USC’s road trip to Washington and Oregon marked not only a successful start to conference play, but also to a notable milestone for the Trojans’ longtime head coach.
With two sweeps over No. 22 Washington (12-5, 0-2) on Friday and No. 59 Oregon (14-3, 0-2) on Saturday, the No. 1 Trojans (21-0, 2-0) gave USC coach Peter Smith his 200th victory in his 10-year tenure with the team, which has won 41 straight matches since last February.
“It’s a crazy journey,” Smith said. “It’s a wild place to coach because of all the expectations, and I look at that as a great challenge and I love it.”
Clinching USC’s win over the Ducks and Smith’s landmark was freshman Roberto Quiroz, who defeated Jose Izquierdo 6-4, 6-4 and notched his 10th straight singles win.
Before Quiroz’s clincher, the Trojans had a quick 3-0 advantage over Oregon following a sweep in doubles and two straight-set singles wins from No. 2 senior Steve Johnson and No. 23 sophomore Ray Sarmiento on courts 1 and 2, respectively.
On courts 3 through 6, the Ducks managed to stay close in the first sets, but every Trojan pulled away for straight-set wins except No. 53 sophomore Emilio Gomez, who ousted Daniel Sardu in three sets to finish the 7-0 sweep.
“You always want the best for your team, but I want close matches. I want us to be challenged,” Smith said.
Before their five-hour car ride to Eugene, Ore., the Trojans began conference play in Seattle with a 7-0 win against the Huskies on Friday.
After a 3-0 finish in doubles and two wins from No. 13 senior Daniel Nguyen and No. 38 Yannick Hanfmann, the Trojans earned their first Pac-12 victory with Gomez’s 6-0, 7-6 (3) win over Viktor Farkas.
With USC’s 20th win of the season in hand, Quiroz, Johnson and Hanfmann defeated their opponents to round out the sweep. In the marquee matchup between Johnson and No. 14 Kyle McMorrow, Johnson prevailed with a 6-3, 6-3 finish.
After the road trip, Smith had a chance to reminisce on his time with USC and share his belief that he will remain the Trojans’ coach for a long time to come.
“I’m very happy here. There’s nothing I really see out there. You never say ‘never,’ but this is my home,” Smith said. “I feel like I’m a Trojan, and this is where I want to be.”
Johnson, who has played under Smith as a key component of USC’s three consecutive NCAA titles, voiced his appreciation for his guidance throughout the years.
“It’s been an honor and a privilege to play for him. He’s been a big part of my life and my future,” Johnson said. “The guys are working hard and everyone is believing in him, and he’s been a great coach.”
With two conference wins in the book, the Trojans will travel to Salt Lake City to battle Utah (11-6, 0-1) on Friday, followed by a trip to Tucson to face the University of Arizona (5-11, 0-1) on Saturday.