No. 2 USC Men Skip Town For Two More Pac-12 Tilts

    Nick Crystal and the Trojans take a 13-match win streak on the road this week.

    April 9, 2014

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    The No. 2 USC men's tennis team has generated a full head of steam as it rolls into the final stretches of conference play. The Trojans (22-2, 4-0 Pac-12) ride a 13-match win streak into this week's trip through Arizona and Utah, where USC will look to keep its Pac-12 mark perfect in preparation for next week's showdown with rival UCLA. This week, the Trojans first head to Tucson to take on Arizona (11-2, 0-4) in a 1:30 p.m. matchup on Friday (April 11). Then it's off to Salt Lake City for a matchup against No. 51 Utah at 1 p.m. MT on Sunday (April 13).

    The Trojans -- winners of four consecutive NCAA Championships from 2009-2012 and the nation's leader with 20 total titles -- opened their 2014 campaign ranked No. 4 in the nation. After a runner-up finish at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, USC had moved up to stand at No. 2, shifted to No. 4 for a bit, and then took over as the nation's top-ranked team on March 25 -- the first time since the end of 2012 that the Trojans had been at No. 1. This week, USC sits at No 2 in the land as of April 8. In the individual rankings (released April 8), senior Ray Sarmiento continues to lead the pack, ranked No. 7 in the nation in singles. He is joined on the national rankings list by five more Trojans -- No. 17 junior Yannick Hanfmann, No. 46 junior Jonny Wang, No. 53 Roberto Quiroz, No. 94 Max de Vroome and No. 107 Michael Grant. In doubles, Hanfmann/Sarmiento rank No. 4 in the land and Crystal/Grant are at No. 57.

    USC dished out two shutouts last week at Marks Stadium, silencing Stanford with a swift 7-0 knockout before claiming a 4-0 win over Cal. After snagging the doubles point vs. Stanford, the Trojans were the higher ranked opponents on all singles courts and grabbed straight-set wins down the line. The clincher came on court five, where Eric Johnson defeated Anthony Tsodikov 6-1, 6-2. Against the Bears, USC hammered home the doubles point early and then tacking up three straight-set singles wins to seal the 4-0 sweep. The Bears were able to snag first-set advantages on three courts in singles play, but the Trojans made the most of their leads in the other three matches. On court two, USC's #3 Ray Sarmiento found his groove and toppled #89 Campbell Johnson with a swift 6-0, 6-1 victory. At the No. 5 spot, Eric Johnson padded the Trojan lead out to 3-0 on a dominating 6-2, 6-1 win over Gregory Bayane. Third sets were looming on two courts at that point, but #56 Roberto Quiroz put a stop to things with his 7-5, 6-4 clincher over Filip Bergevi on court three. The singles win for Quiroz was the 13th consecutive for the junior.

    The unranked Wildcats are 11-12 overall and 0-4 in Pac-12 play after losing to Washington 4-2 and to Oregon 4-1 last week. Arizona has no nationally ranked players in singles and no nationally ranked doubles teams. USC is 96-2 all-time against Arizona in a series that dates back to 1934. Last year, the Trojans beat the Wildcats 7-0 at Marks Stadium.

    The No. 51 Utes are 14-5 overall and 2-2 in Pac-12 play after beating Oregon and Washington 4-2 last week. Utah will face UCLA at home on Friday before taking on USC. The Utes have no nationally ranked players in singles and no nationally ranked teams. USC is 28-1 all-time against Utah in a series that dates back to 1962. Last year, USC beat Utah 5-2 at Marks Stadium.

