Men's Tennis
    No. 1 USC Men Pack Up For Pac-12 Openers

    Emilio Gomez and the No. 1 Trojans start Pac-12 play this week.

    March 28, 2012

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    With a stiff gust of 39 straight wins backing them up, the No. 1 USC men shove off for their first Pac-12 matches of the year this week. The top-ranked Trojans (19-0) head north to first do battle with No. 22 Washington (12-3) at 1:30 p.m. on Friday (March 30) in Seattle. The next day, USC visits No. 59 Oregon (14-1) at 11 a.m. on Saturday (March 31) in Eugene. USC head coach Peter Smith enters the road trip with a 198-61 overall record coaching at USC, putting the 2011 Pac-10 Coach of the Year just two wins away from notching his 200th career win with the Trojans.

    The USC men remain ranked where they left off in 2011 -- at the top of the national rankings for the ninth straight cycle (latest released March 27) in a 2012 season that the Trojans hope to finish out on top of for the fourth straight year. In the latest individual rankings (released March 27), defending NCAA Singles Champion Steve Johnson weighs in at No. 2 to lead a near-full lineup of ranked Trojans. Fellow senior Daniel Nguyen is next at No. 13, followed by ITA Southwest Regional Singles Champion Ray Sarmiento at No. 23, along with No. 38 Yannick Hanfmann and No. 53 Emilio Gomez. In doubles, USC has three top-20 teams: Hanfmann/S. Johnson ranked No. 5 in the nation, S. Johnson/Quiroz newly tabbed at No. 15, and Nguyen/Sarmiento at No. 18.

    USC took its overall win streak out to 39 in a row with a 6-1 nonconference victory over Boise State on Monday. A tight doubles point gave way to a series of solid singles wins, however, with #24 Ray Sarmiento icing the win with a 6-1, 6-2 victory on court two. Doubles play was a tight affair on courts two and three. At the No. 1 spot, USC's Johnson/Quiroz took an early lead and held strong for an 8-4 win over Meredith/Sereke for an early Trojan advantage, but things weren't so certain in the other two matches. In a back-and-forth battle at the No. 3 position, USC's Gomez/Hanfmann finally managed a late break of Bettles/Pogostkiv to set up a service hold from Hanfmann that wrapped up the doubles point for USC on an 8-6 win. That left a rager at court two, where USC's #21 Nguyen/Sarmiento had to fight off match point to stay in it for a deciding tiebreaker. Sarmiento was able to hold serve to fight back to 8-8, and in the ensuing tiebreak the Trojan duo was able to jump to a 4-0 lead before finishing off the win with a 9-8 (4) decision over Hume/Sears. Duly boosted by that gutsy doubles win, Daniel Nguyen took a strong lead in his No. 1 singles match with Boise State's #48 James Meredith. But it would be freshman Roberto Quiroz who would end up outpacing Nguyen to the finish line for the first singles win of the day. Quiroz topped Nathan Sereke 6-1, 6-4 on court four to make it 2-0, and then Nguyen wrapped up Meredith 6-2, 6-1 at the top spot for the senior's 10th straight singles victory. Coming through with the clincher was sophomore Sarmiento, who dispatched #55 Damian Hume -- his opponent on the doubles courts as well -- with a 6-1, 6-2 decision that secure a 4-0 lead and the victory for the Trojans. With USC's 39th straight win in the books, it was Boise State's time to bite back. On court six, Scott Sears edged out Jordi Vives in a 10-point tiebreaker to claim a 6-1, 3-6, 1-0 (10-7) win that made it 4-1. #30 Yannick Hanfmann had his hands full on court three with Boise State's Andy Bettles, with Bettles snagging the first set and putting up a stiff fight in the second. Hanfmann managed to force the issue by taking the second in a tiebreak, and then had to fight off match point to Bettles in the ensuing 10-point tiebreaker to sneak away with the win on a 4-6, 7-6 (4), 1-0 (11-9) victory that made it 5-1 Trojans. The last match to wrap up was actually a straight-set affair, as USC freshman Eric Johnson finally pulled away from Filipp Pogostkin with a late break and hold to win his No. 5 match 7-5, 6-4.

    The No. 22 Huskies are 12-3 overall after losing 7-0 to Pepperdine and beating Cal Poly 4-3 last week. Washington has #14 Kyle McMorrow nationally ranked in singles. USC is 23-4 all-time against Washington after a 7-0 win over the Huskies in Pac-10 play last year. Washington's last win over USC was a 4-3 decision in 2006 in Seattle.

    The No. 59 Ducks are 14-1 overall after a 7-0 sweep of Portland State and a 5-2 win over Portland earlier this week. Oregon has no players nationally ranked in single or doubles. USC is 17-0 all-time against Oregon after a 7-0 win in Pac-10 play over the Ducks last year.

