COLLEGE STATION, Texas. --- The top-ranked Georgia men's tennis team's quest for back-to-back national titles ended just short as the Bulldogs fell to 11th-seeded Southern California in the championship final of the 2002 NCAA Championships at the Texas A&M Tennis Center in College Station. Georgia, who won the 2002 SEC Championship, ended the season 28-4.
"USC just came out prepared," said Georgia head coach Manuel Diaz. "They had a lot of fire and energy. I guess we just could not muster the necessary energy. We did not seem to have our legs under us. I think playing the late matches really took its toll on us. That's not to take anything away from USC. They played a championship-caliber match, and they deserved to win."
"Our guys deserve a lot of credit," added Diaz. "They fought very hard and played their hearts out. I've been (coaching) for 20 years now, and the match last night (4-2 win against No. 4 UCLA) was one of the best I have ever been a part of. It was such an emotional match. It took so much out of us."
The Bulldogs found themselves in unfamiliar territory as Georgia dropped the doubles point for only the sixth time all season. The duo of Lesley Joseph and Nicolas Boeker went down a break at 4-3 to USC's Prakash Amritraj and Daniel Langre, and the Trojan pair held on to win 8-3 at No. 3 doubles.
Southern Cal took the early lead when Teige Sullivan and Ruben Torres topped Brandon Wagner and Adam Seri 8-4 at No. 2 doubles to secure the doubles point. Matias Boeker and Bo Hodge were tied up at 5-5 with Ryan Moore and Nick Rainey at the No. 1 doubles spot when play was suspended.
We felt very comfortable after the doubles point that we could take four singles matches," offered Diaz. "We were sluggish in doubles, but I thought we would break out of it, but it never happened."
The Trojans took a 2-0 lead when Langre outlasted Seri 6-4, 6-4 at the No. 5 singles spot.
"I have no excuses," said Seri after his final match as a Bulldog. "He played really well. I broke back in the second, but I could not hold on. I never got on a roll like I did last night. I was tired and I am sure (Langre) was as well. We gave all we could give today. USC played a great match, and they deserve to win."
In the top singles spot, No. 30 Andrew Park won the first game of the first set before M. Boeker reeled off six straight wins to take the first set 6-1. The two men traded breaks in the second set to get back on serve at 4-4. M. Boeker broke serve in the 12th game to win 6-4, 7-5 for Georgia's lone point of the match.
Southern Cal extended its lead to 3-1 when Torres defeated N. Boeker in straight sets 6-2, 6-3 at the No. 6 singles spot. Wagner (at No. 2) and Hodge (No. 3) both fought off match points to keep Georgia in the match.
Tournament Most Valuable Player Amritraj gave USC head coach Dick Leach his fourth national title - first since 1994 - and a victory in his final match as the Trojan leader. Amritraj broke Hodge in the 11th game to take a 6-5 lead in the second set after winning the first in a tiebreak. The Trojan send the crowd into a frenzy as he held on to post a 7-6 (3), 7-5 win to clinch the match.
Wagner, M. Boeker and Hodge all earned their way onto the All-Tournament team.
No. 11 Southern Cal 4, No. 1 Georgia 1
1. (18) M. Boeker/Hodge (UGA) vs. (9) Moore/Rainey (USC), 5-5, susp.
2. Sullivan/Torres (USC) def. Wagner/Seri (UGA), 8-4*
3. Amritraj/Langre (USC) def. N. Boeker/Joseph (UGA), 8-3
1. (1) Matias Boeker (UGA) def. (30) Andrew Park, 6-1, 7-5
2. (25) Brandon Wagner (UGA) vs. (87) Ryan Moore (USC), 3-6, 6-6, susp.
3. (85) Prakash (USC) def. Bo Hodge (UGA), 7-6 (3), 7-5*
4. (64) Lesley Joseph (UGA) vs. (46) Nick Rainey (USC), 6-2, 6-5, susp.
5. Daniel Langre (USC) def. Adam Seri (UGA), 6-4, 6-4
6. Ruben Torres (USC) def. Nicolas Boeker (UGA), 6-2, 6-3
* clinched doubles point, clinched match
2002 All-Tournament Team
No. 1 singles: Peter Handoyo, Tennessee
No. 2 singles: Brandon Wagner, Georgia
No. 3 singles: Prakash Amritraj, Southern Cal
No. 4 singles: Jean-Julien Rojer, UCLA
No. 5 singles: Daniel Langre, Southern Cal
No. 6 singles: Ruben Torres, Southern Cal
No. 1 doubles: Boeker/Hodge, Georgia
No. 2 doubles: Carey, Handoyo, Tennessee
No. 3 doubles: Amritraj/Langre, Southern Cal
MVP: Prakash Amritraj, Southern Cal