The Blue Devils concluded the 2011-12 campaign with a final record of 25-6, matching the 1999 and 2000 squads for the second-most wins in program history. Duke also made the program's seventh appearance in the tournament quarterfinals and first since the 2001 season.
"Full credit to Southern Cal. I was very impressed with them today," said head coach Ramsey Smith. "I'm proud of the guys and how we fought hard all year. This is the tightest team we've had in a long time ... I feel like we really set the bar for the following years."
The doubles point came down to a matchup of top-five teams on court one after Duke and USC split the contests on courts two and three. The Blue Devils' fifth-ranked duo of junior Henrique Cunha and sophomore Chris Mengel went down a break early against second-ranked Steve Johnson and Roberto Quiroz of USC, but broke back to cut the Trojans' lead to 2-1. Johnson and Quiroz were up two breaks at 6-3 when the matches on courts two and three concluded, and despite a strong effort from Cunha and Mengel, went on to win by a score of 8-4.
Duke took the early advantage in doubles when senior Torsten Wietoska and freshman Raphael Hemmeler defeated Emilio Gomez and Yannick Hanfmann, 8-3, from the No. 3 position. Wietoska and Hemmeler posted their fourth consecutive doubles victory in NCAA Championship play while improving to 16-5 overall. In the No. 2 contest, senior David Holland and sophomore Fred Saba fell to USC's 35th-ranked tandem of Daniel Nguyen and Ray Sarmiento, 8-2.
"[Hemmeler and Wietoska] played amazing at No. 3 doubles and got off the court quickly," Smith said. "I know we lost 8-4 at No. 1 but we had some chances in that match and it was a little closer than the score."
The Trojans won four of the six first sets in singles and took a 2-0 lead in the match when 113th-ranked Wietoska fell to No. 21 Nguyen of USC in the No. 3 contest, 6-3, 6-1. No. 57 Gomez made it 3-0 in the Trojans' favor a short while later, defeating Saba 6-4, 6-1 on court four.
Hemmeler recorded a point for Duke from the No. 5 position, dispatching No. 51 Hanfmann in a 6-3, 6-4 victory. With the win, Hemmeler remained unbeaten in NCAA Championship singles play at 3-0 while closing out his freshman campaign with an overall record of 26-11. His win with Wietoska in doubles pushed his season record to 30-10, with the 30 wins ranked fourth-most among all freshmen in Duke history.
The Blue Devils continued to battle on the other three courts, with 38th-ranked Mengel edging No. 25 Sarmiento of USC, 7-5, in the first set on court two. In a matchup of top-five players on court one, fifth-ranked Cunha faced top-ranked Johnson for the second time this season. Johnson used an early break to take the first set, 6-4, and won the second set by a score of 6-0 to seal a 4-1 victory for the Trojans, sending them to the tournament semifinals.
The senior class of Holland, Wietoska and Luke Marchese leaves Duke with a record of 83-34 after guiding the Blue Devils to three consecutive appearances in the NCAA Round of 16.
"It was an awesome four years," Wietoska said. "To finish with our best season, I think was definitely our goal ... We came really close as a team and we left as a senior class a pretty good legacy for the upcoming classes."
"This is my fourth year as head coach here and this senior class is my first group of guys coming through," Smith said. "They've taken the program to the next level each year. It's nice to see that improvement. It's always tough after you lose the last match and the season ends so quickly, but we've become a better squad this year and achieved some of our goals. We've certainly put ourselves in a good position moving forward these next couple of years."
Cunha and Mengel will remain in Athens to compete in the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships. The individual tournaments will begin on Wednesday, May 23 following the conclusion of the NCAA Team Championship on Tuesday, May 22.
#1 Southern California 4, #8 Duke 1
NCAA Div. I Men's Tennis Championship - Quarterfinals
May 20, 2012 at Athens, Ga.
(Dan Magill Tennix Complex)
1. #2 Steve Johnson/Roberto Quiroz (USC) def. #16 Henrique Cunha/Chris Mengel (DU) 8-4
2. #35 Daniel Nguyen/Ray Sarmiento (USC) def. David Holland/Fred Saba (DU) 8-2
3. Raphael Hemmeler/Torsten Wietoska (DU) def. Emilio Gomez/Yannick Hanfmann (USC) 8-3
1. #1 Steve Johnson (USC) def. #5 Henrique Cunha (DU) 6-4, 6-0
2. #25 Ray Sarmiento (USC) vs. #38 Chris Mengel (DU) 5-7, 3-0, unfinished
3. #21 Daniel Nguyen (USC) def. #113 Torsten Wietoska (DU) 6-3, 6-1
4. #57 Emilio Gomez (USC) def. Fred Saba (DU) 6-4, 6-1
5. Raphael Hemmeler (DU) def. #51 Yannick Hanfmann (USC) 6-3, 6-4
6. Roberto Quiroz (USC) vs. Jason Tahir (DU) 6-2, 4-2, unfinished
Duke 25-6; National ranking #8
Southern California 31-1; National ranking #1
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2,1); Singles (3,4,5,1)