OJAI, CALIF. -- The No. 5 USC men's tennis team came up short of back-to-back Pac-12 team titles today when top-ranked rival UCLA pulled off a 4-2 comeback win today in Ojai. The Trojans took the first two points of the match, but were unable to hold off the Bruins in tough matches down the stretch. USC goes to 23-4 overall with today's loss, but the four-time defending national champions are still in pursuit of another NCAA crown as they await the seedings for the coming 2013 NCAA Tournament.
It was USC's day on the doubles courts as the Trojans pulled off tight wins on courts one and three. USC's youthful pairing of freshman Max de Vroome and sophomore Eric Johnson proved powerful once again in taking down UCLA's Mkrtchian/Thompson at the No. 3 spot with an 8-6 decision. That opened the door for USC's #40 Yannick Hanfmann / Ray Sarmiento to turn the tables on UCLA's #34 Giron/Novikov and get the first point in USC's column. Hanfmann/Sarmiento avenged last week's loss to the Bruin pair with an 8-6 victory, and the teams were on to singles play with another tight match on court two suspended.
Singles play was going to be tough no matter how you sliced it. USC claimed two first sets and UCLA snagged four, although two were on tiebreakers. USC sophomore Yannick Hanfmann had a strong day on court two, taking down UCLA's #18 Marcos Giron with a 6-4, 6-1 decision that brought the Trojans a 2-0 lead on the Bruins. UCLA would push back, though. Karue Sell topped USC's #94 Michael Grant 6-3, 6-1, and #24 Adrien Puget beat USC's #34 Roberto Quiroz 6-1, 6-2 to pull even 2-2. That heaped pressure on the Trojans. At the No. 4 spot, UCLA's #74 Dennis Mkrtchian pulled off a 7-6, 6-4 win over USC's #93 Eric Johnson to make it a 3-2 UCLA lead. On court four, UCLA's #116 Clay Thompson would come through with the clincher in beating out USC's #93 sophomore Jonny Wang with a 7-6, 6-4 decision that clinched the win for the Bruins. On court one, USC's #17 Ray Sarmiento was leading #25 Dennis Novikov 6-3, 3-6, 4-2 when the decider was recorded.
USC now awaits the seedings for the coming NCAA Tournament, to be announced on April 30 on ncaa.com. The four-time defending national champions, the Trojans are likely to host the first two rounds of competition at Marks Stadium on May 10 and 11 before the Round of 16 and beyond get underway in Illinois later in May.
PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIP (Ojai, Calif.)
#1 UCLA 4, #5 USC 2
April 27, 2013 - Libbey Park (Ojai, Calif.)
(1) #40 Hanfmann/Sarmiento (USC) def. #34 Giron/Novikov (UCLA) - 8-6
(2) #44 Gomez/Quiroz (USC) vs. Brigham/Sell (UCLA) - 6-7 susp.
(3) de Vroome/Johnson (USC) def. Mkrtchian/Thompson (UCLA) - 8-6
USC wins doubles point.
Order of finish: 3, 1
(1) #17 Ray Sarmiento (USC) vs. #25 Dennis Novikov (UCLA) - 6-4, 3-6, 4-2 susp.
(2) #65 Yannick Hanfmann (USC) def. #18 Marcos Giron (UCLA) - 6-4, 6-1
(3) #24 Adrien Puget (UCLA) def. #34 Roberto Quiroz (USC) - 6-1, 6-2
(4) #74 Dennis Mkrtchian (UCLA) def. #80 Eric Johnson (USC) - 7-6, 6-4
(5) #116 Clay Thompson (UCLA) def. #93 Jonny Wang (USC) - 7-6, 6-4*
(6) Karue Sell (UCLA) def. #94 Michael Grant (USC) - 6-3, 6-1
Order of finish: 2, 6, 3, 4, 5*