    On Feb. 14-17 in Houston, USC worked its way through to the title match of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships for the third straight season. The No. 3 seeded Trojans opened up with a 4-1 win over No. 14 Tennessee in the Round of 16 before taking down No. 6 Baylor in the quarterfinals. That set up an early clash against crosstown rival UCLA in the semifinals. The Trojans and the Bruins had met in last year's semi as well, and this season the Trojans replicated their efforts with another 4-3 victory over UCLA. Yannick Hanfmann held on for the clincher in that one, upsetting #5 Marcos Giron with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 victory that sealed the tight win for the Trojans and sent them into the title match for the third year in a row. There, USC was up against an upset-minded No. 5 seed Ohio State, which had upended top-seeded Virginia in the semifinals. The Buckeyes handed the Trojans their first loss of a double point on the year, and went on to post a 4-1 decision over USC to claim the title. USC junior Roberto Quiroz was the lone Trojan to come away from the tourney unscathed, having won two doubles and two singles matches during the action. For his winning efforts, Quiroz was named Pac-12 Player of the Week. He also earned spots on the ITA All-Tournament Team at No. 3 singles and at No. 2 doubles with freshman Connor Farren.

    Roberto Quiroz has emerged as USC's most decorated player this season. His fall was highlighted by another USTA Clay Court singles championship, which had been preceded by a run to the ITA Southwest Regional doubles final, where he and teammate Ray Sarmiento fell in the title match to fellow Trojans Max de Vroome and Eric Johnson. In the spring to date, Quiroz has picked up two sets of Pac-12 Player of the Week honors. And at a national level he holds spots on the ITA National Team Indoor Championships All-Tournament Team at No. 3 singles and at No. 2 doubles with partner Connor Farren. Now ranked No. 53 in the nation in singles, Quiroz leads the Trojans to date with 25 singles wins, riding a 13-match win streak, while his dual-match singles count stands at a powerful 17-1.

    USC senior Ray Sarmiento had a winning Spring Break as the Trojans hit the road and picked up wins at Alabama and Ole Miss. For his singles and doubles sweeps in the victorious trip, Sarmiento has earned the March 25 honor as Pac-12 Player of the Week. Sarmiento combined with teammate Yannick Hanfmann for the clinching doubles win against the Crimson Tide before going on and securing the match with his 6-3, 6-3 singles win on court two. Two days later, Sarmiento had another victorious day in grabbing another doubles win with Hanfmann on court one and later taking the Trojans to a 3-0 lead in an eventual 5-2 win over Ole Miss with his 6-4, 6-1 victory at the No. 2 spot. This was Sarmiento's first Pac-12 Player of the Week win this season and the sixth of the senior's Trojan career. The nation's No. 7 singles player, Sarmiento holds an 19-7 overall singles record and a 13-5 mark in dual matches. He and Hanfmann rank No. 4 in the nation in doubles with a 12-1 record.

    To date, there are three Trojans in the 20-win club on the singles scene this season. Roberto Quiroz hit the mark first and now hold 25 singles wins in his junior campaign. Fellow junior Eric Johnson and sophomore Max de Vroome also have locked in the club with 23 and 22 wins, respectively. Junior Jonny Wang and senior Ray Sarmiento are on the cusp with 19 wins apiece. Johnson and doubles teammate de Vroome are the lone Trojan pair to hit the 20-win mark in doubles, holding a 22-8 record to date.

    In the first edition of the Pac-12 SEC Showdown, USC served up a 4-0 takedown of No. 3 Georgia. After pulling off a tight doubles point, the Trojans rattled off three straight-set singles wins to wrap a quick victory over the visiting Bulldogs. Setting the winning tone for the Trojans was USC's top guns on the doubles courts, Yannick Hanfmann and Ray Sarmiento. They more than held their ground against Georgia's #12 Pieters/Wagland and hustled to a 6-2 win on court one. The Bulldogs made it interesting by snagging the win on court three in a tiebreaker, as UGA's Diaz/Smith edged out USC's Max de Vroome and Eric Johnson. That set up the heroics on court two, where USC's new combo pack of freshman Connor Farren and junior Roberto Quiroz continued their winning ways. Up 5-4 on Georgia's Brasseaux/Pasha with Quiroz on the service line, the Trojans finished off the Bulldogs with one last blast at the net by Farren, and USC had the 6-4 win and the doubles point in hand. The feature presentation of the singles scene was set for court one, where USC's #10 senior Ray Sarmiento was up against Georgia's #12 Austin Smith. While that battle ensued, it was USC junior Jonny Wang who ripped his way to the first singles victory of the day. #67 Wang wrapped up USC's second point with a smooth 6-3, 6-1 win over Georgia's Hernus Pieters on court five. Meanwhile, at the No. 2 spot, USC's #34 junior Yannick Hanfmann was all business in his first set tiebreaker against UGA's #21 Nathan Pasha. The momentum Hanfmann gleaned from that tiebreak sweep carried him through to a strong second set, as he would tally a 3-0 lead for the Trojans with his 6-5 (0), 6-1 win. With the Trojans poised for the upset victory, Sarmiento buckled down in his clash with #12 Smith. The senior would lock in the W for USC on a 6-4, 6-4 win at the No. 1 spot to suspend action on the remaining courts.

