Sophomore Kellen Damico ends season by winning last 12 decisions.
COLLEGE STATION – No. 12 Texas (23-7) picked up a decisive straight-set singles win from sophomore Kellen Damico, but it wasn’t enough Monday afternoon, as eighth-seeded USC (23-7) dealt the Longhorns a 4-1 defeat in the semifinals of the 2009 NCAA Men’s Tennis Championships at Texas A&M’s Mitchell Tennis Center.
Texas finishes its season in the NCAA semifinals or better for the third time in the last four seasons under ninth-year head coach Michael Center, who led UT to the NCAA finals a season ago. The Trojans move on to Tuesday’s NCAA title match where they will meet third-seeded Ohio State. USC has now eliminated Texas from the NCAA Championships on seven occasions, more than any other school.
Texas yielded the doubles point to USC in another hard-fought doubles session. UT juniors Dimitar Kutrovsky and Josh Zavala held serve to take a 4-2 lead and broke USC’s Abdullah Magdas and Daniel Nguyen to take a 5-2 lead at second doubles. Texas held serve for a 6-2 lead and went on to an 8-4 victory.
Texas’ Ed Corrie and Kellen Damico and USC’s Robert Farah and Steve Johnson each held serve through the first 12 games at first doubles until the Trojans broke the Longhorns to take a 7-6 lead. That proved to be the only break USC would need, and while Texas saved multiple match points in USC’s ensuing service game, the Trojans broke through to claim an 8-6 victory.
USC’s Matt Kecki and Jaak Poldma raced out to a 5-1 lead at third doubles over Texas’ Miguel Reyes Varela and Olivier Sajous before the Texas tandem held serve, broke USC and held once more to pull within 5-4. But, the Trojans claimed the last four games to win by an 8-4 count and clinch the doubles point.
Damico quickly put Texas back on the board at third singles with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Poldma at third singles. Damico broke Poldma for a 2-0 lead in the first set and yielded only one game before taking the set. Damico held serve for a 5-3 lead in the second set and broke Poldma in the final game to nail down the victory.
USC’s Johnson put the Trojans on top for good with a 6-2, 6-1 win over UT’s Corrie at second singles. At first singles, Texas’ Kutrovsky held a 3-2 first-set lead over USC’s eighth-ranked Farah , but Farah broke in the next game and took the next three games to win the set, 6-3. Farah broke Kutrovsky twice to take a 3-0 second-set lead before Kutrovsky broke and held to pull within 3-2. But, Farah held serve the rest of the way to finish off the set, 6-4 and stake USC to a 3-1 lead.
USC’s Matt Kecki took the first set off of Texas’ Zavala at fifth singles, 6-2. Zavala responded by breaking Kecki for a 3-2 lead in the second set, but Kecki broke back to tie the set at three. Zavala broke Kecki, held serve and broke Kecki once more to take the set, 6-3 and push the match to a third set. Kecki took control from the outset of the third set and assumed a 4-0 lead. He went on to win the third set, 6-1 to nail down the deciding point for the Trojans.
Texas junior Olivier Sajous held a 2-1 third-set lead over Magdas at fourth singles when USC registered the deciding point. Trailing one set and 5-3 in the second set with three match points against him at sixth singles, Texas’ Reyes Varela saved all three of Daniel Nguyen’s match points and cut his deficit to 5-4 when the match was called.
2009 NCAA Men’s Tennis Championships (Semifinals)
#8 USC 4, #12 Texas 1
George P. Mitchell Tennis Center
at College Station, Texas
Doubles – Order of Finish: 2, 1, 3
1 #4 Farah/Johnson (USC) def. #27 Corrie/Damico (UT) – 8-6
2 #60 Kutrovsky/Zavala (UT) def. #59 Magdas/Nguyen (USC) – 8-4
3 Kecki/Poldma (USC) def. Reyes Varela/Sajous (UT) – 8-4
Singles – Order of Finish: 3, 2, 1, 5
1 #8 Robert Farah (USC) def. #19 Dimitar Kutrovsky (UT) – 6-3, 6-4
2 #53 Steve Johnson (USC) def. #69 Ed Corrie (UT) – 6-2, 6-1
3 #80 Kellen Damico (UT) def. #81 Jaak Poldma (USC) – 6-1, 6-3
4 Olivier Sajous (UT) vs. #106 Abdullah Magdas (USC) – 5-7, 6-4, 2-1, susp.
5 Matt Kecki (USC) def. Josh Zavala (UT) – 6-2, 3-6, 6-1
6 Miguel Reyes Varela (UT) vs. Daniel Nguyen (USC) – 6-7 (1), 4-5, susp.
· Texas ends its season in the NCAA semifinals or better for the third time in the last four seasons. UT fell to eventual NCAA champion Pepperdine in the 2006 semifinals and lost to Georgia in the 2008 NCAA finals. USC now has eliminated Texas from the NCAA Championships on seven occasions. Only Georgia matches UT’s stretch of three NCAA semifinal appearances in the last four seasons.
· UT sophomore Kellen Damico ends the season with victories in his last 12 decisions dating back to his three-set win over Oklahoma’s Ionut Beleleu on March 29. Damico has not lost since March 27, when Oklahoma State’s Anton Bobytskyi defeated him in three sets.
· Texas senior Miguel Reyes Varela ends his storied Longhorns’ career with 14 singles victories at the NCAA Championships (most among active NCAA Division I players). He also collected eight career doubles victories at the NCAA Championships.
· Texas lost the doubles point for only the eighth time this season (played 29 doubles points). UT held a 3-5 team record on the season when losing the doubles point.
· UT now holds a 38-27 overall record at the NCAA Championships.
Texas head coach Michael Center
On the loss
“USC deserved to win the match. We knew it would be a really challenging match. The doubles point was pretty tightly contested. We got off to a slow start at third doubles and started to fight back. In the end, they just played a little better. “They really put some pressure on us in the singles, and we were fighting uphill all day today. I never felt like we could get on top of them. I give them a lot of credit. They were really good today. They have a really solid team up and down their lineup.”
On the singles match-ups
“Ed Corrie actually beat Steve Johnson at the (ITA National) Indoors, and Dimitar Kutrovsky beat Robert Farah last year. So, I thought we would get into both of those matches. Dimi was up a break early, but he just didn’t have his “A” game today. Just wasn’t as quick as he normally could be. Robert (Farah) took advantage of that it like the great player that he is. He has a huge serve and big shots, and Dimi just got behind and couldn’t get back into the match. We gave them three points, and then Kellen Damico beat a terrific player in Jaak Poldma. USC was just a little too strong.”