USC, Duke win tennis titles
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- The Southern California men's tennis team is likely to be Texas A&M's biggest backer if the university makes another bid to host the NCAA tennis tournament.
The Trojans won their second national title played at the Mitchell Tennis Center on Tuesday, disposing of No. 3 seed Ohio State, 4-1. In all, Southern Cal has 17 NCAA tennis titles.
On the women's side, Duke rolled to its first crown, winning 4-0 over California, which lost to UCLA in the final last season.
Southern Cal's men defeated Georgia for the championship in 2002, while Peter Smith was in the stands about to become the new Trojans coach for a retiring Dick Leach.
"I will tell you honestly, Prakash Amritaj [who clinched the last title] Facebooked me this morning and just said let's do it, let's do it. I just remember him pulling his shirt off when they won," Smith said. "The last time USC won it, I was being offered the job as they won it. I watched the whole thing and I was shocked they offered me the job as it was going on. To be back here seven years later and to be on the court, it's surreal."
No. 8 Southern Cal (25-5) won the doubles point, with Jaak Poldma and Matt Kecki breaking with a forehand winner by Poldma for a 9-7 victory and the first point.
The Trojans wasted little time in going up 3-0. Daniel Nguyen won the first seven games against Chase Buchanan and cruised to a 6-0, 6-2 victory, while Abdullah Magdas toppled Matt Allare 6-2, 6-3.
No. 3 seed Ohio State (36-2) won three first sets, but Robert Farah bounced back for a 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 victory over third-ranked Bryan Koniecko for the clinching point.
"Rob breaks at 3-all, I was watching every point and once he got to five he had two shots at [the match] and it was downhill from there," Smith said of the 6-foot-3 junior with the big serve. "He may not have felt it was downhill."
Farah had experience in winning an NCAA title, claiming the doubles crown last season at Tulsa.
The Buckeyes' lone point came when Justin Kronauge, who put Ohio State into the final, defeated Poldma, 7-6, 6-4. Ohio State was in a final for the first time after reaching the quarterfinals the last three seasons.
No. 3 seed Duke (29-3) won the first two doubles matches to go up 1-0 in the women's finals. The doubles also proved costly for Cal when Claire Ilcinkas strained her right calf and was unable to go in the singles. The injury forced the Bears to move their Nos. 5 and 6 players up and insert Marion Ravelojaona, who had not played in two weeks, at No. 6.
"That took a lot of wind out of our sails, and to Duke's credit they stepped up and took advantage of the situation and came out in the singles," Cal coach Amanda Augustus.
Duke picked up two of its three singles points on those courts where the Cal players had to move up.
"The start we got off to in singles was unbelievable. I was in awe," Duke coach Jamie Ashworth said. "We just gave them absolutely no breathing room which was an amazing thing for us."
Reka Zsilinszka put Duke up 2-0 with a 6-1, 6-2 victory.
Jessi Robinson won the final five games and gained the third point with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Ravelojaona. A minute later, Melissa Mang hit a forehand winner to secure the title with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Stephany Chang at the No. 5 spot.
"To have our two seniors win the last two matches almost simultaneously was just a special moment that I'll never forget, and I know they'll never forget," Ashworth said.