Road trip marks start of Pac-12 play

After finishing nonconference play with a perfect record, the USC men’s tennis team will now begin Pac-12 play in the same city where it last faced defeat more than a year ago.

Bad memories · Sophomore Emilio Gomez and the Trojans have not lost a match since last February. Coincidentally, their last loss was in Seattle. - Chris Roman | Daily Trojan

The No. 1 Trojans (19-0) will kick off the conference season with a matchup against the No. 22 Huskies (12-3) in Seattle, Wash., Friday at 1:30 p.m., followed by a visit to Eugene, Ore., to face the Ducks (14-1) Saturday at 11 a.m.

USC features six ranked players in the singles category, the most of any school in the nation.

Leading the charge is No. 2 senior Steve Johnson, who holds a streak of 51 straight singles wins.

Several other Trojans hold their own respective streaks, such as No. 16 senior Daniel Nguyen with 10 consecutive and freshman Roberto Quiroz with eight straight.

Sophomores Emilio Gomez and Ray Sarmiento and freshman Yannick Hanfmann, ranked No. 41, No. 24 and No. 30, respectively, have gone a combined 40-8 in dual match singles.

In doubles action, Johnson and Quiroz have strung together five straight wins, while No. 18 pair Nguyen and Sarmiento look to improve their 13-2 record in dual match doubles.

Gomez and Hanfmann, a pair that played together frequently in the fall preseason tournaments, have been reunited and have gone 4-1 in dual match doubles.

The Trojans have been successful on the road as of late, despite visits to hostile territory in UCLA and Stanford. After having the benefit of two straight matches at Marks Tennis Stadium, USC will now begin a four-game road trip to kick off Pac-12 play.

“It’s always special to play in the home matches in front of family and friends, but I’m looking forward to the road trips,” Sarmiento said.

The Trojans’ last loss came at Seattle, the site of the 2011 ITA National Team Indoor Championships, where they fell 3-4 to Stanford.

The Trojans will return to the Emerald City to face the Huskies, who are led by No. 14 Kyle McMorrow.

The team will then travel south to face the Ducks, who do not have any players ranked in singles or doubles.

USC coach Peter Smith, who has led the Trojans to three consecutive NCAA championships in his tenure, could be looking at his 200th victory with USC in the matchup against Oregon.

With a 39-match win streak dating to last February, the Trojans remain vigilant not to let the records and milestones distract them in their quest for a fourth straight NCAA title.

“We got to stick to our mentality, take it one match at a time and keep battling,” Nguyen said. “[We have to] take every team seriously, and everyone has to have a sense of urgency.”

Last year, the Trojans pieced together a perfect record in conference play en route to their third conference championship in four years.

The Trojans hope to maintain that same standard in the next month of Pac-12 action.

“I’m ready,” Sarmiento said. “I’m ready to take on the challenge and prove that we’re the top team in the country.”