ATHENS, Ga. -- Southern California captured the university’s 100th NCAA championship on familiar ground, sticking to their guns as the top seed for a 4-2 comeback win against No. 2 seed Oklahoma on Tuesday night in Athens, Ga. The Trojans extended their national record of titles by fighting out of an 0-2 hole and finally capping things off on Max de Vroome’s clincher on court four. de Vroome, a sophomore was playing in his first NCAA championship match, but earned veteran status on Tuesday as he finished off the Sooners, which also were making their first NCAA title match run. In the end, the Trojan experience and comfort under the lights of the Georgia courts was too much to take.
The USC men’s tennis program has claimed a record 21 national championships in helping the university to this 100th all-time NCAA championship. At the close of this year’s tournament, the Trojans almost swept the all-tournament team honors. Yannick Hanfmann was selected at No. 1 singles, along with Ray Sarmiento (No. 2 singles), Max de Vroome (No. 4 singles), Eric Johnson (No. 5 singles) and Michael Grant (No. 6 singles).
Oklahoma was up to the task in doubles play, snagging the opening point with wins on courts two and three while the court one matchup was tangled up on serve. At the No. 3 spot, USC’s Max de Vroome and Eric Johnson also were holding on serve against Oklahoma’s Ghilea/Papac and wound up fighting the Sooners in a tiebreaker. The Oklahoma pair was able to move out to a lead in the breaker, though, capturing the first win of the day with an 8-7 (2) victory. At the No. 2 spot, USC’s Connor Farren and Roberto Quiroz had pulled back on serve against Oklahoma’s Alcorta/Harris, only to stumble back into a hole. The Sooners made the most of that change of momentum with a push to claim the doubles point on an 8-5 win against the Trojan pair. That left USC’s No. 1 Yannick Hanfmann and Ray Sarmiento’s matchup suspended on court one against Alvarez/Webb to bring up singles play.
Oklahoma’s No. 41 Dane Smith unleashed an all-out attack against USC’s No. 42 Roberto Quiroz on court two, taking the Sooners up 2-0 in the match with the decision. USC’s Michael Grant provided a lift for USC at the same time, though, finally wrapping up his first set on court six to make it a fourth court with USC holding a first-set lead. For a time, Yannick Hanfmann and Eric Johnson were both serving for their respective matches on courts one and five. Johnson’s opportunity slipped away, but Hanfmann pounced on his change to tack another point on the board. The No. 10 ranked junior upended No. 5 Guillermo Alcorta with another powerful performance. His 7-5, 6-2 win got USC its first point of the night, making it 2-1.
Right next-door to Hanfmann was his No. 9 senior teammate Ray Sarmiento, who had claimed his first set but then slipped behind 1-3 in the second, up against Oklahoma’s No. 7 Axel Alvarez. He’d stubbornly keep coming. A late break of Alvarez pulled him within one, and the senior would hold next to level things at 5-5, and soon he was wrapped up in a tiebreaker. Sarmiento held his ground against Alvarez and equalized the match at 2-2 with his 6-4, 7-6 (4) decision. That put all eyes on the bottom courts, where all three matches were still raging on.
Johnson, it turned out, was far from shaken by his misfire in his second set. Given the opportunity to take the set to a tiebreaker, Johnson stuck to his guns and blasted his Trojans to a 3-2 lead with a strong 6-1, 7-6 (2) victory on court five. That heaped pressure on the remaining courts — No. 4 and No. 6, where USC had two Trojans battling in their first NCAA championship matches. So, too, did Oklahoma have newcomers to the national stage, as the Sooners were in their first NCAA title match. The Trojan newbies outgunned the Oklahoma newbies down the stretch. While senior Michael Grant was gutting out another three-set battle on court six, sophomore Max de Vroome was making winning moves on court four. Broken to come into a 4-4 tie in his third set, de Vroome answered back. He’d collect a break right back and then charge on to clean up USC’s 100th NCAA championship and 21st in the men’s tennis world. It also capped USC’s fifth NCAA Championship won in Athens, Ga. The Trojans also won titles in Georgia in 1991, 1993, 2010 and 2012 preceding this 2014 crown.