Virginia falls short again, dropping 4-2 heartbreaker to USC in NCAA Tennis Championship

For the fourth straight year, UVA was eliminated from the NCAA tournament short of its ultimate goal at the hands of the USC Trojans. After a dominating run to the finals, the Hoos battled but couldn't quite finish the job, as Southern Cal overcame an early deficit to win their fourth consecutive NCAA title.

In a match that lasted just under 8 hours from start to finish, the team took fans on yet another roller coaster ride. Early on, it seemed like it just may be the Hoos' day. In each of the last 3 NCAA tournaments, UVA lost the doubles point before eventually succumbing to the Trojans. This time, however, the Hoos overcame an early deficit to grab thelead and shift the pressure toward USC.

At this point, the skies opened up in Athens, GA, kicking off a two-hour rain delay, and eventually moving the rest of the outdoor team championship match, you guessed it, indoors. UGA has four playable indoor courts, not quite enough for six singles matches, so the singles section of the match proceeded in two waves. Additionally, NCAA and UGA forgot that the year is 2012 and failed to carry their online video stream (or audio, or up-to-date live stats) indoors. This made the match not much fun to follow.

Early on, Mitchell Frank dominated his third singles match, winning in straight sets, but the Hoos struggled on courts one, two, and four, losing in two sets there. Though Jarmere Jenkins's defeat at the hands of top-ranked Steve Johnson was not unexpected, Domijan and Courtney's losses were crushing, transferring all of the pressure to 5th and 6th singles. Facing a 3-2 deficit, Justin Shane and Julen Uriguen were placed in must-win situations.

Still, Wahoo fans following were quickly given reason for hope. Shane dropped his first set, but stormed back to win the second 6-2. Uriguen won his first before falling in a second set tiebreaker. In the decisive third sets, both Hoos went up a break, and Shane had a chance to serve for the match; however, with the help of a questionable line call, his USC opponent forced a third set tiebreak that he would win 7-4. If Shane had prevailed, a rapidly cramping Uriguen would have had the opportunity to play for the championship up a break.

It's tough to quantify the heartbreak that this gutty team has been through in recent years. In last season's final, UVA roared back from a 3-0 margin to force a decisive final set that Southern Cal pulled out. This year's momentum-killing rain storm and tiebreaker losses certainly rival that one. USC has a great team and a great program, but controversy does tend to follow them. Doug Doughty, reporting from Athens, was critical of the team's questionable line calls. In fact, Quiroz was overruled enough times enough times to force a one-game penalty for any future indiscretion. Perhaps the Honor Code has done us in again!

The loss drops Virginia to 29-2 on the year. The program is still searching for its first NCAA title.

We'll add more tomorrow, as UVA's players and coaches react to the result. Early reactions make me feel better already (but not much better):


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