Trojans struggle in NCAA Individual Tournament

Following last week’s end to their four-year championship run in a narrow 4-3 defeat to the fifth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, all four of the USC singles players who qualified for the NCAA singles championship were knocked out by the end of the round of 16 in Urbana, Ill., wrapping up the team’s 2013 campaign.

In the individual championship, juniors Emilio Gomez and Ray Sarmiento and sophomores Yannick Hanfmann and Roberto Quiroz all qualified. Gomez picked up a No. 7 seed, while Sarmiento scored a 9-16 seed. Hanfmann and Quiroz both received at-large bids.

Although Gomez was seeded highest, being the Pac-12’s automatic qualifier, he was the first to fall, to Alabama’s Jarryd Botha 6-7, 6-3, 7-5 in the first round.

Gomez’s loss came after he reached the round of 16 last year and held a 22-6 overall singles record during the season. He had his highest career singles ranking this season, sitting as high as No. 2 during the year. That seeding secured his spot as an Intercollegiate Tennis Association All-American for the first time in his Trojan career.

Sarmiento, Hanfmann and Quiroz won their first round matches in straight sets over singles from VCU, Boise State and Oklahoma, advancing to the round of 32. It would be a milestone for Hanfmann, as he registered the first NCAA singles victory of his career.

In the round of 32, Sarmiento overcame Notre Dame’s Greg Andrews in a back-and-forth match 7-5, 1-6, 6-4 to advance to the round of 16. Hanfmann also advanced, defeating the 9-16-seeded Matija Pecotic from Princeton in straight sets 6-4, 6-1. Quiroz was the lone Trojan to fall in the round, losing to South Carolina’s Tsvetan Mihov in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3. Quiroz finished his sophomore season with a 38-11 overall singles record, making him team leader in singles wins on the season.

But both advancing Trojans were knocked out by their opponents in the round of 16.

After posting his first two career wins in NCAA singles competition, Hanfmann would fall to Auburn’s Andreas Miles, who advanced to the quarterfinals by defeating Hanfmann in straight sets 6-3, 6-2. Hanfmann ended his sophomore season with an overall singles record of 31-7, while also achieving ITA All-American status.

Sarmiento got a tough draw in the round of 16, paired with No. 3-seeded Jarmere Jenkins of newly crowned NCAA champion Virginia. Sarmiento fought to pull off the upset, though, losing the first set in a close tiebreaker and winning the second. The final set went back and forth with the pair tied at 4-4. But Jenkins dug in, holding serve and getting a break to fend off Sarmiento and win by a score of 7-6, 2-6, 6-4. Sarmiento closed his junior season with a 27-9 overall singles record and also finished as an All-American. Another milestone for Sarmiento was his 100th career singles win with his victory in the NCAA Round of 64.

This marked the exit of all USC men’s singles players from the NCAA singles competition, and thus the end of the USC men’s tennis team’s 2013 season. As a team, the Trojans finished the season 26-5 overall, and their quest for a fifth-straight NCAA championship was halted in the NCAA quarterfinals by Ohio State.

The team now enters their offseason in order to prepare for the 2014 season.