Men's Tennis
    No. 1 USC Men Return To Marks For Clashes With Cal & Stanford

    Roberto Quiroz and Emilio Gomez are each on singles win streaks entering this weekend.

    April 11, 2012

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    The 43-match win-streaking No. 1 USC men dig into the final key stretch of Pac-12 by settling in at Marks Stadium to close down the regular season in the next two weeks. The Trojans (23-0, 4-0 Pac-12) set up this weekend to take on No. 12 California (11-7, 4-0) and No. 11 Stanford (14-5, 4-0) before the Bruins come to town the following week. USC's clash with the Golden Bears is set for 1:30 p.m. on Friday (April 13) at Marks Stadium before taking on the Cardinal at 1 p.m. on Saturday (April 14).

    The USC men remain ranked where they left off in 2011 -- at the top of the national rankings for the 11th straight cycle (latest released April 10) 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 April 10), 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. 17, followed by ITA Southwest Regional Singles Champion Ray Sarmiento at No. 20, along with No. 43 Yannick Hanfmann and No. 56 Emilio Gomez. In doubles, USC has three top-20 teams: Hanfmann/S. Johnson ranked No. 7 in the nation, S. Johnson/Quiroz newly tabbed at No. 15, and Nguyen/Sarmiento at No. 20.

    USC wrapped up its stretch of Pac-12 road action with two more wins to add to the Trojan tally. USC's undefeated 2012 marks grew to 23-0 overall and 4-0 in conference for a current win streak of 43-in-a-row after claiming a 5-2 win at Utah and a 6-1 win at Arizona last week. USC was perfect in doubles play in both matches, and both #2 Steve Johnson and #23 Ray Sarmiento cleaned up at the top two singles spots, while #53 Emilio Gomez and Roberto Quiroz also joined in the winning push with a pair of singles wins of their own. Jordi Vives also stepped in at the No. 6 slot for the match vs. Arizona, netting the clincher for the Trojans in that one.

    The No. 12 Golden Bears are 11-7 overall and 4-0 in Pac-12 play after posting 7-0 sweeps of Washington and Oregon last week. Cal has three players nationally ranked in singles: #41 Ben McLachlan, #55 Nick Andrews and #57 Carlos Cueto. In doubles, Stanford has #3 Andrews/Konigsfeldt and #38 Cueto/McLachlan. USC is 131-33 all-time against Cal after beating the Bears 5-2 earlier this season in Berkeley. Last year, USC beat Cal 4-1 in Pac-10 play in Berkeley.

    The No. 11 Cardinal are 14-5 overall and 4-0 in Pac-12 play after sweeping Washington and Oregon in 7-0 wins last week. Stanford has two players nationally ranked in singles: #30 Ryan Thacher and #46 Bradley Klahn. In doubles, Stanford has #5 Klahn/Thacher and #57 Morrissey/Thacher. USC is 104-76 all-time against Stanford after beating the Cardinal 7-0 earlier this season in Palo Alto. Last year, USC lost to Stanford 4-3 at the ITA National Indoor Championship and then won 4-2 during Pac-10 play in Palo Alto.

    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) where he helped USC win the 2009 NCAA Championship as a freshman. Now at 55-in-a-row, the streak dates back over a year 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 April 1, Johnson has won 49 straight dual-match singles matches, with the last loss dating back more than two years ago 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 20-0 overall this season and 15-0 in dual-match play in 2012.

    Peter Smith: 200 IN A DECADE
    Currently in his 10th year as head coach at USC, Peter Smith just hit another benchmark. 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 43-match win streak that has him in the books with his 200th career victory at Troy. Smith entered the 2012 season with a 179-61 overall record as head coach at USC, and win No. 200 was locked in with a 7-0 sweep by the Trojans at Oregon on March 31.

    USC has landed five different Trojans on the conference honor roll this season, including one double winner in sophomore Ray Sarmiento. USC's run of Pac-12 Player of the Week honorees began with 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. Daniel Nguyen then 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, and Sarmiento's second pick of the year on April 2 now marks a three-week sweep by the Trojans.

    The 20-win club has begun spilling into the 30s for the Trojan men. Sophomore Ray Sarmiento leads the pack with 31 singles wins to date (31-8 overall, 16-3 dual), joined by freshman Yannick Hanfmann (30-7, 17-3) and sophomore Emilio Gomez (30-6, 16-3) across the 30-win barrier. Three more Trojans, meanwhile, are locked into the 20-win zone: Senior Daniel Nguyen (27-8, 16-3), freshman Roberto Quiroz (23-2, 20-1) and senior Steve Johnson, who boasts an unblemished 20-0 overall record and 15-0 mark in dual matches. Freshman Eric Johnson is the next in line to hit the 20-win mark, sitting at 18-9, 7-2. USC's doubles dynamos Nguyen/Sarmiento are already in the club with a 22-4 overall doubles record (17-2 dual) to lead all the Trojan doubles duos to date.

    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.

    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.

    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 played in their first dual match together on March 9, and have since expanded their record together to 15-1.

    PAC-12 PLAN
    The Pac-12 will host its first-ever team men's tennis tournament to determine the automatic qualifier for the NCAA Men's Championships. Teams will be seeded based on won-lost percentages during regular-season Conference play. On Wednesday (April 25), matches between seed Nos. 5 and 8 and Nos. 6 and 7 will open play. The No. 3 and No. 4 seeds will play the winners, respectively, on Thursday. The No. 1 and No. 2 seeds advance directly to the semifinal round on Friday. All men's tournament matches will be played at Libbey Park, culminating with the team championship at 4 p.m. on Saturday (April 28). The Ojai Valley Tennis Tournament is a 112-year tradition, dating back to 1887. The four-day tennis extravaganza includes competition for juniors, non-Pac-12 collegiate players, and an open event. The Pac-12 has had a presence at the event since 1954.

    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.