No. 2 USC Halts No. 10 UK in NCAA Quarterfinals

May 21, 2011

STANFORD, Calif. - After defeating Florida to advance to the quarterfinals for only the fourth time in school history, the No. 10 University of Kentucky men's tennis team could not continue its impressive run through the NCAA Championships, falling to two-time defending national champions No. 2 Southern California 4-1 in the Elite Eight at Taube Tennis Center on Saturday.

"I love the way our guys fought," UK head coach Dennis Emery said. "They fought very, very hard and I thought we did a great job of competing in this match, especially in singles when we were down they really fought hard. This team has a lot of pride for each other and for playing for Kentucky and I know we gave a good effort today."

Kentucky (29-9) ends the season with a school record for wins in a single season with 29, shattering the previous record of 25, which was set last season. UK's quarterfinals appearance ties the school's best showing in the NCAA Championships. The Wildcats have advanced to the quarterfinals four times with the last coming in 2002.

The loss concludes a historic season for the Wildcats. On top of the school record for wins in season, UK also hosted the NCAA first and second rounds for the third consecutive season, advanced to the school's second Southeastern Conference Tournament final and took the program to back-to-back Sweet 16s for the first time in 19 years.

"It is very disappointing to lose because this is such a fun group of guys to be around," Emery said. "I just hate to see it end. To go to the Elite Eight is a real tribute to this team's character and closeness. It has been a great experience for me and coach Cedric Kauffmann to get to coach them."

Although UK is eliminated from the team portion of the event, three Wildcats will stay in Stanford for the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championship. Juniors Eric Quigley, who ranked sixth in the nation in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association singles poll, and Alex Musailek, who is ranked 53rd, will compete in the singles championships which starts Wednesday. Quigley and senior Brad Cox, who are 19th in the nation in doubles, will begin their run in the NCAA Doubles Championship on Thursday. Complete draws for the singles and doubles event have not been announced.

The match started with USC (25-2) taking the doubles point. The Trojans grabbed the first doubles match by defeating junior Alex Musialek and sophomore Anthony Rossi 8-3. UK would respond soon after, getting a win at No. 3 doubles when  senior Alberto Gonzalez and freshman Tom Jomby took down Daniel Nguyen and Ray Sarmiento 8-6. Kentucky would then serve for the match at No. 1 doubles up 7-5 before USC broke the UK duo of Cox and Quigley and rattled off four straight games to claim the match 9-7 and give USC the doubles point. The Wildcats end the season at 7-6 when it drops the doubles point.

"Doubles was a big key to the match," Emery said. "We served for the doubles at court one at 7-5 and they were able to put together a good game to break us and then win the match 9-7. I think after they won the point it really turned a lot of the momentum into their direction and we couldn't really get back from that."

USC went up 2-0 in singles when the nation's top-ranked player Steve Johnson defeated Quigley 6-4, 6-2 at No. 1 singles. Musialek would answer for Kentucky, earning an upset victory at No. 2 singles over No. 38 Jaak Poldma. The Frenchman would jump all over Poldma in the first set to grab a 6-2 win and then break early in the second set and hold on to take the 6-4 win and give UK's its only point of the match.

The Trojans claimed the match by posting wins at No. 4 and No. 5 singles. USC went up 3-1 when No. 47 Sarimento took down No. 90 Gonzalez in a tight match. Each player would earn a break in the first set, forcing a tiebreaker with Sarimento coming out on top in the breaker 7-1 to grab the first set. The talented USC player then rode momentum into the second set, defeating Gonzalez 6-1. USC grabbed its fourth point at No. 5 singles when Emilio Gomez defeated Rossi 6-1, 7-6 (3).

"We feel like we are very, very good at four and five singles and from that standpoint it was a bad matchup for us because they are great at those two spots," Emery said. "They have hardly lost in dual matches at those spots this year. I didn't think we played badly at those spots, but it spoke to the level of their play and their players that they were able to beat us there."

Play was abandoned at courts two and six when USC won the match with Kentucky's Cox winning the first set and on serve in the second over No. 44 Nguyen at No. 3 singles. USC's Peter Lucassen had won the first set in a tiebreaker over Jomby and was up a break in the second set.

The loss ends the impactful careers of seniors Cox and Gonzalez, who led the UK program to four consecutive NCAA appearances during their time at Kentucky. Cox, a team captain for two consecutive years, is the only player in school history to advance to the NCAA Doubles Championship four consecutive seasons, while Gonzalez ends his career 85-47. Both players were named to the SEC All-Tournament team this season, while Gonzalez was a second-team All-SEC performer during the regular season.

"We are really going to miss our two seniors," Emery said. "I don't think words can express what Alberto (Gonzalez) and Brad (Cox) have meant to this program in their own ways. We are going to need some players to step up next year in their place and that is going to be hard to do because Alberto and Brad are such quality people."

May 20, 2011
2011 NCAA Division I Men's and Women's Tennis Championships
Taube Family Tennis Center - Stanford, Calif.
Saturday, May 21 - 12 p.m. - Taube Stadium
Men's Quarterfinals
#2 USC (25-2) 4, #10 Kentucky (29-9) 1

Doubles (Order of Finish: 2, 3, 1)
1) No. 22 Poldma/Sundling (USC) d. No. 19 Cox/Quigley (KENT) 9-7
2) Gomez/Johnson (USC) d. Musialek/Rossi (KENT) 8-3
3) Gonzalez/Jomby (KENT) d. Nguyen/Sarmiento (USC) 8-6

Singles (Order of Finish: 1, 2, 4, 5)
1) No. 1 Steve Johnson (USC) d No. 6 Eric Quigley (KENT) 6-4, 6-2
2) No. 53 Alex Musialek (KENT) d. No. 38 Jaak Poldma (USC) 6-2, 6-4
3) No. 44 Daniel Nguyen (USC) vs. Brad Cox (KENT) aban.
4) No. 47 Ray Sarmiento (USC) vs. No. 90 Alberto Gonzalez (KENT) 7-6 (1), 6-1
5) Emilio Gomez (USC) d. Anthony Rossi (KENT) 6-1, 7-6 (3)
6) Peter Lucassen (USC) vs. Tom Jomby (KENT) aban.