No. 1 USC Men Stopped By No. 5 UCLA
April 20, 2012
LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- The No. 1 USC men's tennis team had its 45-match winning streak snapped by crosstown rival No. 5 UCLA today at Marks Stadium. The Trojans got up 3-1 in the match after winning doubles and seeing senior standouts Steve Johnson and Daniel Nguyen clean up in singles play in their final regular-season match at Marks Stadium. The Bruins would pull out a trio of three-setters to clinch the win, however, securing the top seed in the coming Pac-12 Tournament with the 4-3 decision. USC goes to 25-1 overall and holds a 6-1 mark in Pac-12 play. UCLA improves to 21-2, 7-0.
A high-spirited doubles segment saw the Trojans leave the Bruins behind on courts one and two. USC lost a doubles match for the first time in conference action this year when Gomez/Hanfmann got edged out in a tiebreaker on three, but the Trojans already had the first point of the match in-hand at that juncture. On court two, Daniel Nguyen and Ray Sarmiento showed their stuff with some slick play to get up an extra break on the Bruins late in the match before Nguyen went to the service line and closed out the win with one last ace for an 8-3 decision over UCLA's Meister/Novikov. USC's #4 pairing of Steve Johnson and Roberto Quiroz kicked into gear next, turning the tide on a 4-5 deficit when Johnson/Gomez fought off break point to hold and get it to 5-5 before steamrolling the Bruins' Brigham/Puget the rest of the way to win 8-5 and secure the doubles point for the Trojans.
In singles play, #2 Steve Johnson kept his supercharged singles win streak intact, ballooning it to 58 in a row with a dominating 6-2, 6-1 performance against UCLA's #78 Clay Thompson. UCLA's highest ranked player, #21 Nick Meister, was at the No. 2 position for this match, and Meister managed a 6-3, 6-4 win over USC's #23 Ray Sarmiento to notch UCLA's first point of the day, making it 2-1. USC #17 senior Daniel Nguyen would move the Trojans ahead 3-1 when he rounded out a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Dennis Novikov on court three, leaving three matches raging into deciding third sets as the match still hang very much in the balance.
UCLA's #86 Marcos Giron rallied back form a first-set loss to USC's #50 Emilio Gomez on court four, as the Bruin pulled out a tough second set and rolled out ahead of Gomez in the third for a 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 win that made it 3-2. The equalizer came later on Dennis Mkrtchian's comeback against USC's #123 Roberto Quiroz for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 decision that heaped the pressure on court five, where USC's #43 freshman Yannick Hanfmann was embroiled in a tight one with UCLA's #61 Adrien Puget. Puget had claimed the first set in a tiebreaker, but Hanfmann forced the third with a strong win in the second. The third set, however, saw the Bruins with the winning momentum, and Puget emerged victorious on a 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-2 win that wrapped up the match as a 4-3 UCLA victory.
USC's next action takes the Trojans to the Pac-12 Tournament -- which will be a team tournament for the first time -- next week (April 25-28) at Libbey Park in Ojai, Calif. The Trojans will have a bye for the first two rounds, awaiting their semifinal opponents on Friday (April 27). The Pac-12 title match is set for 4 p.m. on Saturday (April 28).
#5 UCLA 4, #1 USC 3