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Southern Cal wins 4th straight national title

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ATHENS, Ga. (AP) - Southern Cal coach Peter Smith wasn't exactly feeling confident after the Trojans lost just their second doubles point of the year.

But with a fourth straight national title at stake, Smith was able to put a strong performance in pumping up his team.

"I said that our backs are against the wall,'' Smith told the players. "Let's just go out and play and play hard and stop worrying.''

Freshman Yannick Hanfmann rallied late in the third set to beat Justin Shane in singles and help Southern Cal win its fourth straight national championship with a 4-2 victory over Virginia on Tuesday night.

Rain delayed the start of singles 3 hours before the tournament at the University of Georgia moved indoors. Hanfmann clinched the Trojans' 20th national title with a 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (4) win just a few minutes before 1 a.m. Wednesday.

Virginia lost to Southern Cal for the fourth straight year in the tournament and for the second consecutive year in the finals.

Steve Johnson, the No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA singles tournament and the event's defending champion, gave Southern Cal (33-1) its first point of the finals, beating Jarmere Jenkins 6-3, 6-2 for his 66th consecutive victory.

For Hanfmann, earning the clinching victory in a national final was easy to imagine indoors.

Just three months ago in Charlottesville, Va., he rallied to win a break point in the third set against Ohio State's Devin McCarthy. That performance gave Southern Cal the ITA national team indoor title.

"It came to my mind, but indoors was a long time ago,'' Hanfmann said. "It's not just me. Seeing everybody playing so hard is an inspiration for me. I'm lucky that it ended that way.''

Shane broke Hanfmann to go up 5-4 in the third set, but gave the lead back and never regained momentum.

"I might have gotten a little frustrated with the ref, but there's nothing you can do when he's doing his job,'' Shane said. "I stayed focused on the present.''

The Cavaliers (29-2) handed Southern Cal just its second doubles point loss of the year when Mitchell Frank and Alex Domijan beat Daniel Nguyen and Ray Sarmiento 8-5 and Shane and Julen Uriguen knocked off Emilio Gomez and Hanfmann 8-4.

"We've come a long ways in doubles, and that's something we've worked hard on and made a great deal of improvement,'' Virginia coach Brian Boland said. "So it's unfortunate that we came up short.''

Gomez's 6-4, 6-2 victory over Drew Courtney in No. 4 singles put the Trojans up 2-1. But Frank helped Virginia even the score at 2-2 with a 6-3, 6-1 victory in No. 3 singles over Nguyen, who won the clinching matches in two of the past three Southern Cal titles.

Sarmiento gave the Trojans a 3-2 lead by holding off Domijan 6-4, 7-5 in No. 2 singles.

As the tension was building indoors, Johnson found it hard to relax even though he had beaten Jenkins without too much of a fight.

On side-by-side courts, Hanfmann was battling Shane while Southern Cal's Roberto Quiroz was trying to rally against Julen Uriguen.

Quiroz's match, which Uriguen led 6-2, 6-7 (3), 4-3, was not finished. But late in the third set of both matches, Southern Cal was trailing both matches before Hanfmann rallied.

"You know it's just hard to watch,'' Johnson said. "As a tennis player, it comes down to you usually. Usually the ball is in your court and you are able to control it. To have it out of your control is just stressful to watch.''

When Hanfmann finally clinched the title, Southern Cal's team ran onto the second court and jumped ecstatically in each other's arms.

"It was tough for us,'' Smith said. "The last two matches were going to be two freshmen against a sophomore and a senior. That was going to be tough, but you know these guys. Tradition lives on, and it's unbelievable.''