The USC’s men’s tennis team will have its hands full Friday, hosting a doubleheader against Notre Dame and Hawai’i at Marks Stadium.
The Trojans (13-2), who come into the matchup ranked No. 4 in the nation by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, sport an undefeated mark at home this season, and will put that on the line against the No. 8 Fighting Irish (11-4) and the unranked Warriors (1-5).
The Trojans will undoubtedly bring some momentum into the matches, having swept a difficult doubleheader over the weekend. Last Sunday, the Trojans grinded out a 5-2 victory over No. 12 Baylor, before blowing out UC Riverside, 7-0.
USC head coach Peter Smith praised his team’s character in coming back to win against Baylor after dropping the doubles point and the first singles match to go down 2-0 early on.
“The Baylor match was a great indicator for me,” Smith said. “Even if we had played that hard and lost, they were jumping on us and we had our toes hanging off the cliff and we fought back, so that was great. To me that tells me we can be special.”
Smith highlighted the three-set victories by senior Ray Sarmiento and juniors Yannick Hanfmann and Eric Johnson as key moments in that match. Sarmiento took down Baylor’s Julian Lenz, who was previously undefeated on the season, and with that win, Sarmiento moved up to the No. 3 singles slot in the nation — a career high for the Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., native.
Junior Roberto Quiroz rattled off an easy 6-1, 6-2 victory in that match, catapulting him back into the national singles rankings. Quiroz has also had success in doubles this season with freshman Connor Farren, but the newcomer’s recent foot injury has had Quiroz playing with a new partner: freshman Rob Bellamy.
“I’ve been enjoying these two matches I’ve played with Robby,” Quiroz said. “We did pretty well against Baylor. We lost, but I think we played really good tennis. I think we need more focus in the key moments, but we’re going to get better.”
In doubles, USC will have its sights set on Notre Dame’s Greg Andrews and Alex Lawson, who are ranked No. 18 in the nation together. USC’s Sarmiento and Hanfmann, however, are slotted eighth in the country as a pair, and are 7-1 on the season together.
USC’s senior Michael Grant and freshman Nick Crystal are also nationally ranked in doubles, at No. 49 in the nation. Meanwhile, USC boasts six ranked singles players, tied with Virginia for the most in the country.
Notre Dame’s Andrews is the only ranked singles player on the Fighting Irish squad, sitting at No. 28 nationally. Hawai’i has no ranked players in singles or doubles.
Despite only having one ranked singles player and one ranked doubles team, Smith says the Irish are never off the Trojans’ radar, especially considering the historic rivalry between the schools.
“Notre Dame this year is good,” Smith said. “They’re solid. They’re dangerous. They should have all of our attention.”
No matter the outcome of the clash against Notre Dame, the Trojans will have to get right back on the court to take on Hawai’i immediately afterward. Though playing two matches in a day can be exhausting, Smith insists that the doubleheader format creates a great opportunity for some players who don’t usually start to get time on the court.
“This is my opportunity to sub guys in,” Smith said. “It gives guys like Nick and Rob and Michael, and guys who didn’t get a chance to play the first match, a chance … I’m just trying to keep everybody engaged.”
The Trojans kick off their doubleheader on Friday noon against Notre Dame. The match against Hawai’i is set to begin at 4 p.m.