Trojans Upset Notre Dame 4-3, Advance To NCAA Quarterfinals

May 17, 2007

ATHENS, GA. - The 12th seeded USC men's tennis team took No. 5 seed Notre Dame right down to the wire, and delivered the final winning stroke when freshman Gary Sacks pounded out three straight aces to finalize a third-set comeback and clinch a 4-3 win for the Trojans. The Round of 16 win by USC pushes the Trojans into the quarterfinals of the 2007 NCAA Division I Championships in Athens, Ga., where they square off against fourth-seeded Virginia in a 6 p.m. ET match on May 19. USC's overall record this seasom improves to 23-2 with Thursday's win.

In a match of true momentum swings, the Trojans rode out the waves and wound up with the last word. After dropping the doubles point, USC went on to go up 3-1 in the match on three consecutive singles wins. The Fighting Irish would come back, however, leveling the match to leave the No. 5 singles match between USC freshman Gary Sacks and Notre Dame senior Ryan Keckley going strong. Keckley had taken the upper hand after Sacks won the first set in a tiebreaker. Sacks was up 5-3 in the second, but Keckley answered to rob Sacks of the second and push the match into the third. There, it was Keckley who worked into an advantage, leading 4-2 until Sacks worked the set even 4-4. Sacks then broke Keckley for a 5-4 lead and went on to serve up three straight aces to lock away a huge win for the Trojans and clinch the match with his 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-4 decision.

The doubles point hung in the balance thanks to a service-game battle at the No. 1 slot. After Dejan Cvetkovic / Gary Sacks blew by Notre Dame pair Parbhu/Helgeson to pick up a win for the Trojans at No. 2 with an 8-2 decision, Fighting Irish King/Roth caught a break at No. 3 and worked out to an 8-6 win over USC's Jamil Al-Agba / Garrett Snyder to level the doubles action 1-1. That left all eyes on the No. 1 doubles match, where Robert Farah and Kaes Van't Hof were powering out a strong service game to hold serve throughout and force a deciding tiebreaker. In that tiebreaker, however, the Fighting Irish's #28 Bass/Keckley pulled ahead and clinched the doubles point for Notre Dame with a 9-8 (3) decision that brought up the singles action for the Round of 16 match.

The Trojans worked back in front behind two-setters from Jason McNaughton, Robert Farah and Jamil Al-Agba, putting USC ahead 3-1 while three more singles matches raged into third sets.

The early winning rush for the Trojans was sparked by freshman Jason McNaughton's overpowering effort at the No. 6 slot, as he dispatched Andrew Roth 6-4, 6-1 to even the match at 1-1. Robert Farah secured USC's second point, outlasting his opponent at No. 4 with a second-set tiebreaker that got Farah the win 6-3, 7-6 (4) over Barry King. At No. 1, #36 Jamil Al-Agba got his tense tiebreaker out of the way in the first, hanging on and passing up #8 Stephen Bass with an 11-9 win in the first-set tiebreaker on the way to a 7-6 (9), 6-2 victory that pushed USC ahead 3-1 in the match.

#63 Kaes Van't Hof was tripped up in his third set against Notre Dame's Brett Helgeson, as the Fighting Irish tightened up the match to 3-2 USC while Dejan Cvetkovic and Gary Sacks kept up their battles at No. 2 and No. 5, respectively.

After claiming the first set at No. 5, Sacks was passed up in the second by Ryan Keckley to force a third set. Meanwhile, #52 Cvetkovic was embedded in a tough match at No. 2, with each player trading 7-5 decisions to bring up a third. In that one, Notre Dame's #59 Sheeva Parbhu had the last word, grabbing the advantage up a break and then claiming a 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 comeback to make the match 3-3 with the No. 5 singles match between Sacks and Keckley still underway as the clincher. There, Sacks' heroics saved the day for the Trojans and earned them a ticket to the quarterfinals against Virginia.

#12 USC 4, #5 Notre Dame 3
NCAA Round of 16
May 17, 2007 - Athens, Ga.
DOUBLES
(1) #28 Bass/Keckley (ND) def. #43 Farah/Van't Hof (USC) - 9-8 (3)
(2) Cvetkovic/Sacks (USC) def. Parbhu/Helgeson (ND) - 8-2
(3) King/Roth (ND) def. Al-Agba/Snyder (USC) - 8-6
Notre Dame wins doubles point.
Order of finish: 2, 3, 1
SINGLES
(1) #36 Jamil Al-Agba (USC) def. #8 Stephen Bass (ND) - 7-6 (9), 6-2
(2) #59 Sheeva Parbhu (ND) def. #52 Dejan Cvetkovic (USC) - 5-7, 7-5, 6-3
(3) Brett Helgeson (ND) def. #63 Kaes Van't Hof (USC) - 6-3, 2-6, 6-3
(4) Robert Farah (USC) def. Barry King (ND) - 6-3, 7-6 (4)
(5) Gary Sacks (USC) def. Ryan Keckley (ND) - 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-4*
(6) Jason McNaughton (USC) def. Andrew Roth (ND) - 6-4, 6-1
Order of finish: 6, 4, 1, 3, 2, 5*

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