Trojans clinch perfect road record for the season

After capturing its last two road matches of the regular season, USC remains on track for a perfect record as the postseason looms ahead.

The No. 1 USC men’s tennis team (23-0, 3-0) tallied its 43rd consecutive victory after dismantling Arizona (5-14, 0-3) 6-1 Saturday in Tucson. The win came one day after a 5-2 win over Utah (11-8, 0-3) in Salt Lake City.

USC freshman Jordi Vives provided the clinching win over the Wildcats with his 6-1, 7-5 effort over Sebastian Ionescu.

Before Vives guaranteed USC’s final road win, No. 2 senior Steve Johnson and No. 53 sophomore Emilio Gomez each defeated their opponents in straight sets for the 3-0 USC advantage.

No. 23 sophomore Ray Sarmiento and freshman Roberto Quiroz added two more points for the Trojans with their singles wins, while freshman Eric Johnson fell 5-7, 5-7 to Carlos Bermudez for Arizona’s sole point of the match.

In doubles action, the three USC pairs swept the field for the sixth straight match to capture a 1-0 lead prior to singles play.

Before taking down the Wildcats in the 80-degree heat, the Trojans had defeated the Utes the day before in Salt Lake City, where they avoided the snowfall by facing off in an indoor stadium.

After a sweep in doubles play and two singles wins from Johnson and Quiroz, Gomez provided the winning touch over Utah with his 6-4, 6-4 victory over Devin Lane.

Sarmiento added another point for USC with a 7-6, 6-3 effort over Andre Vidaller before No. 13 senior Daniel Nguyen and No. 38 freshman Yannick Hanfmann both fell in a 10-point tiebreaker in the third set of their respective matches.

Sarmiento, who was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week for the second time last week, has six consecutive singles wins, with the last five all in straight sets.

“I’m playing well, [but] my goal is to peak in May. I just got to keep playing well, and I feel pretty good right now as a team,” Sarmiento said.

Quiroz is also streaking with 12 in a row, while Steve Johnson carries the heftiest streak at 55 consecutive singles victories dating to last January.

Despite the inevitable fatigue that comes with a back-to-back, the Trojans have welcomed the challenge with the understanding that the matches will harden the team for grueling postseason play.

“For me personally, there was a lot of fatigue in the second match, especially in the heat,” Sarmiento said. “This is great preparation. It presents a lot of challenges and, as a team, I think we did pretty well and came through.”

After taking its first four conference matches with a combined score of 25-3, USC will conclude the regular season and Pac-12 play against No. 5 UCLA (18-2, 4-0), No. 12 California (11-7, 4-0) and No. 11 Stanford (14-5, 4-0) at home.

The Trojans will begin their final three-game homestand against the Golden Bears on Friday at 1:30 p.m., followed by a clash against the Cardinal on Saturday at 1 p.m.

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