THIS WEEK - The No. 2 USC men's tennis team makes a journey southward this weekend for a blend of competition that takes the takes the Trojans through dual match and doubles play in San Diego. USC (12-2) will kick off the action with a faceoff against No. 36 San Diego at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday (Feb. 28) in La Jolla. Also on tap for the Trojans this weekend (Feb. 28-March 3) will be competition at the Pacific Coast Doubles, also in La Jolla.
ITA RANKING UPDATES
The USC men opened the season slotted as the No. 2 team in the nation after the Trojans made history with four consecutive NCAA team championships. Still ranked No. 2 in the latest ITA national team poll (released Feb. 26), the Trojans also boast more than a full lineup of Trojans on the ITA singles list (released Feb. 26). A whopping eight Trojans are locked into the rankings, led by junior Emilio Gomez at No. 4 and junior All-American Ray Sarmiento at No. 14. Sophomore All-American Roberto Quiroz is next in line at No. 27, followed by sophomore Eric Johnson at No. 51. Sophomore Yannick Hanfmann, too, has a top-100 spot, as the clincher of the 2012 NCAA Championship holds down No. 64. Freshman Max de Vroome clocks in at No. 88, with junior Michael Grant at No. 110 sophomore Jonny Wang at No. 119.
The No. 36 Toreros enter the week 5-2 overall after beating Boise State 5-2 over the weekend. USD will host Rice on Tuesday before the Trojans come to town on Friday. San Diego has #82 Clarke Spinosa and #112 Uros Petronijevic ranked nationally in singles and no ranked doubles teams. USC is 33-3 all-time against the Toreros after a 7-0 win last season at Marks Stadium.
USC played through its second heart-stopping match against crosstown rival UCLA in less than a week, but it was the No. 3 Bruins that snagged the tight victory in this one on Friday. Matched up at USC's Marks Stadium after tangling in Seattle the previous weekend in the semifinal round of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, the No. 2 Trojans and the No. 3 Bruins took it down to the wire once again. This time, UCLA turned the tide and pulled out the 4-3 win over USC in a nonconference match. USC cranked up the pressure in doubles when #48 Hanfmann/Sarmiento answered a UCLA win on court two to even things up. Hanfmann/Sarmiento broke out of a 4-4 tie with Giron/Novikov at the No. 1 spot and kept their foot on the gas to win 8-5. That put all eyes on court three, where USC's #49 Gomez/Johnson was digging out of a deep hole. The Trojans had trailed Brigham/Mkrtchian 2-5 before the USC pair battled back to level it up 6-6. It would roll on into a tiebreaker to decide the double point, and the Bruins got it done with a 7-1 win in the breaker to lift UCLA to a 1-0 lead in the match. That 1-0 deficit would hamper the Trojans this time around, with the UCLA singles lineup slightly adjusted from Sunday's clash in Seattle. Friday's battle featured rematches at the Nos. 1-3 and No. 6 singles spots, with new face-offs on courts four and five. The only rematch to wind up equal to the last was at No. 6, where USC sophomore Eric Johnson successfully fended off Karue Sell's comeback hopes for a 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 win that had evened the score 3-3. A lot of drama had gone down to get to that point. USC #12 junior Ray Sarmiento would find vengeance against UCLA's #58 Dennis Novikov on court one, serving up a straight-set victory 6-4, 6-3 to ring up USC's first singles win of the day. On court three, however, USC's #23 Roberto Quiroz was upended by UCLA's #42 Adrien Puget 6-3, 6-2 to counter a three-set loss to Quiroz by the Bruin in Seattle. That made it 2-1 UCLA. At the No. 4 spot, USC's #94 Yannick Hanfmann was matched up against Clay Thompson. After some first-set nerves settled out for the Trojan sophomore, Hanfmann got down to business and left Thompson well out of reach with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-0 win that had the match even again 2-2. At the No. 5 spot, UCLA had moved #55 Dennis Mkrtchian down a spot to face USC's #109 freshman Max de Vroome, who had faced Thompson up in Seattle. De Vroome grabbed the first set but would fall in a second-set tiebreaker to bring up a third. There, de Vroome fell behind an early break, and Mkrtchian held on for the 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-3 comeback that bumped UCLA ahead 3-2. That prompted Eric Johnson to kick things into gear on court six, where he took down Sell for the equalizer. With it locked up 3-3, attention turned to the No. 2 spot, where USC's #10 junior Emilio Gomez was in another three-set battle with UCLA's #13 Marcos Giron. Giron had forced the third set with a late push in the second, and in the third things were getting tense. Gomez got up a break, 5-3, only to have Giron come back to 5-5. Gomez held serve next, but so did Giron, and it would come down to a tiebreaker to decide it all. In the tiebreak, Giron broke a 2-2 tie with four straight points to heap pressure on Gomez. He'd fight off one match point, but Giron finished it off next to harness a 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (3) comeback victory that wrapped up a 4-3 win for the visiting Bruins.
