No. 1 USC Men Aim For Revenge At ITA National Team Indoors
Trojans took their only losses of 2011 at last year's tournament, set up as top seeds for 2012 competition.
Feb. 16, 2012
USC Men's Tennis Release
The top-ranked USC men's tennis team holds the top seed for the 2012 ITA National Team Indoor Championships this week, carrying a 26-match winning streak that spans back to last year's Indoor Championships, where the Trojans took their only two losses of 2011. The three-time defending NCAA Champions are 7-0 overall this year as they line up for their first-round match against Tennessee at 3:30 p.m. ET on Friday (Feb. 17). Charlottesville, Va., is host to this year's competition, which runs through the title match on Monday (Feb. 20).
ITA RANKING UPDATES
The USC men remain ranked where they left off in 2011 -- at the top of the national rankings for the fourth straight cycle (released Feb. 7) in a 2012 season that the Trojans hope to finish out on top of for the fourth straight year. In new individual rankings released Feb. 16, defending NCAA Singles Champion Steve Johnson weighs in at No. 11 to lead a full lineup of ranked Trojans. Fellow senior Daniel Nguyen is next at No. 14, followed by ITA Southwest Regional Singles Champion Ray Sarmiento at No. 18, along with No. 36 Yannick Hanfmann, No. 47 Emilio Gomez and No. 86 Roberto Quiroz. In doubles, USC has Hanfmann/S. Johnson ranked No. 28 in the nation.
INSIDE THE INDOOR
The ITA National Team Indoor Championships features the winning teams out of the 15 different ITA Kick-Off Weekend competitions, held in late January, along with host Virginia for a 16-team bracket of the nation's best. The top eight seeds in the draw are: No. 1 USC, No. 2 Virginia, No. 3 Ohio State, No. 4 Georgia, No. 5 Florida, No. 6 Kentucky, No. 7 Baylor and No. 8 UCLA. The rest of the field is seeded out as: No. 9 Stanford, No. 10 Duke, No. 11 Texas A&M, No. 12 Pepperdine, No. 13 California, No. 14 Texas, No. 15 Auburn and No. 16 Tennessee. USC's best recent finish at the National Indoors have been semifinal appearances in 2002 and 1993.
THIS TIME LAST YEAR
The Trojans were the No. 2 seeded team in the 2011 ITA National Team Indoor Championships after holding the top seed in 2010. USC opened the 2011 tournament in Seattle by stumbling in a 4-3 loss to Duke, then took another 4-3 loss to Stanford before finishing out the competition with a 4-0 win over Louisville. That then sparked a winning run that would carry the Trojans through 19 straight wins to wrap up USC's third consecutive national championship.
USC topped another top-20 team last week with a winning trip to Malibu for a 6-1 victory over No. 12 Pepperdine. USC squeezed through a tight doubles point before rattling off three strong singles wins to tack up the Trojans' seventh straight win of 2012. USC leveled the score on the doubles courts with a win at the No. 3 spot to answer Emilio Gomez and Roberto Quiroz's loss on court three. Daniel Nguyen and Ray Sarmiento's win on court two put the first point of the match dangling up for grabs at the No. 1 position. That's where USC's Yannick Hanfmann and Steve Johnson kicked into high gear for the deciding tiebreaker to get the win, 9-8 (1) over Pepperdine's Llompart/Tearney. Singles action saw the Trojans get down to business with straight-set wins down the line until Pepperdine managed to grab a point with a win on court two. By that time, however, Steve Johnson had drilled out a win over #21 Sebastian Fanselow on court one, followed by #3 Yannick Hanfmann's win over #106 Hugh Clarke at the No. 5 slot. The clincher came from USC's #12 Ray Sarmiento soon after, as he swept up a 7-5, 6-1 win over #49 Mousheg Hovhannisyan at the No. 3 position. Following suit with decisive singles wins next were #48 Emilio Gomez on court four and then Roberto Quiroz on court six to take USC ahead 6-0 in the match. At the No. 2 spot, #16 Daniel Nguyen fell to #35 Finn Tearney 6-3, 7-6 (5) as Pepperdine finally gathered in a singles win for the day.
