Jarmere Jenkins gave UVa a point with a win at No. 3 singles.
ATHENS, Ga. – For Virginia, the 2010 NCAA Tennis Championships offered a new locale but a bitterly similar outcome.
The top-seeded Cavaliers, ranked No. 1 in the country, saw their season come to another frustrating end Monday as No. 5 Southern California took a 4-2 victory in the semifinals of the men’s tournament.
Southern California, the defending National Champion, will face No. 2 Tennessee at 6 p.m. Tuesday for this year’s crown. Tennessee defeated host Georgia 4-1 about an hour after Virginia lost on Monday evening.
It was the third consecutive year that Virginia (39-2) came into the tournament as the No. 1 seed and the third consecutive year the Cavaliers couldn’t close the deal. Southern California (24-3) defeated Virginia 4-0 in last year’s quarterfinals at College Station, Texas, and Georgia defeated the Cavaliers in the 2008 semifinals in Tulsa, Okla.
The Trojans’ victory on Monday also snapped a 36-game winning streak by the Cavaliers, whose last loss came on Feb. 6 against Kentucky.
The despair was evident in the eyes of Virginia coach Brian Boland, who intimated that he was just as disappointed with his team’s draw in the tournament as he was in the outcome.
“When you look back over the year, there’s an extraordinary amount of time and effort that people don’t see,” he said. “You put yourself in the best position to win a championship. Some things go your way and some things don’t. You don’t have control of everything. Although I thought we responded well to the way things were set up … and the system that was in place.”
When asked to expound on his comment, and if he was unhappy that as the No. 1 seed his team was bracketed to face Southern California in the semifinals, Boland commented, “That’s all I have to say about it.”
Trojans coach Peter Smith said no path to a national title is without its issues.
“That’s life,” Smith said. “You’ve got to deal with it. If anything, I thought [Virginia] had the advantage because they had the crowd around them. … To win a championship, you’ve got to be able to overcome adversity.”
For the second consecutive day, Virginia dropped the doubles point, but unlike Sunday, the Cavaliers weren’t able to rally back to victory.
Southern California’s Daniel Nguyen and J.T. Sunding bested Houston Barrick and Sanam Singh 8-6 at No. 2 doubles, and the Trojans’ Robert Farah and Steve Johnson defeated Michael Shabaz and Drew Courtney 8-5 at No. 1. The match between Virginia’s Lee Singer and Jarmere Jenkins and Southern California’s Peter Lucassen and Jaak Poldma at No. 3 doubles was suspended when the Trojans’ other two tandems won almost simultaneously.
“I thought we could have played a little better at singles,” Boland said. “I thought we had a chance to win in each of our singles positions and in doubles.”
“The doubles point was huge today,” Smith said. “The level of play was very high and we had to make adjustments. … A big part of winning the championship is rolling with the punches and overcoming obstacles and we’ve done a good job of that so far. For us, there is more pressure because there are more expectations. It’s always about us, though, and we need to take care of our business.”
In singles, Farah jumped out to a quick 6-1 victory at No.1 over Shabaz (who declined to be interviewed after the match), but the two battled tooth-and-nail in the second set with Farah finally taking a 7-6 win after an extended 11-9 tiebreaker.
Houston Barrick won his match at No. 5 singles.
Playing at No. 5 singles, Barrick was in perhaps the most exciting match of the day for Cavalier fans, defeating Matt Kecki in straight sets, but not before another elongated tiebreaker. Barrick won the first set 6-2 and outlasted Kecki 10-8 in the 7-6 tiebreaker victory, enabling Virginia to have a brief 2-2 tie.
“He’s a great player,” Barrick said of Kecki. “I played a good first set but I got unlucky with the break [in the second set]. I was fortunate to find my way back to the tiebreaker.”
The Trojans soon went up 3-2 when Peter Lucassen beat Julen Uriguen 6-2, 6-3 at No. 6.
Virginia earned its second point at No. 3 singles when Jenkins took a 6-3, 7-5 win over Poldma, but Southern California moved ever closer to its 18th National Championship when Nguyen defeated Courtney 7-6 (9), 6-4 in a match that showcased the first tiebreaker of the day.
The match at No. 2 singles between Virginia’s Singh and Southern California’s Steve Johnson was suspended when Nguyen claimed the clinching point.
“They’re a very good team and they beat us today,” Boland said. “We left it all out on the court.”