USC advances to 3rd straight final
STANFORD, Calif. -- Virginia finally made it to a championship final. Southern California will be looking for a three-peat.
The top-ranked and top-seeded Cavaliers beat No. 4 Ohio State 4-2 in the national semifinals of the NCAA men's tennis tournament Monday to reach its first final in program history.
"To finally reach the finals feels good," Virginia senior Michael Shabaz said. "USC has had a lot of success but we are not worried. We have the guys who can win the match and we're going for it."
Steve Johnson and Daniel Nguyen earned wins to lead second-seeded Southern California (26-2) past Georgia (24-6) 4-0 to reach its third straight championship match.
"We seem to fly under the radar," Johnson said. "It sure seems like Virginia or Tennessee has always been the favorite. This is a fantastic team. Different guys are stepping up every day."
Johnson set the tone with a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Wil Spencer and Nguyen clinched the win with a 6-3, 6-2 decision over Sadio Doumbia. Johnson, the top-ranked collegiate player in the nation, won his 28th consecutive match. He hasn't lost since Jan. 17.
"It's just another match out there," Johnson said. "So far this year I've played well and stayed healthy."
The Trojans won a difficult doubles point and then powered through the singles. Ray Sarmiento also won his match, downing Drake Bernstein 6-2, 6-3.
"This team has been supportive of me the whole year," Nguyen said. "I've had my ups and downs and right now getting to the final feels great. The whole team has played consistently well."
The undefeated Cavaliers (34-0) have entered the NCAA championship as the top seed in each of the past four years.
"I feel that our 1, 2, 3 or 4 players could all be at No. 1," Shabaz said. "If we're engaged we're the team to beat."
Sanam Singh clinched the match at No. 3 singles, beating Ille Van Engelen, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.
"It was a battle of four guys in the top 10 of the rankings and Virginia was able to take our two spots and put two points on the board in an hour and 15 minutes," Ohio State coach Ty Tucker said. "Everywhere else it seemed to be a war. Our first serve percentage wasn't high and that was the difference in the match."
Ohio State (34-3) won the doubles point but could not carry that momentum into singles.
Virginia also got singles wins from fifth-ranked Michael Shabaz, second-ranked Alex Domijan and Jarmere Jenkins.
The Buckeyes' Devin McCarthy won at No. 5 singles.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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