USC returned to the site of its latest NCAA Team Championship in revisiting Taube Stadium at Stanford on Feb. 3 for some nonconference action against the No. 6 Cardinal. The return trip proved fruitful once again for the Trojans, who recorded their first-ever 7-0 sweep of Stanford in claiming five straight-set wins and a pair of victories on 10-game tiebreakers to help USC to victory. The match of the weekend was arguably on court one in the USC-Stanford clash, where USC's Steve Johnson was embroiled in an on-serve battle with #37 Ryan Thacher. Johnson pulled out the first set on a tiebreaker, and Thacher answered with a win in the second-set tiebreak. Once the 10-game decider came into play, however, Johnson was all business. The senior rallied past Thacher and posted a 10-3 win in the final frame to lock in on his 42nd straight collegiate singles win.
BACK INTO INDOORS
Top-ranked USC secured a spot at the upcoming ITA National Team Indoor Championships with two wins at home at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend. USC followed up a clean 7-0 sweep of #61 UNLV on day one with a 6-1 win over #43 UNC-Wilmington to qualify for the coming Indoor action. Freshman Roberto Quiroz came through with the singles clinchers in both matches, first from the No. 4 slot against UNLV and then from No. 6 against UNC-Wilmington. Senior Steve Johnson took to the singles courts of Marks Stadium for the first time this year that weekend, grabbing a win at the No. 1 spot to stretch his dual-match singles win streak, which has continued to grow.
Senior Steve Johnson finished his junior season with a 35-match singles winning streak in claiming the 2011 NCAA Singles Championship, and has now boosted the stretch to 44 in a row. Johnson took a fall break from collegiate tennis to play as an amateur on the pro circuit, where he won a USTA Pro Circuit Futures singles title in Claremont, Calif., and an ATP Challenger doubles title in Knoxville, Tenn. Now back on the collegiate courts, the senior five-time All-American is looking to ultimately lead the Trojans to a fourth straight national championship while he also most certainly amasses a dominating winning record of his own. As of Feb. 10 in dual-match singles, Johnson has won 38 straight matches, with the last loss dating back to #9 Henrique Cunha of Duke on March 17, 2010.
PICK OF THE PAC
Ray Sarmiento picked up his third career selection as the Pac-12 Player of the Week on Jan. 30 thanks to his powerful performances in singles and doubles over the weekend as the top-ranked Trojans grabbed two wins at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend. Sarmiento extended his doubles win streak with teammate Daniel Nguyen out to eight straight by getting the first wins of the day in both matches at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend to go along with two dominant singles wins over the weekend for the Trojans. Sarmiento and Nguyen pinned up 8-3 and 8-2 wins from their No. 2 doubles spot for early lifts for the Trojans. In singles, #12 Sarmiento cracked down with a 6-1, 6-0 win over UNLV's Tamas Batyi from the No. 2 position, then turned around and snagged a 6-1, 6-3 win over Pedro Mol on court three against UNC-Wilmington. After taking his only dual-match losses at Cal, Sarmiento now boasts a 20-6 overall singles record on the year to go with a 10-3 mark with Nguyen in doubles.