USC's first loss of the 2013 season came to top-ranked and top-seeded Virginia in the championship match at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in Seattle last week. The tight 4-2 loss to the Cavaliers snapped a 20-match winning streak held by the Trojans dating back through USC's run to the 2012 NCAA Championship, where the Trojans beat Virginia 4-2 in last year's national championship match. USC was looking to defend its 2012 ITA National Indoor Championship, but the highly ranked Cavaliers stole away this year's title thanks to some strong wins at the top of the lineup. In the semifinals of the tourney, USC 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. In order to get to that semi, the Trojans first rolled through No. 15 Texas A&M with a 4-0 sweep and then took down No. 7 Kentucky 4-1 in the quarterfinals. Yannick Hanfmann would finish the tourney undefeated in singles play, going 3-0 to extend the sophomore's singles win streak out to eight in a row. He also had the clincher against the Aggies to help spark his stretch of straight-set wins. He was named Pac-12 Player of the Week for his strength in Seattle. Earning All-Tournament Team honors was Yannick Hanfmann for No. 4 singles and Eric Johnson for No. 6 singles.
PLENTY OF PAC-12 PUNCH
Just three weeks into the fall season, USC had two Pac-12 Player of the Week winners the books. Junior Emilio Gomez opened up the honor roll for the Trojans with his second career pick on Jan. 29. Gomez held down the No. 1 singles position with precision as the USC men made a winning run as host of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend. Gomez won in straight sets in both his singles matches, lifting USC to 3-0 leads against both San Diego State and Fresno State. He was similarly strong in the doubles realm, teaming up with Eric Johnson in the ITA Kick-Off final for an 8-1 victory that sparked USC's winning run in the match so qualify the Trojans for the ITA National Team Indoor Championships. Freshman Max de Vroome would make it back-to-back USC wins as he picked up his first career Pac-12 Player of the Week award after extending his win streaks in singles and doubles with solid victories in USC's five matches in a six-day period. De Vroome continued his success with teammate Roberto Quiroz in pounding out five straight doubles wins last week. In singles, de Vroome also added five more wins to hold seven in a row thanks to his five straight-set wins on the singles courts. De Vroome had the clinching wins in both USC victories in a doubleheader against Cal Poly and UC Irvine early in the week, and would go on to wrap up a winning week with his victories against Texas, San Francisco and LMU as the week progressed.
USC endured plenty of adjustments to changing weather patterns in Los Angeles and came away with two 4-0 sweeps of opponents at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend. On the first day, teams moved indoors to courts in Riverside in order to stay on schedule. There, the Trojans posted a clean sheet against No. 66 San Diego State in winning doubles and then tacking up three straight-set singles wins, with the clincher coming from #121 sophomore Jonny Wang at the No. 4 spot. The next day, USC played out the ITA Kick-Off final against No. 69 Fresno State on three courts at Marks Stadium. Thanks to Max de Vroome and Roberto Quiroz' tiebreaker win on court one, USC squeaked out the doubles point. Emilio Gomez and Jonny Wang had given USC the advantage with an 8-1 win at the No. 2 position, but USC lost at No. 3. In singles, though, the Trojans showed fewer signs of slacking. De Vroome and Gomez both streaked ahead to victory, and then Quiroz wrapped up the weekend with the clincher on court three to keep USC a perfect 2-0 in the early goings of 2013.
