ATHENS, Ga. — Ray Sarmiento senses something special when he walks onto the courts at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.
It certainly helps that Sarmiento and some of his Southern California teammates fondly recall winning a national title at the University of Georgia two years ago.
“It’s like you’re playing at home,” he said. “It’s a great atmosphere. That makes it so special.”
Sarmiento and Yannick Hanfmann won their singles matches in straight sets and USC earned its 21st NCAA championship with a 4-2 victory over Oklahoma on Tuesday night.
The top-seeded Trojans (32-3) clinched their fifth national title in six years under coach Peter Smith when Max de Vroome held serve with a backhand volley to beat Andrew Harris in No. 4 singles.
“We’ve had so many great players, and it’s amazing to see a new group stepping up,” Smith said. “Winning one of these is so hard.”
Second-seeded Oklahoma (27-5) led 2-0 after Dane Webb won No. 3 singles, but the Sooners couldn’t hold their momentum.
Hanfmann beat Guillermo Alcorta 7-5, 6-2 in No. 1 singles, and Sarmiento held off Axel Alvarez in 6-4, 7-6 in No. 2 before Eric Johnson won No. 5 singles for a 3-2 Trojans lead.
For Sarmiento, who was a sophomore when Southern California beat Virginia for the national title in Athens two years ago, almost everything went right once the Trojans returned to Georgia.
He didn’t lose a set after the tournament moved to Athens for the round of 16 last week, knocking off fourth-seeded Mitchell Frank of Virginia in the semifinals before facing Alvarez.
“I dug myself a pretty good hole at the beginning (of the match),” Sarmiento said. “But since Day One, coaches have emphasized to leave it all on the court and whatever happens happens, so I just competed my butt off.”
Webb, despite watching the Sooners lose four straight matches, was pleased that Oklahoma played competitively in the school’s first trip to the finals.