USC dispatched two more ranked opponents this weekend to continue their undefeated start to the season. The weather was unusually cold and windy, but that didn’t stop the No. 2 Trojans from improving to 9-0 on the season by taking down the No. 13 California Bears and the No. 19 Stanford Cardinal.
The Trojans opened up against the Bears with some bizarre action in doubles. Playing in the No. 1 spot, junior Ray Sarmiento and sophomore Yannick Hanfmann were tied 2-2 (40-30) with Cal’s Riki McLachlan and Ben McLachlan when Riki McLachlan suffered a brutal knee injury that stopped play on all three courts. Almost immediately after the injury occurred, it began to rain. The match was awarded to Sarmiento and Hanfmann, and doubles play continued after Riki McLachlan was carried off the court and the rain stopped.
To secure the doubles point, sophomore Eric Johnson and junior Emilio Gomez, playing at No. 3, defeated Cal’s Christoffer Konigsfeldt and Gregory Bayane, 8-2. The No. 2 match between sophomore Roberto Quiroz and freshman Max de Vroome and Cal’s Campbell Johnson and Mads Engsted was abandoned at 5-5 (15-40).
The Trojans won all six singles sets to help USC sweep Cal by a total score of 7-0. Hanfmann was first to finish, knocking out Bayane 6-3, 6-1. Next, Johnson defeated Engsted 6-3, 6-3, and Quiroz clinched a USC victory with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Johnson. De Vroome was able to dispatch Cal’s Chase Melton, 6-1, 7-5.
Sarmiento, playing at No. 1, was bothered by the cold weather and the wind but eventually defeated McLachlan, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
“It wasn’t my best tennis,” Sarmiento said. “But I had to stay strong, find my opportunities and take advantage of them.”
Gomez, who played in the No. 2 singles slot, closed out the match by defeating his opponent, Konigsfeldt, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5).
“My mentality was…just to stay aggressive,” Gomez said. “Even if I miss, just keep going, keep going.”
The Trojans kept their momentum heading into Saturday’s matchup against Stanford. The Cardinal were swept 7-0 at UCLA the day before and came to USC hungry for a victory, but the Trojans proved to be too much to handle.
Once again, USC earned the doubles point at the beginning of the day. The No. 2 pair, Quiroz and de Vroome, made quick work of Stanford’s Jamin Ball and Trey Strobel, winning 8-0. Sarmiento and Hanfmann defeated Stanford’s Matt Kandath and John Morrissey 8-2 to clinch the doubles point for USC. The No. 3 matchup between Johnson and Gomez and Stanford’s Maciek Romanowicz and Robert Stineman was abandoned with Johnson and Gomez trailing 2-5.
The Trojans won all but one singles match to secure USC a 6-1 overall win against Stanford. Hanfmann continued his impressive weekend by defeating Stanford’s Kandath, 6-1, 6-1. Sarmiento sat out due to an ongoing abdominal injury, so Gomez moved up to the No. 1 spot and defeated Stanford’s Morrissey 6-2, 6-1. Johnson routed Stanford’s Strobel 6-1, 6-0. For the second time in as many days, Quiroz clinched a USC victory with his 6-3, 6-2 win over Romanowicz.
After USC had already clinched the victory, the Trojans faced their two most difficult matches of the day. Playing at the No. 4 spot, de Vroome lost to Stanford’s Nolan Paige 4-6, 7-5, 1-0 (8-10). Paige defeated de Vroome earlier this season at the Sherwood Collegiate Cup, but since the start of ITA play, de Vroome had yet to drop a set, let alone a match.
To finish off the Trojans’ successful weekend, senior Michael Grant defeated Stanford’s Stineman, 3-6, 7-6 (10-8), 1-0 (10-7). Grant was put into the lineup at the last minute and stepped up to fill the No. 6 position when Sarmiento was forced to sit out.
USC head coach Peter Smith was proud of the way the team played through some adversity this weekend against two teams they will face again during Pac-12 play.
“The conditions were tough,” Smith said. “But we were tougher.”