THIS WEEK - The No. 2 USC men's tennis team takes the turn into conference action this week, with a landmark win looming large on the horizon for head coach Peter Smith. Smith is a win away from his 500th career victory as a head coach, and he and the Trojans will have to contend with two tough Pac-12 customers to get that 500th in the books this week. USC (17-2) hits the road to the Bay Area, first taking on No. 49 Stanford at 1:30 p.m. on Friday (March 29) in Palo Alto. From there, USC will head up to Berkeley for an Easter clash with the Golden Bears starting at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday (March 31). The singles portion of the match will be televised on Pac-12 Networks starting at 3:05 p.m. Ted Robinson is the play-by-play announcer, and the analyst is Paul Goldstein.
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. The Trojans spent two separate cycles at the No. 3 spot, but are now back at No. 2 in the latest ITA national team poll (released March 26). The Trojans still boast more than a full lineup of Trojans on the ITA singles list (released March 26). A whopping seven Trojans are locked into the top-100, led by junior Emilio Gomez at No. 6 and junior All-American Ray Sarmiento at No. 9. Sophomore All-American Roberto Quiroz is next in line at No. 27, followed by sophomore Yannick Hanfmann -- the clincher of the 2012 NCAA Championship -- at No. 48 and sophomore Eric Johnson at No. 65. Sophomore Jonny Wang clocks in at No. 86, with junior Michael Grant at No. 87. Freshman Max de Vroome is just steps outside the top-100 at No. 104.
In all, this latest round of rankings has three Trojans at their highest career spots -- #9 Ray Sarmiento, #86 Jonny Wang and #87 Michael Grant. Emilio Gomez held his career best in the last cycle at #2, and Roberto Quiroz was up to #23 during the last cycle.
The No. 49 Cardinal improved to 6-5 overall with a 5-2 win over Nevada earlier this week. Stanford will face Saint Mary's on Wednesday before the Trojans come to town. The Cardinal have #54 John Morrissey and #88 Nolan Paige ranked nationally in singles and no ranked doubles teams. USC is 107-76 all-time against the Cardinal after a 6-1 win earlier this season at Marks Stadium. USC shutout Stanford three times last season: 7-0 twice during the regular season and 4-0 in the semifinals of the 2012 Pac-12 Tournament.
The No. 15 Golden Bears enter the week 8-7 overall after beating TCU 4-3 and losing to Baylor 6-1 last week. Cal has three players nationall ranked in singles: #44 Ben McLachlan, #46 Campbell Johnson and #66 Christoffer Konigsfeldt. In doubles, Cal has three ranked teams: #26 Johnson/Konigsfeldt, #39 B. McLachlan/R. McLachlan and #40 Engsted/B. McLachlan. USC is 133-33 all-time against the Bears after a 7-0 sweep earlier this season at Marks Stadium. Last year, USC beat Cal 5-2 and 6-1 during the regular season.
MONDAY VS. TEXAS
USC turned on the jets after a tight doubles point to power out ahead of visiting No. 14 Texas A&M on Monday at Marks Stadium. The Trojans found a hot spark in Emilio Gomez, who delivered a near-perfect performance with a 6-0, 6-1 win in singles on court one. With that boost, the Trojans rolled on, receiving the clincher from Jonny Wang en route to the 6-1 victory. The doubles point hung in the balance with tight matches on all three courts. The anchors in the doubles scene were Emilio Gomez and Roberto Quiroz, who were the only Trojan team never to trail in their match. Gomez/Quiroz would fight through to an 8-5 win over Adams/Vinsant at the No. 2 spot to give USC a much-needed lift. On court one, USC's #26 pair of Yannick Hanfmann and Ray Sarmiento had clawed out of a 3-6 hole against Ore/Withrow, winning four straight games to tie it up. They'd go into a tiebreaker and took a 3-1 lead there before their teammates at the No. 3 spot came through with the clincher. On court three, Michael Grant and Eric Johnson made a final winning push to beat Efferding/Szabo with an 8-6 win that put the doubles point in USC's column to bring up singles play. USC's #2 Emilio Gomez gave up no ground in his No. 2 singles match with #52 Jeremy Efferding. Gomez drilled out a 6-0, 6-1 win to take his Trojans to a 2-0 lead on the Aggies. #9 Ray Sarmiento buckled down next, winning six straight games to tally a 6-3, 6-1 win over Junior Ore from court two, and USC was in position with a 3-0 advantage. The Aggies would prove stronger on court four, though. #77 Shane Vinsant was able to solve USC's #23 Roberto Quiroz and tack up a 6-3, 6-3 win that put a point up in favor of Texas A&M. From the No. 6 spot, however, USC's #90 Jonny Wang rendered that loss meaningless when he came through with the clincher. Wang powered out of a 3-0 hole in the second set to force the issue with Jordan Szabo, and Wang punched up a 6-2, 7-5 win that got USC to a 4-1 lead. At the No. 5 spot, meanwhile, #61 Eric Johnson was chugging ahead of #117 Jackson Withrow. Johnson leveled a 6-4, 6-4 win on Withrow, while Trojan teammate Yannick Hanfmann was under the gun in a 10-point tiebreaker on court three. #65 Hanfmann went on a four-point run to erase a two-point deficit and set himself up with match point. His opponent #118 Harrison Adams was able to fend off one match point, but not the second chance from the booming server Hanfmann. Hanfmann's 3-6, 6-3, 1-0 (10-8) comeback win closed out the match, and gave the sophomore his 12th straight singles win.
Peter Smith STREAKS TOWARD 500 CLUB
USC men's tennis head coach Peter Smith -- winner of four NCAA Team Championships in his first 10 seasons with the Trojans -- is now just one win away from reaching a huge coaching benchmark. If USC stays in winning mode, Smith's 500th victory would come on March 29 at Stanford. Smith -- the 2012 ITA National Coach of the Year -- has posted a 229-64 record at USC, combining with 15 seasons combined at the helm of Long Beach State, Fresno State and Pepperdine. That puts Smith's grand career total at 499-199 to put all eyes on the fast-approaching 500th win.
USC's last match saw three different Trojans notch their 20th singles wins of the season. Four Trojans were already living large in the club, led by Roberto Quiroz' 29 wins to date. But during Monday's matchup with Texas A&M, the 20-win team expanded to seven. Emilio Gomez, Yannick Hanfmann and Ray Sarmiento all hit 20 in the match, joining Quiroz (29), Eric Johnson (26) and Jonny Wang (22) as USC's 20-win heavy hitters.
Sophomore Roberto Quiroz became the fourth Trojan to be named Pac-12 Player of the Week this season after he punched in wins from both the singles and doubles courts to move the Trojans through a victorious road trip in beating #15 Illinois and #27 Notre Dame last week. Quiroz combined with cousin Emilio Gomez to hammer home the first win of the day in both matches with strong doubles performances to help spark USC to the doubles points. In singles, Quiroz brought home the clincher for USC as he pinned up a straight-set win over Illinois' Bruno Abdelnour. At Notre Dame, Quiroz rebounded from falling in the first-set tiebreaker and fought back for a three-set comeback over Billy Pecor in a Trojan win over the Fighting Irish. Quiroz is now 29-8 overall in singles play and 13-4 in dual matches.
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.
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.
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. •