USC opens season in Cambridge with wins in singles play
It started just the way it ended.
Fresh off its third consecutive NCAA championship, the No. 1 USCâs menâs tennis team showed no signs of slowing down.
Last weekend, the Trojans kicked off their season at the Fall Chowder Fest in Cambridge, Mass., facing No. 72 Harvard, No. 34 Michigan and No. 10 Texas A&M over the span of three days of singles and doubles matches.
For the first time since 2007, USC began a season without NCAA singles champion senior Steve Johnson, who chose to forgo the fall semester to go through professional training after finishing No. 1 in Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings last year.
The Trojans did not miss a beat, though.
Four players swept 3-0 during singles play at Harvard, during the weekend including No. 15 sophomore Ray Sarmiento, No. 66 senior Emilio Gomez, sophomore Michael Grant and freshman Yannick Hanfmann.
Hanfmann received the Corey Wynn â40 Freshman of the Tournament award for his play.
âItâs the guys getting comfortable playing the tennis I want them to play in pressure situations,â USC coach Peter Smith said. âAll the younger guys need to feel more confident and comfortable, and it was a good start.â
No. 16 senior Daniel Nguyen defeated No. 78 Jonathan Perlman of Harvard Friday in a 6-1, 6-0 victory. Nguyenâs sole singles loss of the weekend came in a 3-6, 1-6 defeat Saturday to No. 8 junior Evan King of Michigan, who received the Dale Junta â58 Winner award for going undefeated in the invitational.
Freshmen Eric Johnson and Jonny Wang each finished with 2-1 singles records in their first collegiate competitions.
âWe had four guys that had never played for NCAA,â Smith said. âIt was an individual tournament, but it had the appearance of a school match, and that was good for them.â
Though the Trojans fared well in singles matches, they struggled in doubles play, when on day one, they went 1-3.
The Trojans ultimately finished with a 5-6 doubles record for the invitational.
âDoubles is always a concern,â Smith said. âIt showed us that we got to work on doubles on a daily basis. When you start having four teams beat you, then itâs pretty obvious.â
But the teamâs seven-hour wait at Los Angeles International Airport and a long flight across the country might have contributed to the doubles woes on day one.
Nonetheless, the coaching staff remained pleased with the playersâ performances during opening weekend.
âWe got there and werenât even able to warm up,â Smith said. âI was really happy with my teamâs effort on that, but we definitely need to work on doubles. [The invitational] showed we have a lot to work on, but it also showed we have a lot to work with.â
The Trojans are set to travel east to Tulsa, Okla., Monday, where Nguyen, along with, Sarmiento will participate in the singles main draw as part of the ITA Menâs All-American Qualifying.
Hanfmann and Gomez will also play in the singles qualifying draw for the seven-day ITA Menâs All-American Championships.