SEATTLE -- The No. 2 USC men's tennis team captured a dramatic win over crosstown rival UCLA, edging out the No. 3 Bruins with a 4-3 comeback victory capped by a heroic third-set tiebreaker win from sophomore Roberto Quiroz. The Bruins had the Trojans in a tough spot in a match replete with momentum shifts, but USC's gutsy comeback efforts pulled the Trojans through in the clutch. The hard-fought win lifts USC to 12-0 overall on the year and put the Trojans in position to defend their 2012 ITA Indoor title with a trip to tomorrow's final against either Virginia or Ohio State.
The doubles point went the way of the Bruins when a UCLA win on court one broke the stalemate set up by a UCLA win at the No. 2 spot and a Trojan win on court three. USC pair Gomez/Johnson had leveled the score with their 8-4 win at the No. 3 spot, atoning for de Vroome/Quiroz' 8-2 loss at No. 2. With it all locked up, however, UCLA was able to snag the point on a loss by USC's Hanfmann/Sarmiento at the No. 1 position.
Singles play was an all-out battle. USC sophomore Yannick Hanfmann was the only player to wrap up a straight-set victory, pulling the Trojans even at 1-1 with his 6-2, 6-4 win over UCLA's #55 Dennis Mkrtchian on court four. The rest of the singles matches were going long. Third sets abounded across the board, thanks to comeback efforts by Trojans Emilio Gomez, Roberto Quiroz and Eric Johnson. It would be a comeback push by UCLA's #58 Dennis Novikov, however, that put the next point on the board. Novikov passed up USC's #12 Ray Sarmiento on court one 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, and the Bruins were up 2-1.
USC would rapid-fire two comeback wins next to pull the Trojans into their first lead of the game. #48 Eric Johnson manufactured a winning surge at the No. 6 spot, beating Karue Sell 1-6, 7-5, 6-4 to lock it at 2-2. #10 Emilio Gomez followed suit, finishing off his comeback rally on court two to make it 3-2 Trojans with his 2-6, 7-5, 6-2 win over #13 Marcos Giron. The Bruins pushed back, though. On court five, UCLA's Clay Thompson fought back to beat USC #109 freshman Max de Vroome 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, and the back was stuck even again, tied up 3-3.
That put all eyes on court three, where USC's #23 Roberto Quiroz was working on yet another comeback effort. He'd get it done in dramatic fashion, finding some winning flair in a third-set tiebreaker, besting #42 Adrien Puget 7-4 in the breaker to capture the clincher 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4).
USC now moves into the title match, where the Trojans will defend their 2012 championship with a final bout against either top-seeded Virginia or No. 4 seed Ohio State tomorrow (Feb. 18) in Seattle.
After that, USC returns home to face the Bruins again. The Trojans host UCLA on Friday (Feb. 22) at 3 p.m. in a non conference clash at Marks Stadium.
2013 ITA NATIONAL TEAM INDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS (Seattle, Wash.)
SEMIFINALS - Feb. 17
#2 USC 4, #3 UCLA 3
(1) Giron/Novikov (UCLA) def. #48 Hanfmann/Sarmiento (USC) - 8-4
(2) Puget/Sell (UCLA) def. De Vroome/Quiroz (USC) - 8-2
(3) Gomez/Johnson (USC) def. Brigham/Mkrtchian (UCLA) - 8-4
UCLA wins doubles point.
Order of finish: 2, 3, 1
(1) #58 Dennis Novikov (UCLA) def. #12 Ray Sarmiento (USC) - 1-6, 6-3, 6-4
(2) #10 Emilio Gomez (USC) def. #13 Marcos Giron (UCLA) - 2-6, 7-5, 6-2
(3) #23 Roberto Quiroz (USC) def. #42 Adrien Puget (UCLA) - 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4)*
(4) #94 Yannick Hanfmann (USC) def. #55 Dennis Mkrtchian (UCLA) - 6-2, 6-4
(5) Clay Thompson (UCLA) def. #109 Max de Vroome (USC) - 2-6, 6-4, 6-4
(6) #48 Eric Johnson (USC) def. Karue Sell (UCLA) - 1-6, 7-5, 6-4
Order of finish: 4, 1, 6, 2, 5, 3