    Senior Steve Johnson finished his junior season with a 35-match singles winning streak in claiming the 2011 NCAA Singles Championship. On March 15, Johnson reached his 50th singles win in a row -- playing at the same site (College Station, Texas) that he helped USC win the 2009 NCAA Championship as a freshman. Now at 51-in-a-row, the streak dates back to Jan. 17, 2011, when Johnson fell to Stanford's Bradley Klahn in the Sherwood Collegiate Cup final. And his overall singles win streak is just a part of a similarly impressive dual-match tally. As of March 19, Johnson has won 45 straight in dual-match singles matches, with the last loss dating back to #9 Henrique Cunha of Duke on March 17, 2010. 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. He's 16-0 overall this season and 11-0 in dual-match play in 2012.

    Peter Smith: 200 IN A DECADE
    Currently in his 10th year as head coach at USC, Peter Smith has a big benchmark quickly approaching his grasp. Already the owner of three straight NCAA Team Championships, he's seen his players win both the 2008 NCAA Doubles Championship and the 2011 NCAA Singles Championship to date. Smith now has his Trojans chugging along on a 39-match win streak that has him two wins away from his 200th career victory at Troy. If USC's winning momentum keeps the Trojans undefeated in the next stretch, that milestone could come on March 31 at Oregon. Smith entered the 2012 season with a 179-61 overall record as head coach at USC.

    USC has landed five different Trojans on the conference honor roll this season. USC's run of Pac-12 Player of the Week honorees began with sophomore Ray Sarmiento on Jan. 30 for his third career selection after sweeping in singles and doubles at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend. USC next had back-to-back freshman honorees, with Yannick Hanfmann picked on Feb. 20 after two upset wins in doubles and three straight-set singles victories on the way clinching the 2012 ITA National Team Indoor Championship with a comeback singles win in the title match. Roberto Quiroz would win next, a week later on Feb. 27, after a winning weekend sweep of San Diego State and San Diego. USC's seniors would be the next to get on the board in another back-to-back Trojan effort. On March 19, senior Steve Johnson collected his fifth career weekly award when he swept doubles and singles on a winning trip through Texas, where he also notched his 50th straight singles win. Most recently, Daniel Nguyen grabbed his third career pick as Player of the Week on March 26 for a winning day in USC's victory over No. 10 Florida.

    The 20-win club is fast filling up on the Trojan roster. Freshman Yannick Hanfmann, in fact, is a win away from busting out of the group, as he holds a team-best 29 singles wins (29-6 overall, 16-2 dual). Ray Sarmiento isn't far behind at 27-8 (12-3 dual), followed by Emilio Gomez at 26-6 (12-3) and Daniel Nguyen 25-7 (14-2). Knocking on the door of the 20-win list is Roberto Quiroz at 19-2 (16-1). The closest doubles team to breaking through is Nguyen/Sarmiento with an 18-4 overall doubles record (13-2 dual) to lead all the Trojan doubles duos to date.

    USC exacted some sweet revenge at the 2012 ITA National Team Indoor Championships by charging to the title in Charlottesville, Va. The Trojans took their only two losses of 2011 at the tourney last season, but made sure not to stumble at all in this year's campaign. USC won the doubles point in the first three matches, but fell in the title match vs. Ohio State before working back on top and eventually getting the championship clincher from freshman Yannick Hanfmann with his three-set comeback from court five. Hanfmann finished the tourney with a perfect run through singles play, picking up four wins to help boost the Trojans to the title run. USC opened up the action with a shutout of No. 20 Tennessee -- a rematch of the 2011 NCAA Championship match -- with the clincher coming from Roberto Quiroz on court six. In the quarterfinals against No. 10 Duke -- who had beaten the Trojans 4-3 last year at the ITA Indoors -- USC swept once again as Daniel Nguyen provided the cinching heroics from his No. 3 spot. In the semifinals, USC was up against No. 4 Georgia, and powered past the Bulldogs for a 4-1 win that Steve Johnson secured from the top singles slot. That set up the Trojans with their first championship appearance since 1991, and USC pushed through to edge out No. 3 Ohio State -- which had upset No. 2 host Virginia in the other semi -- with a 4-3 win. The victory tallied the Trojans' third title at the national indoor event, with the last coming in 1988.

    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. 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 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 teammate 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 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.

    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. Now with a 10-match singles win streak, Nguyen currently holds a 25-7 overall record in singles with a 14-2 mark in dual matches.

    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 had 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. The pair recently played in their first dual match together on March 9, and have since expanded their record together to 11-1.

    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.