Trojans make quick work of Longhorns
The No. 2 USC menâs tennis team faced its first top-20 ranked opponent of the season Friday when it played host to No. 17 University of Texas at Marks Stadium. The match was billed as the first true test for USC, but the Trojans had all the answers, not dropping a single set en route to a 7-0 sweep of the Longhorns.
The proceedings kicked off with a hotly contested doubles point that saw junior Emilio Gomez and sophomore Eric Johnson fall 8-1 to the Longhornsâ tandem of senior Daniel Whitehead and junior David Holiner. The Trojans would recover by winning the two following doubles matches, both with a score of 8-6.
In singles play, Friday saw the return of junior Ray Sarmiento, who missed the first four matches because of an abdominal injury. Sarmiento, ranked No. 10 in the nation by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, initially showed no signs of rust in his return to action against Texas junior Sudanwa Sitaram. Sarmientoâs calves, however, began to cramp at 5-0 in the first set, inhibiting his movement. Sarmiento would eventually recover and cruise to a 6-3, 6-2 victory.
âIt felt good to be back out there with my teammates,â Sarmiento said. âIâm feeling fine. My [abdominal injury] is feeling better; I thank my PT [USC trainer Andrew Marcos] for that.â
Things did not go as smoothly for freshman Max de Vroome, who fought back from being down 5-2 in his first set against Holiner. De Vroome would recover and secure the first set in a tiebreak, 7-6(3). The second set turned out to be an encore of the first: Armed with a steely resolve and an overpowering first serve, de Vroome again fought back from being down a break 6-5 to clinch the sweep in tiebreaks for a final score of 7-6(3), 7-6. After the match, de Vroome admitted he had trouble âfinding his game,â but gave credit to his opponent Holiner.
âI came back from being down 5-2. Normally you would be deflated,â de Vroome said. âBut he just kept fighting.â
When de Vroome was asked what he could do to improve, he assumed full responsibility for Fridayâs nail-biter.
âI have to be more consistent and disciplined in what I do,â de Vroome said.
For a team that has won four consecutive NCAA Division I titles, consistency can entail otherworldly standards. Despite a strong showing against the No. 17 team in the country, USC head coach Peter Smith insists that the Trojans are just looking forward with one goal in mind:
âKeep building,â Smith said. âAll of [these matches] are glorified practice. Weâre building towards something greater.â
Smith, architect of the current Trojan menâs tennis dynasty, will continue the building process as USC hosts highly touted Cal and Stanford on Friday and Saturday, respectively,