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College Tennis

USC, UCLA, Virginia, Pepperdine reach NCAA men's semifinals

May 21, 2012 07:40 AM
UCLA's Adrien Puget celebrates after beating Ohio State's Hunter Callahan in the quarterfinals.
By Chris Starrs, special to USTA.com

-- Two of the most storied programs in college tennis -- located less than 20 miles from one another -- will add the latest chapter to their decades-long rivalry Monday at the NCAA Men's Tennis Championships.
No. 1 Southern California defeated No. 8 Duke 4-1, and No. 4 UCLA bested No. 5 Ohio State 4-2 on Sunday to advance to the semifinals, with the winner moving on to compete for the national title on Tuesday afternoon.
"I've always said that having Stanford, USC and California in our conference... we all make each other better, and it's a big rivalry," said UCLA Head Coach Billy Martin. "We rise to the occasion to try to beat each other. I hope we make them a better team. I know they make us a better team. They're fun matches. Win or lose, you know you're in a battle. I love the competition, and I think my team does, too, and their team does, so you can't get tired of those matches."
Compared to UCLA's elongated battled with Ohio State, USC (31-1) had a less-strenuous time in dispatching Duke, although the Trojans gave up their first point during NCAA play. USC won the doubles point, with Steve Johnson and Roberto Quiroz defeating Henrique Cunha and Chris Mengel 8-4 for the clincher.
Johnson also provided the clinching victory in singles, defeating Cunha, 6-4, 6-0, at No. 1. It was the second consecutive time Johnson was involved in the clincher, as he was in on pivotal victories against No. 16 Illinois on Friday.

"I planned it perfectly," joked Johnson, who posted his 64th consecutive singles victory. "I've seen Daniel (Nguyen) clinch the last two (doubles matches in the tournament's first two rounds), so I figured I wanted to get in on this. (It was) fortunate the way it worked out."
Duke's lone victory came at No. 5 singles, where Raphael Hemmeler beat Yannick Hanfmann, 6-3, 6-4. On the other courts, it was all USC, as Nguyen beat Torsten Wietoska, 6-3, 6-1, at No. 3, and Emilio Gonzalez downed Fred Saba, 6-4, 6-1, at No. 4.
The Bruins (26-3) got off to an excellent start, with a doubles victory that was highlighted by Anex Brigham and Adrien Puget's 8-6 win over Chase Buchanan and Blaz Roda, the No. 1 doubles tandem in the nation.
"That was a huge win for us at doubles, especially to win at No. 1 over the top-ranked team in the country. But Alex and Adrain were our No. 1 team last year and came up with some big wins last year," said UCLA's Martin. "I didn't have them together almost the entire two-thirds of this season, but when we added our new player, I put them back, and they've had some great wins."
In singles, Ohio State's Connor Smith evened things out with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Dennis Mkrtchian at No. 6, and Buchanan put the Buckeyes up by a point, defeating Clay Thompson, 6-2, 6-3. UCLA made it 2-2, when Dennis Novikov scored a 6-4, 6-0 triumph over Peter Kobelt at No. 3. The Bruins then moved to within one point of reaching the semifinals, when Marcus Giron defeated Devin McCarthy, 6-4, 6-4, at No. 4.
Puget then sealed the deal for UCLA, when he collected a tiebreaker win over Hunter Callahan, 6-3, 7-6 (0).

Duke ends its season at 25-6, while Ohio State ends the year with a 34-4 record.

Virginia, which lost in the finals to USC in 2011, has yet to give up a point in the NCAA tournament and reached the semifinals for the fifth time in the last six years, sending the Cardinal home after a decisive victory.
The Cavaliers won the doubles point, as Jarmere Jenkins and Drew Courtney clinched the point with a 9-8 (2) win over Denis Lin and Ryan Thatcher.
"I was pleased with the way that the team played today," said Virginia Head Coach Brian Boland. "We came out with a lot of energy. It was something that stayed with us throughout the match. I thought we had a little bit of a lull in our match against (California), but today that energy level stayed up throughout the match from start to finish. They played with a great purpose."
In singles, Mitchell Frank defeated Matt Kandath, 6-2, 6-0, at No. 3, Courtney took a 6-2, 6-4 victory over John Morrissey at No. 4, and Justin Shane recorded the clincher, with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Daniel Ho at No. 5.
"Everyone played a full, complete match today," said Courtney. "We stepped out there knowing every spot, 1-6, had to play a complete match and it wasn't going to be easy. It turned out that we were able to do that, and we know that we need to do that again tomorrow."
Virginia (28-1) will meet No. 7 Pepperdine in the semifinals at 5 p.m. on Monday. Stanford ends its season at 20-9.

It required four hours and 45 minutes to complete, but the Waves earned the biggest upset of the tournament thus far, fighting back from a 3-1 deficit and eliminating the Bulldogs before a partisan crowd at the Dan Magill Tennis Compex in a match that included a trio of three-set games and four tiebreakers.
The semifinals will now include three teams from the Los Angeles area -- Southern California, UCLA and Pepperdine.
"Incredible," said Pepperdine coach Adam Steinberg. "What a great college match. I'm so proud of the guys. We've never really been in this situation with this team in front of a crowd like that and how they handled that. I said after the match, 'Are we only in the semis?' It's such an honor to play here."
The match finally came to an end when Alex Llompart saved two break points in the final game to defeat Sadio Doumbia, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (2) 6-4, at No. 3 singles, which concluded more than an hour after Pepperdine's Sebastian Fanselow defeated Wil Spencer, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, at No. 1 to knot the score at 3-3.
Pepperdine (27-6) posted the doubles point, as Alex Llompart and Finn Tearney beat Sadio Doumbia and Hernus Pieters 8-1 at No. 1, and Hugh Clarke and David Sofaer provided the clincher, beating KU Singh and Wil Spencer 9-7 at No. 3.
Jenson Turner collected Pepperdine's other singles victory, defeating Pieters, 6-4, 7-6 (4), at No. 6.
Georgia, which worked its way into a 3-1 lead, received singles victories from Ignacio Taboada, who beat Mousheg Hovhannisyan, 6-1, 6-3, at No. 4, Singh, who bested Tearney, 7-6 (3), 6-2, at No. 2, and Nathan Pasha, who topped Hugh Clarke, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.
"Pepperdine just played a great match," said Georgia coach Manuel Diaz. "They really owned the big moments. They were just composed. They brought their best tennis at the most important times. We came up just a little bit short. We all agree that maybe we could've played better. I think that a lot of that was the fact that Pepperdine played loose and aggressive."
The Waves have another uphill battle ahead of them Monday, when they meet No. 3 Virginia in the semifinals at 5 p.m. Georgia's season ends at 26-3.

Women's Semifinals

No. 1 UCLA vs. No. No. 5 Southern California, 1 p.m.
No. 2 Florida vs. No. 3 Duke, 1 p.m.
Men's Semifinals
No. 1 Southern California vs. No. 4 UCLA, 5 p.m.
No. 3 Virginia vs. No. 7 Pepperdine, 5 p.m.


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