win for a lift to 2-0 for the Trojans. About 15 minutes later, the match came to a speedy close, with three matches finishing within minutes of each other.
No. 57 sophomore Emilio Gomez put the finishing touches on a 3-0 USC lead with his 6-4, 6-1 win against Fred Saba on court four, while No. 1 Steve Johnson had Henrique Cunha on the ropes on court one. At the No. 4 spot, though, Duke's Raphael Hemmeler passed up USC's No. 51 senior Yannick Hanfmann with a 6-3, 6-4 decision that plugged a point on the board for the Blue Devils. Moments later, however, Steve Johnson pounded out his blanking of Cunha in the second set for a 6-4, 6-0 win that made Johnson the clincher for the Trojans for the second consecutive match. Next to him on court two, No. 25 sophomore Ray Sarmiento was in comeback mode against No. 38 Chris Mengel, but the match suspended on Johnson's winner. Johnson now holds a 64-match overall singles win streak to go with 58 consecutive dual-match singles wins, dating back more than two years to that 2010 loss to Cunha.