One year after Irina Falconi and Guillermo Gomez of Georgia Tech were unsuccessful in becoming only the second men's and women's singles champions from the same school in the history of the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships, the USC tandem of Steve Johnson and Maria Sanchez will try to complete the same feat.
The USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships feature the nation's top men's and women's collegiate tennis players competing at the new indoor facilities at the USTA-Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, located in Flushing, New York with Columbia University serving as the tournament host.
Both Trojans entered the tournament as the No. 7 seed, with Johnson entering today's play as the lone singles seed remaining. Johnson will face Tennessee's Rhyne Williams, in an attempt to become just the fourth player in the 34-year men's history of the event to win back-to-back singles titles. A feat only accomplished by UCLA's Benjamin Kohlloeffel, Arizona State's Sargis Sargsian and Trinity's Erick Iskersky.
Other than Johnson's quarterfinal clash with an upset-minded Austen Childs of Louisville, which resulted in a 6-7 (3), 6-2, 6-4 victory over the Cardinal, Johnson has surrendered a mere 12 games through four matches. Tomorrow's final against giant-killer Rhyne Williams, however, will surely produce much closer results.
Williams began tournament play with the first round's most dominating win, eliminating top-seeded Alex Domijan of Virginia in straight sets. His other top-ten win came at the hands of SEC conference foe, Alexandre Lacroix in today's semifinals. The two have already developed quite the rivalry this fall after meeting at last month's D'Novo/ITA All-American Championships, where the final outcome resulted in a 3-6, 7-6 , 7-6  come-from-behind victory for the Florida Frenchman. Williams was able to return the favor with a 6-4, 6-4 revenge victory propelling the sophomore Volunteer into tomorrow's finals.
Steve Johnson is not alone is trying to win two-straight singles titles though. Facing Sanchez in tomorrow's women's final is defending singles champion, Jana Juricova of Cal. Juricova, the top-ranked player in the Campbell/ITA College Tennis Rankings, would also become the fourth player in history to win the indoor singles title in consecutive years. She would join Aurelija Miseviciute of Arkansas, Agata Cioroch of Georgia and Laura Granville of Stanford in doing so.
As the second seeded player in the singles tournament, Juricova moved swiftly through two rounds on the second day of play. She took out Florida's Alex Cercone, 6-2, 6-1, in the round of 16, and then duplicated that score to make short work of fifth-seeded and No. 7-ranked Denise Dy of Washington in the quarterfinal. The semifinals proved to slow down the Cal junior, who would drop the first set to UT's Aeriel Ellis before grinding out a tough final two sets to advance to her second straight singles final of the 2010 fall season.
Her opponent, third-ranked Maria Sanchez, might have had the most impressive tournament on paper than any other men's or women's player in the tournament. The Trojan senior managed straight-set victories over two top-10 ranked opponents in Friday's matches with a 7-6 (5), 6-2 win over Clemson's Josipa Bek in the Round of 16, followed by a 6-2, 6-2 upset of No. 4 seeded Denise Muresan of Michigan in the quarterfinals. There was no slowing down on day three as she overcame a comeback attempt by sixth-seeded Allie Will of Florida, closing out the Gator sophomore with a shutout third set, 7-5, 4-6, 6-0.
Even though only one doubles seed advanced in both the men's and women's draw, the finals matchups offer a pair of rematches that will surely delight the fans on hand at the National Tennis Center.
The fourth-ranked duo of Texas A&M All-American seniors Austin Krajicek and Jeff Dadamo, who qualified for the draw as alternates continued their march towards a doubles title by defeating the Georgia Tech tandem of Kevin King and Juan Spir, 6-4, 6-7 (8), 7-6 (6).
"Today's match was an absolute dogfight with the Georgia Tech guys," Aggie head coach Steve Denton said. "The tiebreaker was an unbelievable momentum swing. Tech raced out to a 6-2 lead only to see our guys fight back and finish with some very aggressive play on our own serve and some great defending points to secure the win."
Krajicek and Dadamo will now face the Ole Miss brother tandem of Chris and Marcel Thiemann ranked No. 10 in the nation, who defeated 24th-ranked Jean Anderson and Ed Corrie of Texas 6-3, 7-6(3) in the semifinals for their first finals appearance in a national event.
Sunday's final will be a rematch, as the two teams faced off in the Rebels' dual match against Texas A&M in the second round of the 2010 NCAA Team Championships.
"We are so excited to be in the final," Marcel said. "It's exciting to be in the final of an event this big," said Chris. "No one in the history of Ole Miss has won this, so it would be huge if we could come home with the title."
In one women's doubles semifinal, Clemson's fifth-ranked doubles team of Bek and Keri Wong knocked off the nation's top-ranked doubles team of Juricova and Mari Andersson 6-3, 7-6 (5).
"Today they faced one of their toughest opponents in the tournament", said Head Coach Nancy Harris. "Their opponents today could thread a needle putting the balls on their feet every time they came in. The Tigers prevailed with their aggression and courage to make big plays at big moments with telling success. I am so excited for Keri and Jo as they have earned their way to the finals against Florida tomorrow."
The runners-up at the Riviera/ITA All-American Championships advance to play Sofie Oyen and Allie Will of Florida, who are familiar with one another as they played in October in the first round of the Riviera/ITA All-American Championships with the Tigers winning 8-6 on their way to reaching the finals. But the Florida team is playing well, as they knocked off this tournament's top seed in Stanford's Hilary Barte and Mallory Burdette in the first round. That duo from Stanford was the group that defeated Bek and Wong in the All-American Finals.
"Sofie and I have just gone out there trying to embrace the moment", said Will. "We're having so much fun out there and I think that's why we were so successful."
Sunday's finals schedule begins with doubles matches taking court at 10 am ET, immediately followed by singles.
For complete results and event information, visit www.itatennis.com.
The Intercollegiate Tennis Association serves as the governing body of collegiate tennis in the United States. For the latest in college tennis news, rankings and events, visit ITAtennis.com .