Trojans were the only ones left playing on the final day of the Sherwood Collegiate Cup on Jan. 16, with a USC sweep to the singles and doubles title matches. The Trojans come home with a solid set of hardware for their trophy cases, as Steve Johnson won the singles championship in beating teammate Daniel Nguyen, while Nguyen teamed up with Ray Sarmiento on the doubles courts to beat Johnson and Yannick Hanfmann 9-7 to claim the doubles championship. Almost a third of the singles draw was comprised of Trojans for the early-spring tournament, which culminated in today's all-Trojan title matches. Senior Steve Johnson stepped back to the collegiate courts for the first time since winning the 2011 NCAA Singles Championship after a stint as an amateur on the pro circuit. He now holds a clean 5-0 singles record on the year thanks to today's 6-2, 6-2 championship win over his fellow senior teammate and three-time NCAA Team Champion Daniel Nguyen. The two seniors spent a lot of time on opposite sides of the net today, in fact. In the doubles final, Nguyen was paired with his trusty sophomore teammate Ray Sarmiento -- whom he had paired with to much success during USC's run to the 2011 national championship -- for the Sherwood title match against Johnson and USC freshman Yannick Hanfmann. Johnson/Hanfmann were the No. 2 seeded team in the doubles draw, but Nguyen/Sarmiento won the day with a late push for a 9-7 victory that captured the doubles crown.
NGUYEN CLUTCH IN FRANCE
USC senior Daniel Nguyen has locked in on the clinching match for the past two NCAA Team Championships for the three-time defending champ Trojans, and in a December trip to France he tapped into those clutch skills in helping Team USA beat host France 4-3 in the championship of the Master'U BNP Paribas. The U.S. team of the top American collegians went up against France in the final for the third straight year and fell behind 3-1 in singles play. In doubles, however, Nguyen had two matches on his plate, first teaming up with Virginia's Jarmere Jenkins -- an opponent of the Trojans' in the past two NCAA Tournaments -- for a straight-set win that boosted up the USA's chances. Nguyen then turned around and stepped up for a mixed doubles match alongside fellow Pac-12 player Jacqueline Cako of ASU. The Trojan-Sun Devil duo would overpower their French opponents to the tune of a match-clinching 6-4, 6-1 victory that sewed up a 4-3 win for Team USA to claim its second Master'U BNP Paribas championship in the past three years. Nguyen currently holds a 15-7 overall record in singles with a 4-2 mark in dual matches.
RAY ROLLS AT REGIONALS
In October, Ray Sarmiento topped off his tear through the ITA Southwest Regional Championships with yet another straight-set victory to claim the singles title for the Trojan sophomore in Malibu. Up against an upset-minded Francis Alcantara of Fresno State, Sarmiento served up a solid 6-4, 6-3 win to become the first Trojan to win a regional singles title in over a decade. The No. 2 seed in the tourney, Sarmiento never gave up more than four games in a set to anyone but No. 3 seeded Finn Tearney of host Pepperdine during the semifinals. In he title match with Alcantara, Sarmiento was similarly dominant as he picked up his sixth consecutive straight-set win of the year to bring a long-awaited regional championship to Troy. No Trojan has won a singles title at the ITA regionals since Andrew Park went back-to-back in the 1999 and 2000 regional tournaments.
USC's sophomore-freshman doubles combo of Emilio Gomez and Yannick Hanfmann extended their dominating run through the Southern California Intercollegiate Championships into a championship victory at the tourney in November in Westwood. Up against a Bruin team playing on their home courts, the two young and top-seeded Trojans served up an 8-4 win over UCLA's No. 2 seeded Brigham/Thompson to win the doubles title.
USC finished 2011 on a 19-match winning streak that carried the Trojans to their third straight NCAA championship for a final 27-2 overall record. Junior Steve Johnson would win the NCAA singles championship as well, becoming the first USC player --- since the dual-match format was incorporated into the NCAA championships in 1977 -- to win a team and singles title in the same year. Johnson was named the 2011 ITA National Player of the Year, and earned All-American honors along with freshman Ray Sarmiento. Peter Smith was named the Pac-10 Coach of the Year in leading the Trojans to their first undefeated conference finish since 1987. Johnson also was named the Pac-10 Player of the Year, joined by teammates Jaak Poldma (first team), Sarmiento, (second team), Nguyen and Emilio Gomez (honorable mention) on the all-conference honor roll.