CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Following a 4-2 upset of No. 8 UCLA in Friday's opening round of the 2012 ITA Men's National Team Indoor Championships, No. 10 Duke fell to top-ranked Southern California Saturday, 4-0. The loss was just the Blue Devils' first of the season, setting up a consolation match against No. 5 Florida on Sunday at 12 p.m.
The three-time reigning NCAA champion Trojans jumped out to a 1-0 lead after notching a pair of doubles victories on courts one and three.
The 13th-ranked duo of junior Henrique Cunha and sophomore Fred Saba surrendered just their second match of the season at the No. 1 spot in an 8-3 loss to No. 28 Steve Johnson and Yannick Hanfmann of Southern California. Senior Torsten Wietoska and freshman Raphael Hemmeler went up a break early on in their No. 3 doubles match against Emilio Gomez and Roberto Quiroz, but were unable to hold off the Trojan tandem, falling by a score of 8-5.
"We had some chances in doubles early and couldn't capitalize," said head coach Ramsey Smith.
Southern California presented a tough challenge in singles, with all six players ranked among the top 90 in the nation. Hemmeler dropped a 6-0, 6-2 decision to No. 36 Hanfmann on court five to give the Trojans a 2-0 advantage. The loss was just Hemmeler's first of the spring season, moving him to 6-1 in dual match play.
The Blue Devils continued to battle in the remaining singles matches, but Southern California would take first-set victories on all six courts on its way to a 4-0 victory. The Trojans' Gomez, ranked 47th in the latest ITA poll, defeated Saba by a 6-3, 6-1 margin in the No. 4 contest, and No. 14 Daniel Nguyen posted a 6-4, 6-2 win against Wietoska on court three to clinch the match.
Duke (8-1) was in the midst of several close contests on the remaining courts before the match was decided. In a meeting of top-20 players on court one, Southern California's Steve Johnson, ranked 11th in the ITA poll, took the first set by a score of 6-4. However, Johnson and second-ranked Cunha were locked at three-all in the second set before their match was abbreviated.
Seventeenth-ranked Chris Mengel also demonstrated perseverance, dropping the first set of his No. 2 singles match to No. 18 Ray Sarmiento but clawing back for a 6-3 win in the second set and a 3-1 lead in the third. Meanwhile, freshman Jason Tahir lost a hard-fought first-set tiebreak, 7-6 (7-4) against No. 86 Quiroz but was leading 4-3 in the second set before the Trojans closed out the win.
"Credit USC for playing a great match," Smith said. "It's important that we put this one behind us and get prepared for a big match tomorrow against a very good Florida team."
The Blue Devils will face fifth-ranked Florida (6-2) Sunday at 12 p.m. in a consolation match. At last year's ITA Team Indoors, Duke defeated the Gators by a 4-1 margin in the tournament quarterfinals. Florida leads the overall series between the two teams, 23-17.