    USC junior Yannick Hanfmann served up two singles upsets of higher ranked opponents and paired with teammate Ray Sarmiento for two more doubles wins - one over a #12 ranked pair - to help the Trojans two big wins over SEC opponents last weekend. For his heroic efforts, Hanfmann was been named Pac-12 Player of the Week on Feb. 4. It's the first such award for a Trojan this season and the fourth of Hanfmann's USC career. Hanfmann and the No. 4 Trojans kicked of the first edition of the Pac-12/SEC Showdown with an upset shutout of the nation's No. 3 team, Georgia. Unranked Hanfmann and Sarmiento took out #12 Pieters/Wagland of Georgia 6-2 for the first win of the day, and in singles #32 Hanfmann would notch another upset with a powerful 6-5 (0), 6-0 win over #21 Nathan Pasha on court two to speed the Trojans along to the 4-0 win over the Bulldogs. The next day, Hanfmann and Sarmiento secured the doubles point against Florida with another win on court one, and Hanfmann would make it a 3-0 lead on the Gators with another singles upset, beating #28 Stephen Piro in straight sets 6-5 (5), 6-2 on court two. Ranked No. 17 in the nation now in singles, Hanfmann is 17-5 overall in singles and 12-1 in doubles with Sarmiento.

    USC junior Eric Johnson won both his singles matches and grabbed a doubles shutout win during USC's victorious run at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend. Johnson secured the Trojans' trip to the ITA National Indoor Championships with his clinching singles win against Wichita State, posting a 6-2, 6-2 win over Wichita State's Cuic to lock USC in with another shutout win to open 2014 team play. The previous day, Johnson had paired with Max de Vroome for a smooth 6-0 shutout in doubles against Santa Clara before tallying USC's first singles win of the day with his 6-1, 6-2 victory that helped spark the Trojans to a shutout in their spring season opener.

    In 2013, the Trojan men came up just short in their efforts to defend a string of four consecutive national championships, as USC was bumped out of the NCAA Tournament in the quarterfinals to finish the year at 26-5 overall and with a No. 5 national ranking. Only one member of that 2013 team has departed Troy, with Emilio Gomez having entered the pro ranks. The remaining Trojan contingent is a powerful crew, with six players already boasting at least one NCAA championship ring. The 2014 Trojans are led by senior All-American Ray Sarmiento, who starts up 2014 in the same place he began 2013 -- ranked No. 10 in the nation in singles. He is joined on the national rankings list by four more Trojans -- No. 32 junior Yannick Hanfmann, No. 67 junior Jonny Wang, No. 70 senior Michael Grant and No. 113 junior Roberto Quiroz. All five of those Trojans have been members of at least one NCAA championship squad. In all, USC boasts three ITA All-Americans on its 2014 roster in Hanfmann, Quiroz and Sarmiento. Also back in action for the USC men is junior Eric Johnson and sophomore Max de Vroome, while USC head coach Peter Smith has welcomed five newcomers to the roster in freshmen Rob Bellamy, Nick Crystal and David Laser, along with spring additions Connor Farren and Sander Brendmoe. •