The Trojans are back at No. 1 in the nation this week as they now prep for competition at the Pac-12 Championships this week. After an undefeated run through conference play, USC will carry a 16-match win streak along with the top seed into the battle for the Pac-12 title. USC (25-2) awaits its first opponent in the tourney thanks to a ticket straight to the semifinal round. No. 1 seed USC will play at 12 p.m. on Friday (April 25) at Libbey Park in Ojai, Calif., for the right to fight for the Pac-12 Championship at 4 p.m. on Saturday (April 26) at the same spot. This is the third year that the Pac-12 Tournament has become a team format for the men, having deviated from the previous individual tournaments held in Ojai. USC won the inaugural Pac-12 Team Championship in 2012 and was second in 2013.
ITA RANKINGS UPDATES
The Trojans -- winners of four consecutive NCAA Championships from 2009-2012 and the nation’s leader with 20 total titles -- opened their 2014 campaign ranked No. 4 in the nation. After a runner-up finish at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, USC had moved up to stand at No. 2, shifted to No. 4 for a bit, and then took over as the nation’s top-ranked team on March 25 — the first time since the end of 2012 that the Trojans had been at No. 1. This week, USC is back at No. 1 in the land as of April 22. In the individual rankings (released April 22), senior Ray Sarmiento continues to lead the pack, ranked No. 10 in the nation in singles. He is joined on the national rankings list by five more Trojans -- No. 13 junior Yannick Hanfmann, No. 43 Roberto Quiroz, No. 54 junior Jonny Wang, No. 85 Max de Vroome and No. 119 Michael Grant. In doubles, Hanfmann/Sarmiento rank No. 1 in the land and Crystal/Grant are at No. 64.
For the third year, the Pac-12 is hosting a team men’s tennis tournament to determine the automatic qualifier for the NCAA Men’s Championships. Teams are seeded based on won-lost percentages during regular-season conference play. On Wednesday (April 23), matches between No. 5 seed Utah and No. 8 seed Arizona opens play at 11 a.m., followed by a 2 p.m. matchup between No. 6 seed Washington and No. 7 seed Oregon. No. 4 seed California awaits the No. 5/8 winner at 11 a.m. on Thursday (April 24), with No. 3 seed Stanford awaiting the No. 6/7 winner at 2 p.m. Top-seeded USC and No. 2 seed UCLA advance directly to the semifinal round on Friday (April 25). All men’s tournament matches will be played at Libbey Park, culminating with the team championship at 4 p.m. on Saturday (April 26). The men’s team final will be televised on tape delay on Pac-12 Networks on Sunday (April 27) at 5 p.m. Results, recaps, photos and more will be posted online at Pac-12.com.
USC kept its eyes on the prize last week in a 4-2 takedown of crosstown rival UCLA, finishing off an undefeated Pac-12 regular season for the Trojans while steamrolling along to a 16th consecutive victory. The No. 5 Bruins were able to snag the early advantage with the doubles point, but USC was resolute in its mission in singles. The Trojans would break open a 2-2 tie when Max de Vroome and Roberto Quiroz dug in to win three-setters, with Quiroz clinching from court three. The win put USC at 25-2 overall, and the 7-0 Pac-12 mark gave the Trojans the No. 1 seed into this week’s Pac-12 Tournament in Ojai, Calif. In doubles action, USC drew first blood when #2 Yannick Hanfmann and Ray Sarmiento delivered an 8-4 win on court one over UCLA’s #58 Giron/Sell. Sarmiento sealed the deal with an ace to finish off the Bruins in that one, but UCLA was able to take the upper hand in the remaining matches. On court two, Trojans Nick Crystal and Roberto Quiroz were in stride with Bruins Di Giulio/Thompson to bring up a tiebreaker there. UCLA would work into a 4-1 lead in the breaker and push on to win the match 8-7 (3), leaving the decider on court three. There, USC’s Max de Vroome and Eric Johnson were down a break, and Bruins McDonald/Puget were able to capitalize, notching an 8-4 win that wrapped up the early advantage for No. 5 UCLA. The Trojans’ homecourt pride shined through in singles action next. On court five, USC’s Eric Johnson had shrugged off his doubles defeat and charged up for a powerful and relatively speedy 6-1, 7-5 win over Karue Sell to level the match 1-1. The marquee match of the day featured USC’s #16 Yannick Hanfmann and UCLA’s top-ranked Clay Thompson on court one. Hanfmann showed no fear against the #1 senior Bruin, taking the first set 6-4 and then digging out of a 1-3 hole in the second set, delivering one final break of the hard-hitting Thompson to craft a 6-4, 7-5 win that punched up a 2-1 lead for the Trojans. UCLA fired back on court two when #5 Marcos Giron topped USC’s #9 Ray Sarmiento with a 7-5, 6-3 decision that evened the score at 2-2, while the remaining matches all stretched into third sets. Things tightened up at that point, with Trojans trailing during two of those three third sets. USC’s #95 sophomore Max de Vroome, however, never trailed in his third set, despite having some wind taken out of his sails in dropping his second set against #94 Gage Brymer. Once up a break in the third, de Vroome stubbornly stayed in control the rest of the way. He’d take the Trojans to a 3-2 advantage with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win over Brymer to leave things up to the remaining Trojans on court. Both #53 Roberto Quiroz and #120 Michael Grant got down a break in their respective matches on courts three and six, and both made roaring comebacks. Quiroz would hit the finish line first. He’d rattle off the last three games of his match with #74 Gage Brymer to claim the clincher on a 6-0, 4-6, 6-3 victory. That win also tallied the junior’s 16th consecutive singles victory. Grant, meanwhile, had his comeback efforts against Joseph De Giulio halted at 1-6, 6-3, 4-4 when Quiroz registered the winner for the Trojan cause.
