May 23, 2012
By Matthew Pearce
ATHENS, Ga. --- In a grueling championship match that was initially delayed by rain before being completed indoors, top seed Southern California claimed their fourth straight NCAA championship and 20th all-time with a 4-2 victory over the third seed Virginia Cavaliers.
“I think sometimes you inspire your team and sometimes your team inspires you,” USC head coach Peter Smith said. “I went back to my hotel room [after doubles] and to be honest I couldn’t visualize it. That was hard for me. I get a few pep talks, went in there, faked it pretty good to the team and these guys really stepped up.”
Before the move indoors Virginia claimed the doubles point winning two of the matches with the third unfinished. Alex Domijan and Mitchell Frank gave the Cavaliers the early advantage as they scored an 8-5 victory over Ray Sarmiento and Daniel Nguyen. Virginia clinched the point with an 8-4 victory from the team of Justin Shane and Julen Uriguen over Emilio Gomez and Yannick Hanfmann.
The match was moved into Georgia’s indoor facility before singles could begin as a rainstorm followed by lightening prevented the team tournament being concluded outside.
The Trojans began the singles point in ideal fashion as Steve Johnson extended his NCAA unbeaten streak to 66 matches with a 6-3, 6-2 win against Virginia’s Jarmere Jenkins. Emilio Gomez put USC in the lead as he recorded a 6-4, 6-2 win over Drew Courtney before the Cavaliers tied the match 2-2 courtesy of Mitchell Franks’ 6-3, 6-1 defeat of Nguyen.
Sarmiento put Southern California on the brink of title number 20 with a 6-4, 7-5 win over Domijan before Hanfmann clinched the match, and the championship, with a 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 tiebreaker victory over Shane.
“It was tough for us,” Smith said. “Those last two matches were going to be two freshmen against a sophomore and senior. That was going to be tough but you know these guys, tradition lives on and it’s unbelievable.”
In the women’s final second seeded Florida clinched its second consecutive team national championship defeating the top seeded UCLA Bruins 4-0.
“I’m really proud of this group. We’ve discovered this year that without a doubt it’s much more difficult to repeat than do it the first time,” Florida head coach Roland Thornqvist said. “There were some inherent challenges that we had to deal with at the beginning of the year. We had to get through some growing pains as defending national champions.”
The Gator’s got off to a good start winning the doubles point comfortably winning the first two doubles matches to finish. The first victory for Florida came on court one where the Gator duo of Sofie Oyen and Allie Will easily defeated UCLA’s Robin Anderson and Skylar Morton 8-4. The point was clinched by Alex Cercone and Caroline Hitimana whose 8-5 victory over McCall Jones and Carling Seguso gave the Gators the 1-0 advantage going into the singles competition.
“As soon as you win it (the doubles point) you want to forget about it,” Thornqvist said. “This team is so physical, it’s really difficult to win four points in singles on us. That gives us a confidence boost when we start.”
In singles competition Florida swept the Bruins thanks to wins by Cercone, Oyen and Lauren Embree. Cercone put the Gators up 2-0 with a 6-2, 6-0 win over UCLA’s Chanelle Van Nguyen before Oyen put Florida on the brink of back-to-back national championships. With the matches on courts one and three slowed to a standstill to watch, the national title was clinched by the tournaments’ most outstanding player, as announced by the NCAA on Tuesday, Embree who defeated Jones 6-4, 6-0.
“It is harder to win the second one. It wasn’t easy, but our goal from the beginning of the year was to try to get back in this position and win,” Embree said. “I’m just really happy that my team kept fighting and for working hard every day in practice. The second one was just as good as the first.”