No. 3 USC Beats The Bruins For Undefeated Pac-10 Finish|
April 22, 2011
WESTWOOD, CALIF. - The No. 3 USC men's tennis team closed down the regular season on a dramatic winning note, capturing its first Pac-10 win over UCLA since 2004 and rounding out the Trojans' first undefeated Pac-10 season since 1987 with a 4-3 victory over the No. 9 Bruins. USC went into Bruin territory for the regular-season finale today, never trailing but also never enjoying any real breathing room in the matchup with its rivals. With a perfect 6-0 conference finish, the 2011 Pac-10 champs are now 21-2 overall and carry a 14-match win streak into the postseason.
USC freshmen Ray Sarmiento and Emilio Gomez came through with comeback singles wins for the Trojans to lock down the win in a tense and tight battle at UCLA's Los Angeles Tennis Center. The Bruins had locked up the match 2-2, but the Trojan newcomers turned the tide on their hosts. After falling in the first set to Adrien Puget, #85 Ray Sarmiento fought out of a 2-4 hole in the second to win the second, then rode that momentum to a powerful third set that pulled USC back ahead 3-2 with his 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 comeback on court four. His fellow freshman was right next door at court five, and Emilio Gomez would come up with the clincher. He had taken a 2-6 loss to Holden Seguso in the first set before getting his grip in the second. On serve down the line in the third, the match was looking to be still up in the air until Gomez brought things back down to earth with a late break that wrapped up a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 comeback that locked down the win for the Trojans.
"It was all that this rivalry is and should be," USC head coach Peter Smith said. "It was an incredible atmosphere with a conference championship on the line. To have our two freshmen come through says a lot about who they are as competitors."
The Trojans had gotten out of the gates with the doubles point in hand thanks to wins at the No. 1 and No. 3 positions. Jaak Poldma and JT Sundling teamed up on court one as the #32 ranked doubles duo in the nation up against UCLA's #47 Brigham Puget. Poldma/Sundling steered out of reach of the Bruin pair for an 8-4 win. That was followed by a tight win by the Bruins at the No. 2 slot as Hardie/Inbar got a late break against USC's Steve Johnson / Emilio Gomez to earn an 8-6 win that pulled the count even on the doubles courts. On court three, however, USC's Daniel Nguyen and Ray Sarmiento were all business and on the move against UCLA's Kosakowski/Seguso, securing the first point of the day for the Trojans with an 8-3 victory.
Singles play opened up with no true sense of control by either team. Aside from Steve Johnson's stronghold on court one, the tone of the match was unpredictable. The nation's #1 got a late break against #39 Daniel Kosakowski to win the first set, then made some room and pinned up a key win on court one with his 6-4, 6-1 decision. That made it 2-0 Trojans, but there was a lot of wild tennis left going on in the stadium. UCLA's #102 Clay Thompson got out ahead of USC's #38 Daniel Nguyen on court two, making it 2-1 USC with a 6-3, 6-2 over the Trojan junior. And on court two, USC's #35 Jaak Poldma fell victim to a controversial call during his second-set tiebreaker with #87 Amit Inbar, and wound up with a 6-4, 7-6 (4) loss that pulled the match even 2-2.
That's when the Trojan freshman heroics came into play, with Sarmiento and Gomez's respective comeback pushes carrying USC to victory, while UCLA was able to close out the match on a 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 win on court six from Maxime Tabatruong over USC senior Peter Lucassen.
With the regular season wrapped up, the next step for the Trojans comes in individual action at the Pac-10 Championships, held next week from April 29-May in Ojai, Calif.
#3 USC 4, #9 UCLA 3