BY THE NUMBERS
To date, there are four Trojans in the 20-win club on the singles scene this season. Roberto Quiroz hit the mark first and now holds 28 singles wins in his junior campaign. Fellow junior Eric Johnson and sophomore Max de Vroome also have locked in the club with 26 and 23 wins, respectively. Junior Jonny Wang hit the mark last week to now hold a 20-7 record, while senior Ray Sarmiento is on the cusp with 19 wins. Johnson and doubles teammate de Vroome are the lone Trojan pair to hit the 20-win mark in doubles, holding a 22-8 record to date.
HANFMANN ON TOP
Junior Yannick Hanfmann is now half of the nation’s No. 1 doubles team with partner Ray Sarmiento. Their doubles prowes shined in last week’s court one win during a battle with No. 5 UCLA, but it was Hanfmann’s singles touch that shined even brighter last week. He went big for the Trojans in their home victory over the rival Bruins, following up a win in doubles with a huge straight-set upset of the nation’s #1 player, Clay Thompson, on court one. After an 8-4 doubles win on court one with Sarmiento, Hanfmann stayed the course for a powerful statement in singles. He would upset #1 Thompson with a 6-4, 7-5 win that took the Trojans to a 2-1 lead over the Bruins - en route to an eventual 4-2 final victory over UCLA. For his dominating day, Hanfmann would pick up his second selection this season as the Pac-12 Player of the Week on April 22. The win over #1 Thompson improved Hanfmann to 18-5 overall in singles this season. He and Sarmiento are now 13-1 together in doubles play.
ITA INDOOR ACTION
On Feb. 14-17 in Houston, USC worked its way through to the title match of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships for the third straight season. The No. 3 seeded Trojans opened up with a 4-1 win over No. 14 Tennessee in the Round of 16 before taking down No. 6 Baylor in the quarterfinals. That set up an early clash against crosstown rival UCLA in the semifinals. The Trojans and the Bruins had met in last year’s semi as well, and this season the Trojans replicated their efforts with another 4-3 victory over UCLA. Yannick Hanfmann held on for the clincher in that one, upsetting #5 Marcos Giron with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 victory that sealed the tight win for the Trojans and sent them into the title match for the third year in a row. There, USC was up against an upset-minded No. 5 seed Ohio State, which had upended top-seeded Virginia in the semifinals. The Buckeyes handed the Trojans their first loss of a double point on the year, and went on to post a 4-1 decision over USC to claim the title. USC junior Roberto Quiroz was the lone Trojan to come away from the tourney unscathed, having won two doubles and two singles matches during the action. For his winning efforts, Quiroz was named Pac-12 Player of the Week. He also earned spots on the ITA All-Tournament Team at No. 3 singles and at No. 2 doubles with freshman Connor Farren.
RO IN CONTROL
Roberto Quiroz has emerged as USC’s most decorated player this season. His fall was highlighted by another USTA Clay Court singles championship, which had been preceded by a run to the ITA Southwest Regional doubles final, where he and teammate Ray Sarmiento fell in the title match to fellow Trojans Max de Vroome and Eric Johnson. In the spring to date, Quiroz has picked up two sets of Pac-12 Player of the Week honors. And at a national level he holds spots on the ITA National Team Indoor Championships All-Tournament Team at No. 3 singles and at No. 2 doubles with partner Connor Farren. Now ranked No. 43 in the nation in singles, Quiroz leads the Trojans to date with 28 singles wins, riding a 16-match win streak, while his dual-match singles count stands at a powerful 20-1.
