No. 3 USC Men Set Up Camp At Home For Four Straight Pac-12 Matches
The No. 3 USC men's tennis team trucks further into Pac-12 play this weekend, returning home to Marks Stadium to square off against Arizona and Utah in a stretch of four straight home matches. The Trojans (18-2, 1-0 Pac-12) first face the Wildcats in a 1:30 p.m. match on Friday (April 5) before taking on the Utes at 1 p.m. on Saturday (April 6).
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 have since flip-flopped between No. 2 and No. 3 for the past few weeks, currently ranked No. 3 in the latest ITA national team poll (released April 2). 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. 71 Wildcats are 10-8 overall and 0-2 in Pac-12 play after losing 4-3 to Washington and 6-1 to Oregon last week. Arizona has no players nationally ranked in singles or doubles. USC is 95-2 all-time against the Wildcats after a 6-1 win last season in Tucson.
The No. 75 Utes are 11-7 overall and 1-1 in Pac-12 play after beating Oregon 5-2 and losing 4-3 to Washington last week. Utah has no players nationally ranked in singles or doubles. USC is 27-1 all-time against the Utes after a 5-2 win last season in Salt Lake City.
USC got just one Pac-12 match in last week during a trip through the Bay Area. The Trojans beat No. 49 Stanford 6-1 to tally Peter Smith's 500th career win as a head coach, then had an Easter Sunday match at California cancelled due to rain. The 500th win wouldn't come easily, however. The Trojans stumbled in doubles play, surrendering the first point of the match to the host Cardinal. USC's only win on the doubles courts came in a shutout from Gomez/Quiroz, whose 8-0 win on court two looked to set a tone for the Trojans with the first win of the day. Stanford would fight back, however, getting an 8-3 win on court one next and then clinching the first point with an 8-5 decision on court three. The Trojans seemed to heed the wakeup call of the early deficit. At the No. 1 spot, #6 Emilio Gomez blasted #54 John Morrissey with a 6-4, 6-1 decision that got USC on the board and put some wind in the Trojan sails. #9 Ray Sarmiento mirrored that winning score in taking out #88 Nolan Paige next, and USC was back in business with a 2-1 lead. Vying for the clincher were #65 Eric Johnson and #86 Jonny Wang on courts five and six, respectively. Johnson would notch his win first with yet another 6-4, 6-1 decision in the Trojans' favor, beating Daniel Ho to make it 3-1 USC. Wang would come through with the winner, securing his coach's 500th career win with his 7-6 (3), 6-3 victory on court six over Trey Strobel. That left two matches still raging on. Court four's #28 Roberto Quiroz dug in for a second-set tiebreaker victory to beat Robert Stineman 6-4, 7-6 (6), leaving #48 Yannick Hanfmann and Maciek Romanowicz playing out a full third set. Hanfmann had tripped up in the second set to bring up the third, but the Trojan sophomore came through with his winning touch in the end. He'd wrap up the day's action with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 win over Romanowicz. USC was scheduled to play No. 15 California in a partially televised match on Sunday, but the event was rained out and will not be rescheduled.
Peter Smith JOINS 500 CLUB
A two-time ITA National Coach of the Year and four-time NCAA Team Champion in his first 10 seasons at USC, USC head coach Peter Smith's milestone win came as the Trojans' 18th victory of the 2013 season -- a 6-1 win over Stanford on March 29, 2013. Smith now boasts a 500-199 career record as a head coach. Almost half those wins have come in his time at Troy, where he is now 230-64 in his 11th season with the Trojans. Smith, who has guided USC to the NCAA Championship the past four seasons, has also served as a head coach at Long Beach State (50-47), Fresno State (102-57) and Pepperdine (118-31) during his 26 seasons as a head coach.
USC's past couple matches have seen several different Trojans notch their 20th singles wins of the season. Four Trojans were already living large in the club, with sophomore Roberto Quiroz the first to break out of the pack, now with 30 wins to date. After last week's action the 20-win team has expanded to seven. Emilio Gomez, Yannick Hanfmann and Ray Sarmiento all hit 20 on Monday and now hold 21 each, joining Quiroz (30), Eric Johnson (27) and Jonny Wang (23) as USC's winning 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 30-8 overall in singles play and 14-4 in dual matches.
IN A GROOVE
The Trojans have pieced together six straight wins, finding a winning groove that has several players riding strong win streaks. Sophomore Yannick Hanfmann leads the pack with 13 straight singles wins, dating back a few months to a Jan. 19 loss in the Sherwood Cup quarterfinals. He's an undefeated 13-0 in dual matches. Also streaking along through 2013 dual-match action are juniors Ray Sarmiento (seven in a row) and Emilio Gomez (six in a row), who are shining at the top of the lineup for the Trojans. Michael Grant, too, carries six straight singles wins and holds a 4-0 mark in dual-match play.
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. •