ATHENS, Ga. — Southern California won its fourth consecutive NCAA championship in dramatic fashion. The Trojans fought through rain delays, venue changes and some of the tensest matches on record as the clinchers came on the shoulders of two freshmen.
Yannick Hanfmann would be the hero of the day, shrugging off a rough second set and battling back from down a break in the third to win it all in a tiebreaker. The showdown was a rematch of the 2011 national championship, this time with USC as the top seed and Virginia as the No. 3. After the match was moved indoors with USC trailing 1-0, the Trojans captured four of the five singles matches completed to get the 4-2 win against the Cavaliers. USC finishes 2012 with a 33-1 overall record.
Virginia captured the doubles point after shifting the momentum on courts two and three. The Trojans had gone up a break on both courts before the Cavaliers managed to rally back almost simultaneously to turn things in favor of Virginia. At the No. 2 spot, USC’s No. 35 Daniel Nguyen and Ray Sarmiento took their first loss of the season with an 8-5 defeat to UVA’s Alex Domijan and Mitchell Frank.
Shortly after, Emilio Gomez and Hanfmann slipped 8-4 to Justin Shane and Julen Uriguen, and Virgina took the 1-0 lead. Suspended on court one were USC’s No. 2 Steve Johnson and Roberto Quiroz, who were in a tight game, up 6-5 on No. 5 Drew Courtney and Jarmere Jenkins.
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After a two-and-a-half hour break to dry the courts, the rains returned to Athens and pushed the competition indoors, where both teams had wrapped up their semifinals about 20 hours earlier. Playing side-by-side for the first time because of the unique setup, No. 1 Johnson and No. 57 Gomez had their respective No. 1 and No. 4 matches next to one another.
The two Trojans seemed to feed off each other’s energy, as Johnson picked up the pace against Virginia’s No. 5 Jenkins and registered the tying win with a 6-3, 6-2 decision. Gomez wasn’t far behind, outplaying Virginia’s Courtney to the tune of a 6-4, 6-2 win that bumped the Trojans ahead 2-1.
At the No. 3 spot, however, Virginia had the advantage with No. 2 Frank facing USC’s No. 21 Nguyen for the third time this season. Frank had captured the previous two meetings, and was strong once again as he dealt Nguyen the first NCAA singles loss of his career with a 6-3, 6-2 decision that locked it up 2-2.
USC’s Hanfmann and Quiroz both were getting started in their respective No. 5 and 6 matches with courts opened up for action. Meanwhile, No. 25 Sarmiento was seeing the finish line at the No. 3 spot. Sarmiento got broken to extend his second set, but he delivered the knockout punch soon after, rattling off the next two games to bump USC ahead 3-2 with his 6-4, 7-5 victory.
That put the remaining action on the shoulders of USC’s Hanfmann and Quiroz. Quiroz, who didn’t get to try out the indoor courts yesterday in the semifinal win vs. UCLA, was slow to start but was making noise in the third set. Hanfmann, however, sealed the deal as he broke back against Uriguen to force the deciding tiebreaker and creating space to round up a 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (3) clincher.