SARMIENTO SHINES ON SPRING BREAK
USC senior Ray Sarmiento had a winning Spring Break as the Trojans hit the road and picked up wins at Alabama and Ole Miss. For his singles and doubles sweeps in the victorious trip, Sarmiento has earned the March 25 honor as Pac-12 Player of the Week. Sarmiento combined with teammate Yannick Hanfmann for the clinching doubles win against the Crimson Tide before going on and securing the match with his 6-3, 6-3 singles win on court two. Two days later, Sarmiento had another victorious day in grabbing another doubles win with Hanfmann on court one and later taking the Trojans to a 3-0 lead in an eventual 5-2 win over Ole Miss with his 6-4, 6-1 victory at the No. 2 spot. This was Sarmiento’s first Pac-12 Player of the Week win this season and the sixth of the senior’s Trojan career. The nation’s No. 10 singles player, Sarmiento holds a 19-9 overall singles record and a 13-6 mark in dual matches. He and Hanfmann rank No. 1 in the nation in doubles with a 13-1 record.
BEATING THE BULLDOGS
In the first edition of the Pac-12 SEC Showdown, USC served up a 4-0 takedown of No. 3 Georgia. After pulling off a tight doubles point, the Trojans rattled off three straight-set singles wins to wrap a quick victory over the visiting Bulldogs. Setting the winning tone for the Trojans was USC’s top guns on the doubles courts, Yannick Hanfmann and Ray Sarmiento. They more than held their ground against Georgia’s #12 Pieters/Wagland and hustled to a 6-2 win on court one. The Bulldogs made it interesting by snagging the win on court three in a tiebreaker, as UGA’s Diaz/Smith edged out USC’s Max de Vroome and Eric Johnson. That set up the heroics on court two, where USC’s new combo pack of freshman Connor Farren and junior Roberto Quiroz continued their winning ways. Up 5-4 on Georgia’s Brasseaux/Pasha with Quiroz on the service line, the Trojans finished off the Bulldogs with one last blast at the net by Farren, and USC had the 6-4 win and the doubles point in hand. The feature presentation of the singles scene was set for court one, where USC’s #10 senior Ray Sarmiento was up against Georgia’s #12 Austin Smith. While that battle ensued, it was USC junior Jonny Wang who ripped his way to the first singles victory of the day. #67 Wang wrapped up USC’s second point with a smooth 6-3, 6-1 win over Georgia’s Hernus Pieters on court five. Meanwhile, at the No. 2 spot, USC’s #34 junior Yannick Hanfmann was all business in his first set tiebreaker against UGA’s #21 Nathan Pasha. The momentum Hanfmann gleaned from that tiebreak sweep carried him through to a strong second set, as he would tally a 3-0 lead for the Trojans with his 6-5 (0), 6-1 win. With the Trojans poised for the upset victory, Sarmiento buckled down in his clash with #12 Smith. The senior would lock in the W for USC on a 6-4, 6-4 win at the No. 1 spot to suspend action on the remaining courts.
USC junior Eric Johnson won both his singles matches and grabbed a doubles shutout win during USC’s victorious run at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend. Johnson secured the Trojans’ trip to the ITA National Indoor Championships with his clinching singles win against Wichita State, posting a 6-2, 6-2 win over Wichita State’s Cuic to lock USC in with another shutout win to open 2014 team play. The previous day, Johnson had paired with Max de Vroome for a smooth 6-0 shutout in doubles against Santa Clara before tallying USC’s first singles win of the day with his 6-1, 6-2 victory that helped spark the Trojans to a shutout in their spring season opener.
2014 TROJANS AT A GLANCE
In 2013, the Trojan men came up just short in their efforts to defend a string of four consecutive national championships, as USC was bumped out of the NCAA Tournament in the quarterfinals to finish the year at 26-5 overall and with a No. 5 national ranking. Only one member of that 2013 team has departed Troy, with Emilio Gomez having entered the pro ranks. The remaining Trojan contingent is a powerful crew, with six players already boasting at least one NCAA championship ring. The 2014 Trojans are led by senior All-American Ray Sarmiento, who starts up 2014 in the same place he began 2013 -- ranked No. 10 in the nation in singles. He is joined on the national rankings list by four more Trojans -- No. 32 junior Yannick Hanfmann, No. 67 junior Jonny Wang, No. 70 senior Michael Grant and No. 113 junior Roberto Quiroz. All five of those Trojans have been members of at least one NCAA championship squad. In all, USC boasts three ITA All-Americans on its 2014 roster in Hanfmann, Quiroz and Sarmiento. Also back in action for the USC men is junior Eric Johnson and sophomore Max de Vroome, while USC head coach Peter Smith has welcomed five newcomers to the roster in freshmen Rob Bellamy, Nick Crystal and David Laser, along with spring additions Connor Farren and Sander Brendmoe.