STRENGTH AT SHERWOOD
The winner of last year's Sherwood Collegiate Cup doubles championship, Ray Sarmiento added a singles title to his resume thanks to a series of wins over UCLA opponents in this 2013 edition of the individual tourney in Thousand Oaks, Calif, last weekend. Sarmiento raged through straight sets throughout his singles draw until the final, where the junior lost the first before making his comeback win to beat UCLA's Adrien Puget in the title match. USC also had a spot in the doubles final, but Trojans Emilio Gomez and Eric Johnson were upended in the final by third-seeded Bruin pair Giron/Novikov. The Trojans had eight players on the docket in singles and four doubles teams in the mix for USC's first competition of 2013. Four Trojan sophomores -- Sarmiento, Roberto Quiroz, Yannick Hanfmann and Johnson -- reached the singles quarterfinals, but only Sarmiento emerged from that group as he set his course toward the championship. So, too did the Trojan pack four teams into the doubles quarterfinal round, with all but one notching wins to move into the semifinals. That set up an all-Trojan semi between Gomez /Johnson and Hanfmann/Sarmiento to guarantee a USC team in the final. Gomez/Johnson would advance to the title match to take on No. 3 seeded Bruins Giron/Novikov, who had edged out Trojans de Vroome/Quiroz in their semifinal collision. Gomez/Johnson took the Bruins down to the wire, but fell 8-7 (4) in the doubles final.
A GOOD DAY ON CLAY
USC sophomore Roberto Quiroz showed his singles strength in the fall in cruising to the crown at the USTA Clay Court Invitational in Orlando, Fla., topping off his trip with a 6-1, 6-3 championship win over his opponent from Duke. He also reached the doubles semifinals with teammate Yannick Hanfmann. The Florida tournament consisted of several draws of singles and doubles competition. The Trojans had a strong group in the Gold Draw, led by eventual champ Quiroz. Sophomore Hanfmann worked his way to the semifinals in the draw, falling to Quiroz' title match opponent Michael Redlicki. Freshman Max de Vroome and sophomore Jonny Wang fell in the first round. Quiroz and Hanfmann both opened their runs with straight-set victories. Quiroz would keep that streak alive as he rolled to the title, which Hanfmann was upended in the semis.
Trojan tennis reigned supreme at the Battle in the Bay Classic in San Francisco during the fall with a sweep of singles and doubles titles. The big winner in the Bay Area was USC sophomore Eric Johnson, who stormed to the singles crown with a dramatic three-set win over his freshman teammate Max de Vroome. Johnson also hoisted the doubles trophy with teammate Yannick Hanfmann after a successful run through the doubles draw. Fourth-seeded Eric Johnson posted straight-set wins in his first three matches en route to today's semifinals. There he dispatched a San Diego foe to take a spot in the singles final against teammate de Vroome. The two Trojans tangled through three sets before Johnson grabbed the third-set tiebreaker for a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 win that earned the sophomore the singles crown. De Vroome took the spot in the title match with another all-Trojan face-off in the semifinal, where the freshman faced sophomore Jonny Wang, who had also made a strong run through the singles draw. In doubles, Wang and de Vroome had paired up but taken an early tight loss in the first round. Their Trojan cohorts Johnson and Yannick Hanfmann, meanwhile, pinned up two powerful wins to move into the semifinals. There, sophomores Hanfmann and Johnson gutted out a 9-8 (1) win over a pair from Pacific to earn a place in the final. Hanfmann/Johnson went up against a duo from Stanford in the championship bout, taking out the Cardinal with an 8-4 decision to claim the title and spark an all-out winning day for sophomore Johnson.
In 2012, USC seniors Steve Johnson and Daniel Nguyen helped anchor the Trojans to a historic run of four consecutive NCAA championships. Johnson finished his Trojan career as arguably the most successful collegiate player in history, having claimed back-to-back NCAA Singles Championships and closing out 2012 on a 72-match singles winning streak. Led by head coach Peter Smith, the 2012 Trojans lost just one match during the regular season, rebounding strong to win the first Pac-12 Tournament Championship and rolling on to successfully defend its previous three NCAA titles, taking its fourth in a row to finish 33-1 overall on the year. Top-seeded USC won a heart-stopping championship match against No. 3 seed Virginia, with the clincher in the 4-3 win coming from freshman Yannick Hanfmann in a third-set tiebreaker. With the 2012 title, USC became the first team since Stanford's 1995-98 teams to win four consecutive national championships. At the end of the year, Johnson had earned his seventh career ITA All-American nods, joined by freshman Roberto Quiroz and sophomore Ray Sarmiento with All-American status in 2012.